Lads, what the fuck did I just watch. I remember late 80s ITV show Tugs being a happy little Thomas The Tank Engine-style show about boats, not a drug-fuelled episode of 999 with Michael Buerk, narrated by the voice of Protect and Survive.

There we were, quite happily watching old episodes of Lucky Ladders, and trying to work out which of the contestants was having sex with Lenny Bennett that week, when Tugs came up on the related videos. Why this happened remains a mystery for the ages.

“Let’s watch Tugs,” said Alex. “It’ll be great.”

Despite it looking a bit like a VT from Look Around You, I figured I owed Alex for making him watch every episode of The Shoe People ever made.

“I think this episode got banned,” he said. I ignored him, because that’s what I do, and because I’d just spilled lemonade on my tit.

Right, the general premise of Tugs is that there are a load of boats, and they all somehow have faces. This one, for example:

I don’t know his name but how is he getting his head to turn round like that. Boats do not have necks. And this isn’t even the terrifying part.

This one, meanwhile, is the result of an unholy and wrong welding experiment involving the Fat Controller. I think the rest of his body ended up in New York.

All this is hideous enough, and I haven’t even got to the plot yet. At this point, a small part of me was starting to wonder if it was possible to make gin from nail varnish.

Then the plot started.

All the boats were given their jobs for the day. One of the boats had to pick up a load of explosives and general dangerous bric a brac from this place:

As soon as I saw the massive sign that said ‘DANGER’, I started to think to myself ‘this might involve a bit of peril’. Anyway, this is the guy they sent to pick up the explosives:

This guy is great and gives no fucks. He’s only in it for the money, despite being a boat, and will most likely keep some of the explosives himself to sell to other countries.

Off he goes, but it’s OK because he’s got a red ‘DANGER’ flag that he’s waving. This means nothing at all will go wrong, despite the ominous music.

At this point I feel I should remind you that this is a show for the under-5s.

Right, remember how I said earlier that all the boats have different personalities? If I didn’t actually say that, just pretend I did. This boat is called Bluenose, and his personality is ‘I demand to speak to the manager’:

Bluenose is the cause of all today’s upcoming peril. Keep that in mind.

Moving on, and it is now dark. This is for two reasons: 1) the ship he’s delivering the explosives to is presumably 300 miles away, and 2) all scary shit happens at night. It is written. Despite the destination being 300 miles away, all the other boats from earlier are still milling around.

I will now give an objective, blow by blow account of the events leading up to the peril, in case the police want a level-headed witness statement.

  1. “Move your fucking boat out of my way.”

2. “I can’t it’s got explosives in it.”

3. “I demand to speak to the manager!”

4. “What manager? We’re fucking boats! Look just shut up and let me do my dangerous, life-threatening work.”

  1. “Right that’s it I’m just going to shove past you, and fuck your explosives because I am important.”

I’ll be honest, that music really is not helping at this point.

Remember, under-5s.

Right, you see this crane here?

This crane is alive. He is called ‘Big Mickey’, and he is a proper character on the show. Well, he was…

My face at this point:

But it’ll all be OK, because the fire brigade will come and put out the fire now, and the crane just fell over so he’ll be fine.

No. He ded.

I now present selected highlights of the next five minutes of the episode:

Just when you’re sure it can’t possibly get any worse, because this is a show FOR THE BASTARD UNDER-5s, a nearby petrol tank catches fire.

One of the brave little boats decides he’s got to try and push the petrol tank out to sea, getting himself badly burned in the process.

You remember that bit in Angels and Demons, where Ewan McGregor has to try and get rid of the antimatter? It’s that, but much worse, because this boat is supposed to be about 10 years old.

You know what’ll help to pass the time while he’s off doing that? Another character death.

Uploading this clip to Youtube, for once I didn’t feel silly about ticking the ‘no, it’s not made for kids’ button.

Finally, finally, the ordeal is over, and the worst of the fires are out. The other boats are just hanging around, talking about ‘isn’t it a shame that the brave 10 year old boat got blown up and killed?’

But then…

Hooray! So at least one of them didn’t die. That’s nice. I’ll be honest, I doubt most of the target audience were still watching by this point. I also suspect potty-training was delayed for an entire generation of British kids.

“Did you say this episode got banned?” I asked Alex.

“Well, I think it had a bit cut out,” he replied.

That’s like taking one bean out of a tin and then somehow it’s not beans any more.

I don’t remember watching this when it originally aired, but it’s quite possible that I just blocked it out of my flea-bitten memory. It’s likely I’ve processed the episode in other ways, such as drinking heavily and having reccurring nightmares about appearing on Countdown.

Anyway, the moral of today’s story is that we should have just carried on watching Lucky Ladders instead.


2 thoughts on “Tugs: Threads for the under 5s

  1. I remember having a few episodes of this on video as a kid, it was one of those ones that came in the bloody paper sleeves that meant they didn’t fit on the video tape shelf neatly.

    Had an episode about ghosts that scared me near to death. I get this feeling this wasn’t for the under 5s but more for the model railway/vehicle crowd.

    Liked by 1 person


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