Friday, 4 November 2016


From 1984: The 'V' STORYBOOK, published in the UK.

This is a softcover storybook which I found recently, completely by chance, stuffed into a dealer's box. I snapped it up. Of course.

Publishing informatiin is frustratingly sparse but it appears to be from the same outfit that also packaged and published the hardback 'V' STORYBOOK, sold only through the BHS retail chain, and the one-and-only UK annual.

What I find most interesting about this is how well illustrates how Warner Brothers and NBC were actively trying to reposition the show for a much broader (read: younger) audience.

The two mini-series had very clearly, on both sides of the Atlantic, been pitched and produced as adult shows. Both contained scenes of (mild) terror that - although tame now - were pretty much at the edge of what TV Standards & Practices would allow on broadcast TV at the time. And they delivered some of the most memorable small screen genre moments of the decade. 

But network and studio clearly concluded that the weekly series - a bad idea from the start - could broaden its reach by quietly dumping or reinterpreting some of the more adult elements of the mini-series in favour of a mix of SF, very mild scares (what will Diana eat this week?), largely consequence-free (unless the cast needed to be trimmed) violence and - increasingly (because talking heads are cheap to shoot) campy soap opera theatrics. 

This partly reflected the show's new Friday @ 8pm timeslot (a bit of scheduling which saw the third episode, Breakout, initially 'banned' by NBC as it was deemed unsuitable for the hour) and also reflected the studios plans to shift as much merchandise as possible. 

The 1984 debut was accompanied by a tsunami of stuff, much of it pitched at a younger buyer: comics, toys (although plans for a range of figures and vehicles never went into production once it became clear that the show was unlikely to make it into a second season), lunch boxes and trading cards all hit US stores.

Warner Brothers planned to repeat the same trick in the UK but were hampered by ITV's decision to keep the show out of primetime (I don't think any of the regional companies aired it in evening peak) and confine it to late evening slots. This was partly because the programme buyers had believed they were snapping up a continuation-in-tone of the mini-series that had delivered such good numbers for the network (10 million plus, despite a late start and strong competition from the BBC's Olympic coverage) rather than a perspective replacement for THE A-TEAM.

The strategy failed and NBC were forced to shuffle the show back an hour where it was exposed to strong competition from the other nets. The show shuttered after only 19 episodes (talk of a 20th being on the verge of going into production seems like little more than writers collecting a final paycheque and the studio half-heartedly trying to demonstrate how the show could be retooled to stay in business) and - despite early talk of another mini-series or TVM to wrap up the cliffhanger and reboot the failed franchise - interest waned fast and merchandising ended (the DC Comic shuttered after only 18 months... The more adult novels continued longer).

Below is a sample page from inside the book. 

1 comment:

  1. another great find.

    the art is nice if a little generic. In fact, I'd swear they used a still of Dirk Benedict from battlestar galactica or Gil Gerard from buck rogers for the chap on the left.

    That was quite a common practice back then, the artist would just copy an actors face or pose for whatever story he drew. I've spotted Clint Eastwood more than once in various uk annuals !


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