Wednesday 8 April 2015

Jackson Pace: The Great Years

Genre: Children's / Comedy
Channel: ITV

Transmission: 11/10/1990 - 15/11/1990

What kid didn't want to be an explorer after watching the Indiana Jones films? It looked a great life packed full of adventure, drama, heroism and plenty of wisecracks.Truth be told, it's probably less glamourous and the biggest drama you'll encounter is catching malaria. Still, it beats working the 9 - 5 grind.

Anyway, Indiana Jones was a huge deal by the end of the 1980s, so it's no surprise a spoof of the genre was attempted by ITV in the guise of Jackson Pace: The Great Years.

Adventure Awaits

Jackson Pace (Keith Allen) is the adventuring dynamo who's handy with his fists, loves the glint of a precious treasure and refuses to give up on anything. Like all the great heroes he's even got a catchphrase of "There's gold to be gained!".

Along with his sidekick Roger Whibley (Daniel Peacock), Pace has captured the parchment of Kinard and is very excited about this particular find. You see, the parchment of Kinard is a very important document as it details the whereabouts of three sacred keystones. If all three keystones are found then the bearer will then be able to unlock the mighty gates of the hidden temple in the land of Ja Ja Bar.

Through these gates lie a great treasure, but no one knows exactly what it is. However, everyone wants it. Yes, it won't be plain sailing for Pace and Whibley as a variety of friends and foes will be popping up along the way to hinder them in various ways.

The main antagonist is Princess Layme (Cory Pulman), an Egyptian princess in the mould of Cleopatra who bathes in asses milk and sees the treasure of Kinard as her birthright.

With the treasure of Kinard she hopes to raise the funds to construct an opulent palace. She is surrounded at all times by her snivelling assistant Lord Layta (Paul B Davies) and the blind mystic Lord Taggon (Hugh Paddick). For the first few episodes they're also joined by the sarcastic chap The Head (Arthur Smith) - yes he's literally a head in the sand.

Desperate to win Layme's affections is the weedy and bespectacled Prince Filo (Gian Sammarco) who promises to bring back the treasure of Kinard as well as put an end to Pace for good. And that's not the end of Pace's problems.

A shady American by the name of Commander Daken (Nic D'Avirro) is also hot on the trail of Pace. He's the traditional 'man in black', but unlike Will Smith he has a robotic hand a la the Terminator. Help is, however, on hand for Pace in the form of reporter Ryveeta Tusk (Josie Lawrence) who stows away on Pace's plane to get an exclusive story on his quest.

Together, the various factions will encounter the lost tribe of Popapa, swing through the jungle with Tarzan, nearly become Barry the Yeti's dinner and be forced to endure the hideous culinary delights of the Fat Lady.

On the Trail

Jackson Pace was an idea hatched between Keith Allen and Daniel Peacock with the latter writing all the scripts for the series. Alistair Clark directed the show and this followed his previous stints on children's TV with Grange Hill, Children's Ward and No. 73.

As well as devising, writing and appearing in Jackson Pace, Daniel Peacock also found time to provide the music for the series, so his passion for the show is pretty evident.

6 episodes aired on ITV as part of the CITV schedule in Autumn 1990. As far as we are aware there were never any repeats and certainly no commercial releases. In fact, there's no footage online apart from, curiously, the show's theme tune which can be heard here.

There's Gold to be Gained!

Jackson Pace! Jackson BLOODY Pace! Where the hell have you been for the last 25 years?! We watched Jackson Pace way back when in 1990 and we loved it. We absolutely adored it.

In fact, there was a point where we told our Mum that we were planning to write a letter to the Jackson Pace actor to invite him round for a cup of tea. Our Mother wasn't too keen on the idea, so that idea was sadly nixed.

However, despite this obsession with the show, it was one of those old TV shows we couldn't remember the name of. All we could remember was an explorer type chap with long brown hair and a catchphrase about gold - was it "We're going for gold!"? Oh no, that was that 90s quiz show...

It had been driving us mad for 25 years. No one else remembered it and no matter how many times we Googled "Indiana Jones spoof children's show" we found absolutely nothing online. We even spent an hour in the British Library painstakingly going through all the 1989 and 1990 Radio Times in the hope of finding a mention of it. We thought it was on BBC1, you see, so it was a rather fruitless hunt!

Then, thank the Lord, somebody by the name of Thomas emailed us about our blog. In amongst the chat he asked if we ever remembered this spoof Indiana Jones kids show from 1990 called Jackson Pace. Our jaw dropped. This had to be it! It had to be!

We looked online and found a few tiny snippets of information, but something was troubling us. It appeared that the Jackson Pace character was played by Keith Allen. We remembered Pace being a dashing hero with tumbling locks of brown hair. Not Keith Allen.

Maybe our memory was just shot. It happens from time to time.

There couldn't have been two similar shows around the same time, so we booked up at the BFI Archive to investigate 3 episodes across the series. We reckoned it would make a for a pretty good 100th blog - yep, you're reading blog number 100 of Curious British Telly!

