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Interceptor, The

“I LIKE IT!” The playground talking point of the year, one of the most preposterous things ever bundled out in the name of “action adventure” television, and absolutely fucking ace.

In full: ANNABEL CROFT introduces two joe ordinaries dressed in romper suits with strange backpacks, one of which contains prizes beyond avarice, but both of which can be locked for good with one zap from the titular blackguard, aka SEAN O’KANE: a leather-clad ‘copter criminal with a penchant for making bird noises, somersaulting over farmyard gates and gurning. Contestants get split up then have to find their way back to each other using “natural landmarks” which then helps Annabel locate them on her map from within her “base in the beautiful county town of Ludlow!”, from where she then navigates them towards rendezvous. All the while the Interceptor hovers above chasing the goons hither and thither, joshing with pilot “Mikey”, before jumping out and donning a disguise to lure them towards his giant hoofer doofer of doom.

The dementedness was summed up by the chicanery that was played out between Annabel and the players at the start of each episode, and which lasted at least a dozen minutes. First came the business of getting the programme title wrong (“Welcome to another edition of Interceptor”), or drastically underselling the whole endeavour (“Welcome to what we HOPE will be another exciting edition of Interceptor!”) followed by a 12-second history lesson (“I’m here in the grounds of the gorgeous Woburn Abbey, with occasional examples of beautiful masonry dating back to the mid-15th century!”), then a painfully convoluted explanation of what the game involved.

Highlight of this section was where Annabel purported to “mix up” the two packs the contestants carried on their backs, ostensibly so they didn’t know which contained money and which was empty, but which always followed the same pattern ending in a pointless bit where she simply stood the packs on the ground and turned them back to front then back again, like that made a crucial difference. Not forgetting the bit where the team were supposed to ask, in a state of dumb wonderment, why they had to always keep their backs to the Interceptor, to which Annabel muttered something about him being able to lock their cases, which triggered the contestants’ response “And why does he do that?” word for word every bloody week. The whole palaver was then topped off by Annabel making great play of waving the contestants off in their helicopter when they were already blindfolded and couldn’t see a fucking thing.

Contestants themselves were always a) posh b) stupid and c) prone to infantile levels of hysteria at the merest whim. One pair almost blew it completely after one of them promised to meet the other “at the bridge” but neglected to say he’d actually be waiting under it. Then there was the hopeless naive toff (“There’s a lovely pheasant – shame I haven’t got time to pluck it”) who forgot how to climb a ladder. Best of all, one decided to talk back to the Interceptor, to wit: “Come on then! Come on then!” Suffice to say the entire series was an absolute embarrassment of riches – and tanked big time, never to return.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Simon Tyers

    February 28, 2010 at 11:03 am

    How *did* he do that? Lock the cases, I mean, unless Croft had to indulge in balloon-against-wind levels of mime chicanery to hide the fact that I doubt even now that a laser pen can lock some sort of weird backpack with plastic gas hob on the back arrangement.

    There was a huge bring-back-Blake’s-Seven level of outcry when it was cancelled on Oracle, as I recall, but it can’t have been cheap to make and nobody quite understood the point either. It was as if they had to keep Annabel sated once the public decided she was no Anneka.

  2. Gareth James

    February 28, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Wasn’t there a very similar programme in 90s – can’t remember its name but used to watch it when an idle student – where chase was spread out over a week, with the contestants having to visit specific locations (following clues?) trying to stay one step ahead of their pursuer, and having to spend the live final hour in a telephone box in a prominent location – with the public able to shop them, or deliberately misdirect the interceptor as the mood took them (and who would only be able to catch them if he’d correctly worked out where they were likely to be, and was therefore less than an hour’s drive away when programme began). On Channel 4 or 5.

  3. Ian Jones

    February 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    You’re thinking of the fantastic Channel 4 show Wanted. The first series was hosted first by a no-nonsense Richard Littlejohn, the second by a hapless Ray Cokes. Think of what they could do with this kind of show today: Twitter, Facebook, round-the-clock streaming…all completely undermined by having someone like O’Leary doing the presenting.

  4. annoyingmouse

    February 28, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I seem to remember there being three teams of two in Wanted, am I right? I do remember quite enjoying it at the time and always being slightly amazed that it didn’t seem to get much attention. As Ian says today you’d have all these other web things that would probably make it hard for contestants to stay hidden. Some great challenges.

    This all reminded me of another Channel 4 series which I personally thought was great (especially in its Saturday post-pub two and half hour omnibus slot) : Lost. It was shown about ten years ago and basically the premise was: dump 3 teams of 2 (and a cameraman) in the middle of the desert/jungle/arctic and see if they can make back to London. Brilliant stuff. Sadly I don’t think it got anywhere near the number of viewers needed to fund a show where you have to dump people in the middle of the desert/jungle/arctic but for those few programmes in the very early hours of a Sunday morning for about four weeks back then I was “lost” myself in their crazy adventures.

  5. Nick Gates

    March 1, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Lost was great, and also coincidentally has one of the best tie-in behind-the-scenes books I’ve read.

  6. Sparks

    August 17, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Been watching this on Challenge recently. I notice in the credits the programme is referred to as ‘Interceptor’ rather then ‘The Interceptor’. I had forgotten how annoying Annabel Croft’s voice was.

  7. Chinny Hill

    September 3, 2014 at 9:41 am

    The series didn’t “tank”. It was up for a second series but Thames were getting jittery about spending so much money on external productions ahead of franchise renewal. In the end they opted against doing it. Was told that first hand by “Mikey” on a visit to Castle Air (he’s a lovely chap as is Keith from Treasure Hunt).

  8. XL Crisps

    December 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    They were going to do a second series presented by Tank from the Walkers Crisps advert, driving a tank.

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