Category Archives: Lists

Cousin Balki, China Beach and Bill Campbell: My TV memories (part one)


There follows a far from exhaustive list of TV shows I watched and loved as a child and teenager.

If you have any concerns about the impact of these years of TV watching on my formative years, please see the disclaimer at the bottom of this post.

If you don’t remember any of these, you are far younger than me and should be out doing Jaegerbombs and dancing to Grimes and Grizzly Bear and Frank Ocean.

Life Goes On


Life Goes On was a show I watched religiously, although I only have very specific memories of it. It centred on  the Thatcher family (Libby, Drew, Becca, Paige and Corky, who had Down Syndrome). My memories of it are as follows:

  • Becca was my hero because she had shiny hair, she had lovely brown eyes and she was scrappy. She also had dimples, which I coveted furiously.
  • Chad Lowe was in it, and if memory serves me correctly he was HIV positive. He had shiny hair too. He played Becca’s boyfriend.
  • The Thatchers lived in one of those lovely white clapboard houses, which I also coveted furiously.
  • The opening credits featured the family dog, with a food bowl in his mouth. I always felt sorry for him.
  • The theme tune for the show was The Beatles’ Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the telly people didn’t use the theme tune from the sitcom Empty Nest, which started off with the lyrics “Life goes on, and so do we…”. I thought they were SO daft for missing an opportunity like that.

 China Beach

My memories of China Beach are even more sketchy, but I know I loved the them tune (Reflections by Diana Ross and the Supremes). When I worked in Golden Discs about ten years ago I used to play it in the shop whenever possible. My boss was not happy. Avril Lavigne and Pink were more suitable, she said. I maintain that I was right:

I also remember the lead character had lovely shiny hair (anyone spotting a theme here) and I thought she was so beautiful. Look at her:


Perfect Strangers

Cousin Balki came to live with Cousin Larry and messed up his life in New York. They were always getting into scrapes. I’m fairly sure I fancied Cousin Balki a little bit and coveted Cousin Larry’s curly hair (I must had had TERRIBLE hair as a child). The theme tune fills me with all kinds of nostalgia and I would dearly love if it featured in the repertoire of karaoke bars, as I’m pretty sure I could nail it:



Matlock had SUCH a kind face. In my eyes he was about 176. He was probably only about 57. He was great at solving crimes and always wore a light grey suit.

I tend to lump Matlock in with shows like Jake and the Fatman and Moonlighting. Is it possible that they all hail from the same telly era?

Yes, I fancied Jake from Jake and the Fatman, and Bruce Willis in Moonlighting. How I didn’t turn out to be a sexual deviant is beyond me.

Moon over Miami

Moon over Miami was the show which launched my love for Bill Campbell (more recently seen as Darren Richmond in The Killing, and before that as the handsome Dad in Once and Again):

bill5Moon over Miami featured that brand of simmering sexual tension that so often exists between two lead characters (think Mulder and Scully, that pair from Bones, and Zoey Deschanel and the grumpy housemate from New Girl). I was well sucked in by it. It was a short-lived show and I believe the time slot was moved to quite late at night, forcing me to record it on one of my precious VHS tapes emblazoned with:


It was tragically cancelled after just one season, just like My So Called Life. The humanity!

Still to come: McGyver, Kate and Allie, Party of Five, Family Ties, a mysterious dolphin show that seems to exist only in my mind, Beachcombers, The Flying Doctors, The Girl from Tomorrow, My So Called Life, Press Gang etc 

DISCLAIMER: As you read through this post you might find yourself thinking several things:

  • What a lazy, fat little kid she must have been, watching all that TV
  • What terrible parents she must have had to let her watch all that TV
  • How sad it must be that she can remember the theme tune to Perfect Strangers but not Krebs Cycle or the causes and consequences of the Russian revolution

Please, allow me to address these concerns:

  • I was neither lazy, nor fat as a child (well, I wasn’t one of those stick insect knobbly-kneed kids, but I was normal sized). Bear in mind that these TV shows were spread out over a period of about 15 years, that we had just the two channels for most of those years, and that I was considered a local expert in fast cycling and ‘sticks’.
  • My father used terrible language and my mother took the wooden spoon to me on several occasions (I deserved each and every one) but in terms of TV watching, they were far from terrible.
  • I have no defence. None. I couldn’t draw Krebs Cycle for you now if you gave me a million euro. I could however sing you the Family Ties theme tune with perfect accuracy.


These are a few of my least-favourite things

Not to be a negative nelly or anything, but there are some things that just won’t do. Peeves, if you will. Here are some of mine:

  • The word ‘nixer’. I can’t explain it. I just hate it.
  • People who don’t believe me when I say I don’t drink tea or coffee, and particularly, people who are horrified by the revelation. I’m not stopping YOU from drinking them. Also, it means I never get caught up in office tea/coffee politics, and never get into trouble at home for there not being any milk.
  • That Crunchy Nut Cornflakes ad where the girl is sitting in the car and she pours the milk directly into the cereal box and then tips it all into her gob and the Crunchy Nut Cornflake-tainted milk goes down her neck inside her collar. Imagine the smell off it after an hour or so? Imagine how sticky it would be? Imagine the bang of old socks off it? So wrong.
  • Hats with animal ears. Not acceptable on grown-ups. Children, yes. Grown-ups. No. Controversially, I believe a onesie is an acceptable item of clothing for an adult, in the comfort of their own homes. But don’t make me look at you at a festival wearing a hat with ears. They’re not your ears. You’re not fooling anyone.

