Wednesday, 24 June 2009


Interesting pieces today from The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph, and no it's not another episode of the delightful continuing saga of MP's expenses - which makes the House of Cards trilogy looks like a Noddy story. 80-year-old Gerry Anderson, co-creator of the Thunderbirds puppet series classic (1965-1966) is eager to remake the show but cannot convince Michael Grade, executive chairman of ITV - owner of the series through ITV Global Entertainment (1), to let him acquire the rights of the programme (

Of course, the original Thunderbirds was about the adventures of an organisation called International Rescue created by ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy to help those in grave danger with advanced technology and spectacular futuristic vehicles called Thunderbirds. The machines were piloted by Tracy's sons and IR was sometimes assisted by British aristocratic secret agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward and her faithful manservant Parker. Parker was also the chauffeur of Penelope's six-wheeled gadgetized pink Rolls Royce.

The 32 50-minute episodes (or 64 25-minute) of Thunderbirds were produced by Gerry Anderson's company AP Films for ATV and distributed by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment. At the peak of its popularity, the show spawn two feature films backed by United Artists (behind the 007 franchise at the time). Referenced, parodied or imitated a gazillion times, Thunderbirds is more than a classic, it's a part of British Heritage, like many series produced by Gerry Anderson. Unfortunately Anderson sold his shares of his titles many years ago at a time when commercial VHS or DVDs were beyond imagination.

« I'm not asking Grade to fund it - I can do that » says Gerry Anderson to the Daily Mail ( « He's constantly saying ITV is in a terrible state with not enough commercials - but there would be a huge amount of advertising stimulated by Thunderbirds, and it's the perfect rival to Doctor Who on the BBC ». Anderson estimates it would cost £15 million for a new series in computer-generated imagery.

Since the cancellation of Space: 1999 (1975-1977), he has been able several times to raise funding for his projects thanks to different partnerships which lead to shows like Terrahawks (1983), the excellent but ignored Space Precinct (1994-1995) or Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet (2005) a very good CGI revival of his cult-classic Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons (1967) mistreated by ITV.

Gerry Anderson claims that ITV is in talks to remake Thunderbirds but without him. Actually a movie remake of UFO, another Anderson production, has been announced in Cannes by Hollywood mogul Robert Evans (, so it is not unreasonable to believe that ITV Global Entertainment is searching the best way to create a new interest around other brands of the Anderson/ITC era. But the failure of the 2004 Working Title/Universal Spy Kids treatment of Thunderbirds (in which Gerry Anderson was not implicated) excludes a film project.

The state of British television weights on the perspective of a new Thunderbirds TV series, especially right after the cancellation of the costly Primeval ( The renewal of Lewis for a fourth series ( is the clear sign that ITV wishes to focus on a smaller but better fiction lineup because Lewis (Inspector Lewis in the US) is one of its most prestigious contemporary titles. And not on expensive Doctor Who wannabe franchises where the network must share the financial returns with other partners.

But economics and franchise management apart, Gerry Anderson deserves his Thunderbirds revival...


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