A funny thing used to happen in our house after tea (or dinner, or supper) on Saturday night. We gathered around the TV to see what utter rubbish the Americans had decided to send over for our enjoyment. These are my father’s sentiments. We were addicted to the stuff.

Some of my earliest memories are TV happenings. Who Shot JR? Was the question on every mother’s lips in the early 1980s. Who cares? Was what we said. My love for American crap fodder began with CHiPS, the antics of the California Highway Patrol. Apparently it is really called CHP, but that didn’t sound like a TV dinner so they used CHiPs in the series. I am pleased to report that this mix of comedy and drama, sort of light nonsense, is now known as dramedy. Not by me it isn’t.

Parallel with CHiPs ran the Dukes of Hazzard, an incredible dramedy also, featuring some hick southerners with a car painted in the confederate flag like some kind of revisionist civil war offence magnet. Our yearning for such nonsense was year-round, and even back then we had three channels to choose from. One show was simply not enough.

As CHiPs came apart due to acrimony off screen and falling ratings, we were presented with the magna booby of them all, the giant hit show that was The A Team. Anchored by cinema legend George Peppard, the man with the biggest ego in the entire continental United States, the four (or five) unlikely war heroes turned vigilante. Another dramedy of course, for many reasons, the main one being that a not a single bullet from their fully automatic hand cannons ever had the grace to hit its target.

To pin the blame (or credit) on Peppard, as he would have wished, is wrong. Howling Murdoch is ripped right from Cuckoo’s Nest and spends the first four years in a mental institution. This detail passed me by at the time, although I do remember him dressed in gowns very often and being pushed around in wheelchairs. There are various women floating about the boys, but they didn’t last long. Amy was the first and most famous.

Incredibly, NBC didn’t like Dirk Benedict, and he nearly missed out as Face. He wasn’t in the pilot, but was hastily drafted back when the baby-faced Tim Dunigan had to be dropped for being totally unbelievable as a war vet. The show was gifted with many minor characters too: Boy George, Dean Stockwell, Isaac Hayes (Chef from South Park) and Hulk Hogan all dropped in. It was quite an event.

As The A Team faded, we had grown tired of old men with guns. We were growing older too, and girls proved too much of a draw. Luckily, Baywatch was about to land. It was yet another of these Saturday family dramedies, with something for the dads as well as the lads. The first boob-bobbing beauty, as you already know, was ET’s Erika Eleniak. Nobody knew who the hell David Hasselhoff was, but this Swedish siren was all we wanted to watch. It was only later that Hasselhoff became a global star and liberated East Berlin from the communists by himself.

There were other buxom beauties, but as Eleniak prepared to leave, we started scanning the listings for the next big show. Incredibly, just as we hovered over the brand new remote control device, C. J. Parker arrived, kayaking to ecstasy as an old flame of Hasselhoff’s. Incredible though it seemed, there was something about Pamela Anderson that stole our breath away. She kept us glued on for another five years. Then she went mad. Can you remember the original theme song? It’s embedded below.

All except CHiPs have been remade quite recently. Could the time be ripe for a CHiPs cinema release?

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About Author

P. C. Dettmann is the London bureau chief and contributing editor at The Z Review. Born in Hull, living in London, he is the author of Locksley: A New Spy, Ernest Zevon, and as Paul Charles, From Beyond Belief and Kicking Tin.

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