This is ok

This is not ok

  • Poorly washed dishes. If I can still see your dinner from yesterday on the plate, the plate is not clean. If I can see a mucky pawprint on the glass, the glass is not clean. A cloth for wiping the table is not an acceptable cleaning implement for said plates and glasses. A dedicated dish-washing tool should be used. There are no short cuts here. None.
  • The smell of brown sauce. Smells like poverty.
  • Baby on board stickers. I’m not any more likely to purposefully ram into the back of your car if you don’t have a baby on board sticker. “What’s that? There’s no baby on board? Well then I’ll just scoot on up there and cause a pile-up”. Ditto for “princess on board”, “supporter of x football team on board”, “crazy bitch on board”… basically, I don’t want to know who’s on board.

Well,  now that I’ve let a little bit of my rotten apple core heart out, here are some things that I DO like:

  • Cats getting into scrapes
  • Videos of cats getting into scrapes.
  • This:

and this:

  • Sesame sticks
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Jurassic Park
  • Watching somebody play video games such as Skyrim and Assassins Creed, which are kind of like films
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Swimming in the sea
  • Swimming anywhere
  • Cuddling in
  • Singing along to Kate Bush, specifically Wuthering Heights and This Woman’s Work
  • That smug deadly feeling you get just after doing loads of exercise outdoors and just before you eat everything in the house, thus undoing all the good work
  • New magazines that someone else has paid for
  • Turning the pillow over to get to the cold side
  • Lemon drizzle cake
  • Fanta
  • New books
  • John Cusack in Say Anything
  • The film Aliens
  • Trivial Pursuit

Things I don’t know whether to be ashamed or proud of

1. *New Entry* Knowing all the words to the Les Miserables soundtrack

If I told you that me and my friend Libby used to act out Les Miserables with her teddy bear collection, would you judge me? Yes? Ok then, that never happened.

What if cool dudes like Jason Segal and Paul Rudd had obviously done the same thing when they were nippers?

That would make it cooler, right?

2. *New Entry* Planning to go to the Astronomy Ireland Star-B-Q

Meat and stargazing. What more could you want? I can only imagine the gathering of poindexters that are going to be in that field in Wicklow when the Astronomy Ireland Star-B-Q comes around in September, but this year, instead of secretly wishing I was going, I AM GOING. I am going to wear my ‘Nerdosaurus’ t-shirt and I am going to eat hot dogs and identify Ursa Major*.

* I now finally realise why my friend Rossa calls me Liz Lemon. Blerg.

3. Knowing all the words to We Didn’t Start the Fire: At a wedding I was at recently, the groom got up on stage after having a few ales and performed his party piece: singing all the words to Billy Joel’s historical masterpiece We Didn’t Start the Fire. I looked furtively around the room to see if people were in awe or in stitches, as I am never quite sure if this particular skill is an acceptable one to admit to. All together now… “Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray…”

Also, lest we forget:

(Also, while I’m admitting things, I may as well also admit to knowing all the words to Billy Joel’s Scenes from an Italian Restaurant AND The Pianoman. I spent a summer on Long Island once. It rubbed off on me. And before you start scoffing at Billy Joel, just remember that he’s responsible for Always a Woman to Me, and if you don’t like that song, then you have no soul).

4. Once meeting Irish president Patrick Hillary (but thinking he was the guy who had climbed Mount Everest): It was Mosney, it was the eighties, I was young. I had obviously just learned about Edmund Hillary and his pal Tenzing Norgay the sherpa in school, so when someone introduced me to an important looking man with the surname ‘Hillary’, I assumed that he was the mountain climbing man. God knows how long I smugged around for, saying I had met the conqueror of Everest. I should also point out that I was in Mosney for some kind of choir-related community games fiasco. I wasn’t even there for something cool, like hurdles or long jump.

5. Playing the part of Oliver in my school musical: I am a girl. Oliver was a boy. And yet I’m told I was very convincing. Hmph.

6. Teaching myself how to swim: Considering how much I love to be in water and how going to the beach is, for me, not about lazing around trying to change colour, but rather getting battered by waves, you would think that I would be an excellent swimmer. Alas, I am not. Even though I taught myself how to swim and  certainly am not going to drown anytime soon, I still don’t know how to do it properly and can’t do that suave breathing-to-the-side thing that people are so good at.

7. Going on holidays on my own: In October 2007 I needed to take a break, urgently. So I booked a last minute trip to New York, on my own. I went to a Yankees game on my own. I went to two Broadway shows on my own. I was in bed in my lovely hotel room by 11pm each night. I went to Harlem to find the house where they made The Royal Tenenbaums. I was the envy of the world… or the pity?

8. Knowing all the words to It’s The End of the World As We Know It: Okay so this isn’t quite as embarrassing (or enviable? Who knows?) as number one, but it’s not far off it.

9. Going nudist camping: Does actively agreeing to go and parade around in your pelt while putting up tents and going snorkeling mean you’re hopelessly brave, or hopelessly insufferable? It was actually one of the finest experiences of my life. I’m not quite sure if that had anything to do with the lack of clothes, but you’re never going to be sure if peoples’ reactions are going to fill you with pride or shame when you admit to letting it all hang out with the ageing Germans.