I read an article recently that featured Russell T Davies’ views on what he saw as the death of childrens’ TV – calling out ITV for ditching children’s programming. As a result I looked up Century Falls and Dark Season on DVD and – while I was there – searched for a DVD of Archer’s Goon, a fondly-remembered Children’s BBC drama by Diana Wynne Jones, who died last year.
I don’t think it’s on DVD – I couldn’t find it anyway – so I turned to the internet. Needless to say someone has uploaded the entire series, so I enjoyed watching the whole series of six episodes over a couple of days.
It’s very very enjoyable – and I have no problem admitting that I enjoyed these BBC dramas in their 5.10pm slots as much as I enjoy watching them now. Certainly some of the acting and SFX are a bit wonky but the sheer oddness of the whole thing is kind of enchanting.
There was a great movement in the 80s and 90s towards programming for children that revolved around words like ‘gritty’ and ‘realistic’. There’s certainly a place for that in childrens’ programmes – I understand there’s a very popular programme called Tracey Beaker these days about a kid on a foster home (or something) – and, on the flip side RTD is now developing a programme called Aliens versus Wizards. It sounds, to me, like the TV equivalent of a deep-fried strawberry milkshake, but there you go.
I’m happy to fly the flag for imaginative, surreal, oddball, funny, frightening dramas that the BBC were incredibly good at producing from the 80s to early 90s. Archer’s Goon was, apparently, the last drama made by the Children’s BBC drama department (can’t verify that; read it somewhere), which seems like an enormous shame.
Anyway, I’ve embedded the first episode of Archer’s Goon below, the rest can be found here. It’s saying that you can only view the five-minute preview without installing something or other, but I managed to watch it all online on a Mac.