6. BOGNOR (ITV 1981-82)
Reflecting the social and economic environment of the time, the late seventies and early eighties saw the introduction of countless hard-up underachieving TV detectives. Inevitably given a grim urban landscape to do their detecting in and family problems to wrestle with in their spare time, most of them were intentionally as workaday and rank and file as TV detectives come.
Simon Bognor, on the other hand, most definitely was not. Drawn from a series of successful novels by Tim Heald, Bognor was a 'Special Investigator' for the Board of Trade, the grand-sounding title masking the fact that he was obliged to spend his time prying into industrial chicanery and import-related intrigue, bringing him up against 'villains' who were more penny-pinching than megalomaniacal. During the course of his television adventures he would cross paperwork-laden swords with swindling monks, poison pen-wielding journalists, and a hushed-up mysterious death in the world of show poodles. It wasn't one of the owners.
Bognor was a rare starring role for David Horovitch, an actor who was barely out of primetime dramas but usually in supporting roles, with Joanna McCallum as his wife Monica, and Ewan Roberts as Board of Trade superior Parkinson. An impressive line-up of guest stars included Patrick Troughton, Richard Hurndall, Anthony Jackson, Annette Badland, Robin Bailey, Elizabeth Spriggs, John Le Mesurier, Richard Vernon, Charlotte Cornwell and Glynis Barber, while the distinctive electronic theme music - played over a memorable 'shooting gallery' animation - was provided by Maxwell Steer, who went on to become a noted classical composer.
`TV Times` - who promoted the first episode with a front cover photo - certainly suspected Bognor would be a hit, and were proved right as the unusual premise and unlikely settings quickly caught on with the primetime adult audience, leading to a second run being hastily commissioned. Occasional flashes of female semi-nudity didn't exactly harm its chances of success with a younger audience, either.
Yet even popularity with viewers couldn't prevent Bognor from falling victim to a regime change at Thames, and the associated time-honoured determination to do 'something new'. Surprisingly, Tim Heald resisted the temptation to write a further novel with Bognor investigating behind-the-scenes power struggles in a TV company.
Next Time: Two-dimensional three-dimensional animals and a severely misplaced Jazzman...