In response to concerns from parents and tabloids over youngsters getting access to the wrong films, we remember a time when special weapon Simon Bates was deployed to sort it out.
The move towards a streaming model for watching films at most now gives us the inconvenience of having to skip through an advert for whatever the service of choice has invested its cash into. In the DVD era, there were forced adverts that you sometimes couldn’t skip, and they went down like the proverbial fart in a car.
But in the era of the video, you had to wind past everything. And it could take ages. Those of a certain vintage may recall being tempted by a £4.99 video release of RoboCop that was being sold in Virgin Megastores, that had a good half hour of ads you needed to wind through before you got to the bloody film.
Rest assured I’m over that.
But then there was Simon Bates. The Radio 1 DJ of the time spent a day at most recording a few messages that’d appear on retail video cassettes. Little did he realise at that stage he was set to be engrained in the memories of movie nerds as a consequence.
When home video really took off in the 1980s, so did concerns of parents. The tabloids, never ones to resist pouring petrol on a dimly lit match, suitably ignited outrage, the Video Standards Council – the VSC – felt compelled to act.
Notwithstanding the fact that lots of parents were quite happy to let their teenagers watch 18-rated films such as The Terminator or RoboCop, the government acted. At the behest of the-then Home Secretary (Douglas Hurd), the Council was set up with a code of practice and educational work to make sure that the wrong material didn’t get to the wrong eyes. Didn’t work of course, but no harm in trying.
Part and parcel of that was hiring Simon Bates to explain the certificates at the start of videos. Thus, he put on a half-decent suit, sat in a studio, and got to work.
It’d be fair to say that this was the most famous, as he danced around the fact that in an 18-certificate film, there’s likely to be nookie and F-bombs in what you’re about to watch…
It achieved notoriety in part because of this rather splendid spoof by Harry Enfield…
They always felt like a bit of lip service in truth, but just think: hundreds of thousands of videos were made, with Simon Bates explaining all of that. There are probably more copies of that than there were Die Hard videos
Bates was gradually phased out as the video era dimmed, and the DVD lights came on. By then, the attention of the industry was fast moving to piracy, and instead, we were forced to sit through this infamous piece of work…
It’s enough to make you yearn for Simon Bates…
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