BUGS saw a brief return in popularity of the action/adventure series so beloved of British television in the 1960s and early 1970s. The brainchild of Brian Clemens (THE AVENGERS) the series threw together three unlikely heroes – big-nosed Beckett (Birdsall), computer whiz Ros (Griffiths) and hunky action man Ed (McLachlan). Together they battled, terrorism, hi-tech computer crime, evil geniuses?he usual stuff of heroes everywhere. The series, a refreshing change of pace for BBC 1 on Saturday nights, was initially a huge success, its early episodes pulling in an astonishing 12 million viewers. But the party didn? last long and figures fell for season two. The problem was that whilst all the explosions looked impressive and the show was nice and glossy, it was largely completely dead. That? to say the characters were all cyphers. They had no personalities, no lives, no sense of reality to them. Something happens. They get involved. They sort it out. They go away again. There was also no humour – this was dour, deadpan stuff indeed.

If BUGS was to survive beyond its already-commissioned third season, changes need to be made. These were simple but extremely effective. The Bugs team becameUwell, people. They suddenly had lives, histories, backgrounds, emotions. They could also be quite wryly amusing too. Enrolled into the Bureau, run by starchy Jan (Harvey) the invigorated third season saw the show launch into more outrageous SF territory and it worked a treat. Coupled with more humanistic stories for the leads, BUGS was flying. Ratings picked up slightly and a crafty cliffhangar persuaded the BBC to green-light a fourth season. Here? where it all went wrong. McLachlan, who had been itching to leave at the end of the second series, finally jumped ship. Fatally the show? runners decided not to replace the character but replace the actor – and Ed regenerated from a chunky curly-haired Aussie into a miserable wiry Northern git who just looked fed up most of the time. The situation wasn? helped by what appeared to be lower productions values (one of the series?greatest strengths was its pyrotechnic effects) and the fact that the relationship stuff had started to get a bit dreary. Another cliffhangar couldn? save the day and BUGS bit the dust.

BUGS was nothing special and is really only memorable for the fact that it was something a bit livelier than normal for Saturday night stay-at-homes. It found its feet in season three and then forgot how to walk in its fourth. Fun and forgettable but ultimately not much more than a footnote in the history of TV.

THE DISCS: Previously released as four paperback-sized three disc boxsets BUGS is back out now as a chunky thirteen disc set. The packaging? not as good this time with larger boxes clumsily holding all three discs in place and the only attraction is likely to be an extra disc featuring a badly-edited 45 minute interview feature with Steve Gallagher on location in the shadow of HMS Belfast and Tower Bridge in London. It? an interesting overview of Gallagher? life in general and his involvement in BUGS but it? not worth re-investing in the entire series just to see it.

More to explorer