A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Callan - any good? - any opinions?

Short and rather pathetic request for help...

I have been offered (at a very cheap price) two new, shrink-wrapped box sets of DVDs which between them cover series 1 and 2 of the old Callan TV show (in monochrome, including the original pilot programme A Magnum for Schneider) and series 3 and 4 (by which time the programmes were filmed in colour).

Apart from the legendary wargaming scenes (which I do not believe I have ever seen, even on YouTube), I feel that this is probably a worthwhile buy at the price anyway, as a piece of vintage TV.

Problem is that I probably saw maybe two of the original shows (they date from a period when I mostly didn't own a TV), and I have found on recent nostalgia trips that vintage TV was often embarrassingly poor. So I am torn - half of me says "Yeah! - Callan! - great", and the other half says "but what do I know about Callan? - I never saw it - I have no opinion".

Anyone out there a Callan fan? - would you recommend the series? (it is very cheap).


  1. I had series 1 and 2 for a while. I watched the episodes over several months and I enjoyed them. The stories and scripts were simple, and the sets were basic (ie cheap), so Scandicrime they are not but. as I said, I enjoyed them.

  2. Can't remember it??? Sorry......

  3. I like them -I've got the black and white sets but not the colour. Quite simple for today but they holds up OK. Won't be getting the later ones - think the series went downhill later on, the episodes with Cross don't appeal.

  4. Yeah buy them what do you have to lose. If you want quality I'll lend you the Sandbaggers - whou couldn't like Roy Marden acting two whole series with his hands in nis pockets? (Not that Callan wasn't quality) - and the book is quite good (Red File for Callan) - it's on Radio 4 Extra from time to time.

  5. Thank you all very much thus far - it seems I'd better buy them!

    Clive - all I have to lose is what is left of my belief that the past is worth revisiting - I would be delighted to borrow The Sandbaggers - I am all in favour of quality (not that I would necessarily recognise it) - many thanks for the offer!

    Ray - I would guess you probably don't remember much of the Nine Years' War either, but I would respect your opinions on the subject! - cheers!

    Everyone - thanks - I'll do it!

  6. Buy or buy it and send it to me. Great series.

  7. Must admit I have them all and I love them. Sets that shake when the doors are shut but well worth it!

  8. They are brilliant and, while obviously dated, stand the test of time because of top acting, engrossing individual stories against the overall story and an excellent script.
    The wargames in the 'wargaming episode' (series 3 episode 6) are more related to the by-play between the characters than a wargame as we know, love and play them, but... they put a wargame on a mainstream TV show! It doesn't have the silly sound effects of the one in "New Tricks" either.
    If you have any remaining doubt, then watch an episode or two on YouTube. This one is brilliant:
    Bob Cordery at 'Wargaming Miscellany' reviewed the wargaming aspects in the series (and films) here:
    Then Trebian at 'Wargaming for Grown-ups' chimed in with the Battleground series!

    (I'm seriously considering forking out the 'going rate' to have a decent copy of them.)

  9. Big Callan fan, time was. But I missed out on most of the wargame ones. Gritty TV. I tend to find the ones that dated worst were the campy ones like The Avengers (saved by the timelessly urbane Patrick McNee and the sublime appeal of Diana Rigg) and Danger Man - or I Spy and The Man from UNCLE. But Man in a Suitcase still works for mine.

    Given the cheap price I'd buy the Callan DVDs. 4 Seasons! Can't go wrong, really...

  10. Thanks very much for further comments here - much appreciated. I've ordered the DVDs, as advised, and am looking forward to them. The wargaming content is really just an unusual add-on, of course, but that was how the discussion started which led to being offered them for purchase.

    James - special thanks for the links - the YouTube seems a great idea, but sadly our broadband is so slow at present that video - even at low resolution - is a frustrating experience.

  11. I also received this invaluable contribution by email, for which we should all be grateful:

    My sole contribution is to point out for your erudition the fact that, had the letter ‘D’ not been invented, the leading role would have been played by Ewar Woowar…………..



  12. Unless you enjoy the series itself, the wargaming bits aren't worth the expense and time.
    You can get stills and occasionally clips on youtube or at vintage wargaming blog.
    Let someone who appreciates the series purchase the dvds.
    I own the two region 1 dvd sets.

  13. I loved Callan at the time but found it disappointing when I saw one on TV a couple of years ago but whoops you've already bought them now so enjoy!

    1. I'm sure I'll enjoy them - if not, or if I decide I'm not likely to watch them again, I can probably sell them on via eBay without losing much. My recent "vintage TV" buys have been mixed - in particular I bought a hefty collection of Tony Hancock which is very heavy going - disappointing since i was quite a fan (better on radio...).

      I just realised the Patrick Mower is in the later ones - is that the creepy guy out of Emmerdale? Hmmm.

    2. Tony, I don't know Emmerdale, but he went on to become the lead in Target. That was much 'lighter and breezier' than Callan. I enjoyed it as a kid for the simple action and titillation, but I doubt that it will stand the test of time like Callan has. In Callan he plays the 'young buck', keen to make a name for himself and happy to cut corners to do so. A bit of a ladies' man...

  14. Definitely a hole in my Brit TV education, so I have no opinion, other than that I'm not a huge Ewar Woowar fan, though maybe I'm biased by his later appearances on American TV which were stodgy and somewhat ridiculous. Thank you though for reminding me about The Sandbaggers. I recall watching them with my dad when I was a young teen and thinking this was what adult tv was like! It was amazing, and I'd love to find them again.

    1. Sandbaggers certainly available for Region 2 on Amazon - not sure about other versions.

      I recall I was a fan of The Professionals on UK TV - that was very slightly weird, since I played in a band with Lewis Collins very briefly when I was at school, and suddenly he was a megastar on the telly. A lot of this stuff dates badly - recently watched an episode of Kojak on some high-numbered TV channel, and it was hilarious - posturing dates disastrously - it's funny how 1960s stuff seems less ancient than Starsky and Hutch, for example. It's also funny how you realise that David Soul was about as tough as a cottage cheese sandwich.

      I remember that there was a surprising trend to have more "earthy" heroes on British TV - before Callan and Harry Palmer it would be necessary for spy shows to have all the characters with accents straight out of Ecting School.

      It was all a very long time ago - where are my reading glasses, anyway?