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Maybe it wasn't that good as a whole, but the second episode, which was
the first one I say, was so memorable I still remember it today. I
became a fan of Dick Francis. I would recommend it if you are
interested in horse racing and mysteries.
The cockney slang of the sidekick, Chico Barnes, is a lot more amusing to those of us who have never been close to hearing London's Bow Bells, but the leads are attractive and the shows were interesting.
Sid Halley was one of Francis' more interesting characters, and the show actually minimizes some of the difficulties with his hand. Interestingly, electronic hands of the sort used in the stories are apparently less functional for the user than the sort invented after World War II.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I actually quite enjoyed this show. Even as a youngster I was interested in all sports and that included horse racing. It was always going to be difficult to make a series based on racing corruption and at the same time get permission from the race tracks to record filming about this controversial subject. One episode I particularly remember centred around a horse expected to win a big race that looked a bit off colour. A syringe was found on the stable floor and everyone thought it had been drugged but nothing showed up in the blood tests. All too late they realised the horse hadnt been doped but had had its knee cartilage removed. Like running a car with no oil and the engine seizing up, the horse broke down with tragic consequences.
I like the two leads and the horse racing gimmick. I was stranded in
some jerkwater Kansas town with nothing to read and in a motel room
with a 13" black and white TV with a wire coat hanger for an antenna.
The local PBS station ran this and other Mystery! programs over and
over the week I was there.
It was a life saver.
It's nothing major, but it was there when I needed it.
I found the two disk complete series while thumbing through the DVDs at my local library.
Wow, a full color 70s flashback.
The one reason I remember this is that it was shown the week after Nigel
Kneale`s brilliant QUATERMASS serial was broadcast . The trailers made
emphasis that the main character had a mutilated arm which had me hoping
he`d be like Victor Caroon from THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT stalking the
streets of London .
No such luck because THE RACING GAME is just a rather drab thriller with the gimmick of having a hero with a physical disability trying to get to the bottom of investigations of corrupt horse racing . I suppose if you`re a fan of Dick Francis you might enjoy it but setting it in the context of the late 70s when THE SWEENEY had just finished and THE PROFESSIONALS was still being produced , there`s something lacking about THE RACING GAME . One trailer featured a car over taking another on a motor way , if it`d been a trailer for THE SWEENEY you`d see Jack Regan over taking a car and beating a confession out of the slags who`d done a blag while THE PROFESSIONALS would have over taken a car and blown away the terrorists inside . I think that sums up what`s wrong with this series
Basing a television series on a popular author's works is no guarantee of success. Yorkshire Television learnt this the hard way when in 1979 they bought the rights to the books credited to Dick Francis, three of which were broadcast under the collective title 'The Racing Game'. Mike Gwilym was Sid Halley, a former jockey turned private eye following an accident in which he lost his right hand, only to have it replaced by an artificial one. Gwilym suffered from an acute lack of charisma ( and looked like one of the bad guys ) while Mick Ford ( who played the irritating Chico Barnes ) made me think of a horse's arse whenever he was on screen. For six weeks, this less-than dynamic duo charged about the countryside, foiling nefarious plots to fix races, usually by the same methods - blackmail, kidnapping riders or doping horses. Yorkshire Television threw money at the show, but to no avail. Violent, sexist, far-fetched and repetitious, it was quickly carted off to the knackers yard.
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