29/08/2011

Forgotten tv- Skiboy

2. SKIBOY (ITV 1973)

Words:Tim Worthington

Throughout the sixties and seventies, ITC were responsible for the vast majority of ITV's most popular detective, sci-fi/fantasy and action series, with their long list of hits including The Prisoner, The Saint, The Champions, Thunderbirds, Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased) and Department S. Even less successful shows, like The Zoo Gang, The Adventurer and Gideon's Way, have their fan followings. And then there’s Skiboy.


Sixteen year old Stephen Hudis (son of ITC scriptwriter and creator of the Carry On films Norman) starred as Bobby Noel, the skiing boy of the title, with Patricia Haines and Frederick Jaeger as his parents. The basic premise was that if the thriving snowbound resort where they lived was ever disrupted by stricken climbers or oddly-located smugglers, Bobby would come to the rescue with his skiing skills, and... well... that was about it. Not for him tussles with hi-tech spies, allegorical subterfuge in a mysterious retirement village, or choreographed fist-fights with men dressed as Andre Previn. Skiboy was, as you might have already surmised, about a boy who skiied, and it was enough of a stretch of credibility to bring even the most mundane of mysteries to his Alpine hometown.

Quite how Skiboy managed to turn out so eminently forgettable is something of a mystery. It wasn't as if it lacked a strong behind-the-scenes team - producer Derrick Sherwin was fresh from masterminding a successful reinvention of Doctor Who, while head writer Dennis Spooner had contributed prolifically to most of ITC's past hits - and there was certainly something of a fascination with the exotic allure of skiing at the time, as underlined by the Milk Tray adverts and more than one James Bond film. It also benefitted from extensive co-production funding and lavish location filming (at St. Luc, Switzerland), though - unusually for an ITC series - it did have an off-puttingly bland disco-funk theme tune.

Skiboy slalomed into a prime Saturday evening slot and gamely lasted the course, inspiring a small amount of merchandise and even making it onto the front page of `Look-In`. It also seemed to do well in France, where it went by the name of À Skis Redoublés (an almost untranslatable title which basically means nobody skis more than him), and has been repeated several times.

Over here, however, Skiboy went straight off-piste after its one and only networked showing, fading into the hazy world of school holidays repeats and from there into obscurity. So obscure, in fact, that while almost equally forgotten ITC efforts are all available on DVD, poor old Bobby has yet to make the ski-jump into the digital medium.


Next Time: An American talking about talking about appearing on the BBC while appearing on the BBC talking about appearing on the BBC...

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