Category Archives: Nostalgia

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.