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New ‘Thunderbirds’ Hits UK TV Abroad. Is it still ‘Go’?

A CGI reboot ramps up the Gerry Anderson aesthetic... but whatever happened to the music?

Wed, January 18th, 2017

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Fans of Gerry Anderson watching UK TV abroad can now enjoy the rebooted ‘Thunderbirds’ via their internet connections with TVMucho.

In any countdown of great 60s TV shows, Gerry Anderson’s ‘Thunderbirds’ deserves ‘Top 10’ placing. 2015 saw the release of ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’, a reverential a UK-NZ reboot sharing themes and personnel with the original. But did it succeed in getting hipster kids to put down their smartphones? Answer: Yes! YES! YES!!! In fact, ‘Thunderbirds Are Go’ has become a UK TV staple that you can watch abroad via TVMucho.

Original and best Thunderbirds?


The original run of 32 ‘Thunderbirds’ episodes had been a critical and commercial high point for Gerry Anderson. It had taken him just a few short years to develop his puppetry from the short, jerky black-and-white cowboy pastiche of ‘Four Feather Falls’ to hour-long episodes of eye-popping full-colour action that rivalled all but the best Hollywood f/x flicks, underpinned by a stunning orchestral score. Backed by Lew Grade and targeted on the lucrative US market with all the subtlety of a Bloodhound missile, ‘Thunderbirds’ v1.0 made Anderson and his wife Sylvia a fortune in the mid-60s. Indeed, as fans never tire of pointing out, he could have made a second fortune had he found a way to patent the show’s ‘worn future’ aesthetic, which would dominate the look of sci-fi cinema for decades.


Uniformed goodies from Thunderbirds


But the program’s uniformed goodies, secret bases and general air of high-tech boosterism also highlighted Anderson’s creative limits. He would later return to the same territory for ‘Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons’, a darker and more pessimistic show with better marionettes. Then it was all downhill via duff puppet show ‘Joe 90’, moderately diverting live-action ‘Protectors’, confused kidult paranoia show ‘UFO’, and finally the truly dire ‘Space 1999’, a starry, big-budget, supposedly adult science fiction series sufficiently bad to put broadcasters off the genre for a decade or more.


By the turn of the century, Anderson had largely abandoned his live-action ambitions in favour of low-budget, comedy-oriented animations (‘Terrahawks’, ‘Dick Spanner’). His unexpected 2005 ‘Captain Scarlet’ follow-up was an expensive flop, all the more painful because its development had been prompted by successful re-runs of generation-old ‘Thunderbirds’ episodes.


Thunderbirds Girls in stealth jets


Gerry himself withdrew to the nostalgia circuit, but sharper minds looked past the auteur to the product. Although the Anderson formula appeared played out, those original ‘Thunderbirds’ episodes retained their substantial punch wherever the series played. How to reboot the show? Keeping Tracy Island and the Thunderbird jets was a no-brainer. Switching from puppetry to CGI would enable more complex interactions, faster pacing and shorter episodes… besides saving money. (Hey, it’s a new millennium!)


Irony for the Thunderbirds boys


Of course, the original Tracy family tree would need to be tweazed into a more attractive conformation, with a detailed bio for paterfamilias Jeff, lashings of irony for the boys and expanded responsibilities for the girls. Who could deny Tin-Tin, now renamed Tanusha, her belated stint behind the controls of Thunderbird Stealth? Now we’re getting there! With a reprise of that unforgettable theme music, the last piece of the jigsaw would fall into place… or not.


Yes, you heard that right. Unbelievably, the Pukeko Pictures team opted to leave Barry Gray’s kettledrum-driven themes in the archive. In their absence — and despite the presence of original-cast guest stars like Sylvia Anderson and Shane Rimmer — some of the thrill is undoubtedly gone. But at least you can tell your kids how great it used to be. And, if you enjoy doing your viewing en famille, TV Mucho is the best way to enjoy prime UK TV abroad.

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