Channel 5 shows some good stuff!

When Channel 5 started up a few years back we all thought… Why? What is the point? It was an analogie TV channel, launching pretty much the same time as “ITV Digital”, which later fell apart and became Freeview – the national terrestrial digital TV network. With digital TV boxes now costing 20 quid a box for loads more chnnels and no subscription you do have to think, “Why did Channel 5 launch on analogue?”

It cost them an absolute fortune. Remember the “retuning engineers” ? These guys had to be recruited to go around houses and move the VCR frequency away from the one that Channel 5 was set to use. For some reason Channel 5 was given this frequency by the relevant agencies and it just happened to be the one that stack loads of VCR’s used to push it’s feed out for the TV. Yes folks, there was a time before SCART leads, PVRs, DVD recorders and Sky+. Scary to think that this was only a few years back.

So, after all this work and money, Channel 5 launched. It promised so much – the trailers showed us “nightly blockbusters” like “Mrs Doubtfire”, which – at the time – wasn’t an old movie. We all had high hopes. They even roped in “The Spice Girls” to launch it because – guess what – there were five of them. Get it? Five? Blimey… that must’ve taken some advertising executive minutes to come up with. :) The build-up was intense. For ages we’d all seen this..

Then, on March 30th 1997 they rolled out the Spice Girls and the channel was officially launched. Yes, 1997. Channel 5 is over 8 years old!

Unfortunately when it did launch everyone quickly realised that the network, the transmitters, the “retuners”, the advertising, the studios, the staff and everything else must’ve cost quite a packet because every programme was 100% toss. It was bad, real bad. We knew from the early days of “The Sky Channel” that things weren’t going to get better very quickly. To make matters worse they’d used some MPEG2 encoding system to feed the transmitters from a satellite which just kept on breaking up. This meant that your analogue TV picture had digital “breaks” because the satellite transmission couldn’t get through bad storms by the transmitters. As things got worse Channel 5 resorted to showing soft porn pretty much every night. It eventually rebranded to “Five” and got a bit better. Look, they’ve even got some semi-decent TV programmes now, like Fifth Gear (made up of ex-presenters from the BBC’s old Top Gear show). Everyone still calls it “Channel 5” though.

So why the huge intro about Channel 5 ? Well tonight they showed that money isn’t everything when it comes to choosing an excellent film to show for people like us, eating our chips and watching a bit of early evening Saturday night TV. Tonight “Five” showed a film that I fondly remember from my early teenage years when it was shown on TV late one night. This film is “The Cannonball Run” from 1981. What a brilliant movie. Fast cars, girls in tight UPVC outfits driving a Lamborghini plus… an excellent cast. Does anyone remember Jackie Chan driving the Subaru? Yes, that WAS a Subaru! It may not look like one by todays standards, but this is 1981 !

Plus there was Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Peter Fonda and Sammy Davis Jr. !

A movie with some of the original “brat pack”, a movie with Burt Reynolds at the height of his fame, Roger Moore playing a parody of his own James Bond persona in an Aston Martin. To top things off you’ve got Adrienne Barbeau in a UPVC jump suit slowly zipping down her top to get away from the coppers after her and her friend race across the US in a black Lamborghini – which, at the time decorated every young boys bedroom wall.

There’s no plot, no storyline .. well, ok.. they have to race across the USA as fast as they can. That’s it, that’s the storyline. It requires no brain activity whatsoever. Brilliant, and way better that Cannonball Run 2, which was dire in comparison. Let’s not forget that Jackie Chan gets thrown into the mix too – it’s not a major part and he doesn’t speak any english. It’s pretty much a cameo but well worth it for the karate-kicking fight with a group of bikers. However, you wouldn’t really guess that Jackie Chans’ part was quite so small if you saw how “The Cannonball Run” was marketted back on Jackies’ home turf. Check out this DVD of the film…

I especially like how they’ve plastered him on the front cover and made his name just slightly bigger than anyone elses :) Heck, Jackie deserves it though. Fantastic.

So, a rampantly stupid film that takes me back to my early years when I used to have pictures of a Lamborghini Countach, Ferraris and other cars on the bedroom wall. Brilliant.