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pixelpractise-INTERCEPTOR-02As long-standing readers of this blog may know, I like Interceptor. In fact, I’ve come to think it’s one of the best game shows ever made; throwing a villain into the game show equivalent of orienteering was a stroke of genius, and Sean O’Kane made sure we would never forget such a character. He’s the uber-ham, and that means he’s brilliant. His performance actually makes it impossible to root for the contestants.

Of course, Interceptor‘s life was criminally short, with ITV ditching the programme after only eight episodes. It’s a decision that makes me a little mad, especially when one thinks of all the mileage left in the Interceptor running (or hovering) around being an arse, branding presenter Annabel Croft an ‘onionhead’ and scaring the life out of the jolly hockey sticks contestants. Those eagle screams are probably still echoing across the countryside.

Its premature termination also means we never got the slew of merchandise that accompanied popular game shows of the time. We never got the disappointing board game, we never got the disappointing zapper toy which did not work rather like a television remote controller, and, circling around to this post, we never got the disappointing computer game. That makes it a prime candidate for my loading screen treatment, so, here are my attempts at a loading screen for Interceptor on the Spectrum. It most likely would have been the best part of the experience. That being said, I would love to hear a Speccy or Commodore 64 rendition of the theme tune.

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interceptor-3BWell, that’s not to get your hopes up – Interceptor isn’t returning. But I’ve been indulging in the show again lately, so the titular villain is back after a double appearance way back in this blog’s early days. I can assure you, he’s still going to track you down by helicopter, he remains very mean and nasty, and his infrared projector continues to work rather like a television remote controller.

I tried to fill this with eighties airbrush zing, opting for standard Photoshop soft brushes, radiance, and a heap of saturation. I actually veered toward this midway through Kate Bush, and since sought out a tutorial on the subject. It’s still not quite there, though; certainly it would have benefited from a stronger sketch (and cut), but I appreciate that it at least looks a little different. Different is good, and it was fun, so it seems worth another bash at a later date. Perhaps the same can be said for Interceptor one day, TV people?

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This is a quick sketch of Sean O’Kane… oh, I’m sorry, Interceptor – that’s actually his name, right? – the star of ITV’s surefire hit, Interceptor… or not so surefire a hit, as it happens; it only lasted for eight episodes in 1989, and then vanished altogether. I don’t know why that is. I concede that is terrible, but at the same time, I think it one of the most hilarious television programmes I’ve seen. It’s a couple of years before my time, but we had a recording of the episode shot just minutes from us, and I must have watched this single programme several thousand times as a youngster.

It was a theatrical mutation of Channel 4’s seminal hit Treasure Hunt (which I will probably weave into a drawing some other time, as it was another show I loved). In Interceptor, two contestants were loaded with a briefcase-style backpack each; one was stuffed with £1,000, the other just weighted to feel that way. The pair were then blindfolded and dropped off by helicopter several miles from each other, in an area they presumably had no previous knowledge of. They not only had to meet up in forty minutes, using bulky communications equipment and the questionable guidance of screechy host, Annabel Croft, who stood out in the middle of nowhere with a giant map trying (and usually failing) to keep things orderly, but they also had to at some point ‘win’ the key to their co-contestant’s backpack. When both keys were won, all they needed to do was reunite, open the packs and collectively cry “jolly d!” at having won £500 each.

However, making every effort to thwart them in their quest is THE INTERCEPTOR, a leather-clad Glaswegian with his own ominous black-and-yellow chopper to hover back and forth between the contestants’ journeys. He was not limited to the air, though; the highlights of the programme were the various hammed up ‘ambushes’, where he came down to ground level and pursued his hapless targets by other means; scaring them silly by jumping out from behind a wall, catching them in a hedge maze, or taking the driving seat of their own transportation… none of it at all staged, of course… and very often making hilarious bird of prey cries in their faces.

“What’s your name?” “INTERCEPTOR, I just told you my name!”

His main goal, though, was to ‘zap’ one of five ‘receptors’ on the back of the backpacks, using a snazzy laser gun contraption stuck to his arm – if he struck accurately, the pack would become stuck shut – even the key won’t unlock the cash, so contestants were best to keep these targets away from the Interceptor at all costs. Given how many times he got a clear vantage point throughout the series, he must either have been a lousy shot or the 80s technology was letting him down, because he frequently seemed to have hit perfectly, then the contestants got to the end and still managed to open them!

Interceptor garnered decent ratings and yet never returned, apparently a casualty of both its considerable production cost and changes within ITV over that period. You wonder if it might have enjoyed a longer life had it been on Channel 4 – it feels more their kind of thing in its kookiness. It was very of its time in that I couldn’t imagine the concept being touched with a bargepole in today’s era of shoestring budgets, even though there is a loyal following still clamouring for a second series, and I believe a genuine gap on TV for something of this adventurous and outlandish nature. I wish I could have gone on it. It would have been hilarious.

Here is the episode shot nearby! Though I could probably transcribe it to you by heart, I feel it would be better in vision. Killer theme tune, aswell:

It seems appropriate with this post to show this, even if some fifteen months late: for Interceptor‘s twenty-fifth birthday last summer, I made this, finished with a helping hand from the Photoshop Gradient Map tool.

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