First things first, yes, it's Keith Allen and, you know what, he actually looks quite handsome here with a full head of hair. Now, we're not saying there's anything wrong with Keith Allen per se, but if he came up to us on the street and asked us if we fancied a bit of how's your father, we'd probably decline and ask him, instead, if we could have his mate Alex James' phone number.

With a full head of hair, though, he's pretty dashing and it's no surprise that he popped out the beauty that is Lily. Anyway, homoerotic fantasies aside, the next thing that struck us was Pace's catchphrase. Finally! We knew what the hell it was: "There's gold to be gained!". It's not an amazing catchphrase, but it's a recurring motif and helps push the action along.

Ah yes and what of 'the action' that's imperative for TV to wrestle the rampant attention of a child? Well get this: Jackson Pace is packed full of action. There are no long soliloquies about man's right to exist and seek out hidden treasures. No, there's just punch after punch after manic chases all around the globe.

It's easy to see the Indiana Jones influences what with the sacred stones, Cairo nightclubs, jungle scenes, a bit of magic and a strong willed woman on his tail. There's no whips, though, and no Nazis, so coupled with all the original settings, we think it stands on its own quite well rather than just being a direct spoof.

As we said, the action goes all round the globe and there are an insane amount of sets throughout the series. And most of them are pretty convincing considering how stretched the budget must have been. The one unconvincing effect was probably the skygoblin from episode 1 which appears to have come straight out of a primary school production.

The plots are great and due to the manic action and wild imagination of Daniel Peacock there's never a dull moment. The final episode also manages to be pretty creepy and takes a big page out of the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade finale. We're not surprised it managed to make such a big impression on us at the time.

And it's all helped by a fantastic cast which comprises countless members of the 1980s alternative comic scene. Our favourite, obviously, is Allen as Pace, but the other real standouts are the ever beautiful Josie Lawrence, Daniel Peacock and Arthur 'Arfur' Smith. Everyone is having fun with the scripts and it must have been a real riot on set.

Oh yeah! We almost forgot! The gags! It's ram packed full of them in a quickfire script which remains razor sharp throughout. It's almost an adult comedy at times and we're surprised what they managed to get away with.

A case in point of this racy comedy is when Pace and Whibley fall in the 'fountain of youth' in Ja Ja Bar. They immediately regress to schoolboys and start giggling about Ryveeta Tusk's "bouncing boobies" before contemplating whether or not to pull her knickers down.

There's also some jokes which allude to masturbation competitions in the school shower and Lord Layta ends up grabbing Princess Layme inappropriately in some quicksand. Did this humour do us any harm and leave us flailing round on the edges of society? No, life did that all on its own.

And it appears that the team wanted to do more Pace. There's some spoilers ahead, so please be aware. The treasure of Kinard, it turns out, is actually a spaceship that promises to take Pace and his gang into space for further adventures. Pace is well up for this and bellows "Pace in Space!", so who knows what happened to that idea.

Oh, another spoiler here, Princess Layme and her gang of co-horts are judged not worthy of the treasure of Kinard so are transported to work in a newspaper - The Dispatch - in Wapping. Prince Filo even gets turned into a parrot!

Mission Complete

So, yeah, we absolutely loved catching back up with Jackson Pace. We were so giddy with excitement after watching it that we had to head to the nearest pub for a glass of Scotch. It didn't calm us down, so we had a bag of pork scratchings and another glass of Scotch. Finally we were back on an even keel.

It's a travesty that it's not out on DVD and is so poorly remembered as it's an amazing piece of childrens TV. It's in the same league as Maid Marian and her Merry Men in terms of a television series both adults and children can enjoy. As far as we're concerned it's classic TV and deserves to be remembered much more fondly in the pantheon of British TV shows.

If anyone out there has some episodes tucked away on a dusty old VHS then please get in touch!

And if Keith Allen's reading then we still want you to come round ours for a cup of tea. We've got our own place now, so our Mum can't stop us.


  1. Thank the heavens! At long, long last someone else has managed to figure out what this bloody series was called. Thank you so very much! The normally infinitely-informative TV Cream had nothing on it, YouTube provided no clues and people I spoke to thought I was mental. Someone, somewhere mentioned that it was meant to be an adult show shown later but a CITV slot became available and a few edits later - hey presto - a fantastic action-packed kids' TV show. That'd be why there were still a few risque moments in there - one I remember was a female character suggestively slurping on a sausage - I kid you not! Fantastic show, would love to see it again. That and Kappatoo - that too was a classic around the same time. Great work, thanks again and in the immortal words of Jackson Pace: 'GO GET THAT GOLD!'

    1. Words cannot express the mental anguish I went through over the years trying to rack my brainbanks for a slight glimmer of memory pertaining to the name of this delicious little show.

      And then I found it. And everything in the world was alright. So let us rejoice together with copious amounts of rum and barbiturates!

  2. I'm not sure why I ended up remembering this programme this afternoon, but thank you for providing so much information. It was an incredible show, and I always did wonder what happened to 'Pace in Space'. I also wondered how they got away with so many lewd jokes in a (non-animated) kids show!

    1. You're in luck as I've managed to find an episode this week that was recorded onto VHS. It's poor picture quality unfortunately, but still worth a watch:

  3. I produced it. These comments are amazing xx