Time to awaken The Dragons?

Taken from Harchester.net

 

To coin a phrase from arguably my favourite song of this year, ‘once I was seven years old’. I would like to think I was a regular seven year old too. I had started playing my Sega Megadrive, I was flitting between Dexters Lab on Cartoon Network and Doug on Nickelodeon and I was starting to gain a genuine interest in football.

The year was 1997 and little did I know that a new series was stating on Sky One that in a few short years would have me gripped. That series was Dream Team.

The series is based around fictional Midlands football team Harchester United and would air for ten years on Sky One, starting as two half hour episodes a week and developing into one hour long weekly episode from series four.

Fast forward a few short years and I was hooked on fictional football team Renford Rejects but I was soon made aware of Harchester United and, despite missing the first few series, I was hooked. The storylines, the creativity, the whole package. Essentially it was Match of the Day meets EastEnders. There would be multiple deaths, aeroplane disasters, bus explosions, affairs, debt, success and failure – all of these factors would add up to one of the few series that had me viewing show after show, series after series. An accolade that can only be shared with House and White Collar.

We are now entering the tenth year since it finished airing and its main success is probably not the effect it had on its audience but how it made household names of some of our now most well known TV stars. Debatably the best example of this is Alison King who played Lynda Block in the show. She has just finished in her role of ten years as Carla Connor in Coronation Street. Britain’s favourite soaps have seemingly used Dream Team as their ‘youth academy’ as many other stars of the show have found their way into some of Britains most loved shows. King was joined on cobbles by  Terrence Maynard (Stuart Naysmith). His on screen son Ricky Whittle (Ryan Naysmith) went into Hollyoaks as did Jamie Lomas (Alex Demspey). Natalie J. Robb is most well known for her current role as Moira in Emmerdale but in Dream Team she played Lizzie Conlon. Not to be left out, EastEnders also scouted the Dragons Lair and signed Robert Kazinski (Casper Rose) to play Sean Slater.  There are various other examples too.

There were plenty of highlight characters though, and you cannot right a fan blog about this show without mentioning Karl Fletcher played by Terry Kiely. He was Mr Harchester.

taken from vebidoo.com

As popularity grew so did competition. ITV released its rival to the Sky hit in the form of Footballers Wives. The show had decent success too and also introduced us to household names like Gary Lucy. It was a decent enough show but had its focus more off the pitch than on, highlighting more the sex and scandal. It ran from 2002 to 2006.

Prior to the shows conclusion, the writers and producers would follow the popular trend of more recent times and show a prequel as three part series “Dream Team 80s” aired in 2006.

credit chazzamufc on Youtube

Why was Dream Team so successful? It had a very unique selling point in that they had the use of Sky Sports. the games were edited to look authentic and there were regular guest appearances from Pros within the game e.g. Matt Le Tissier and Alan Curbishley.

Why should it come back? Well for me I feel we all need a team to believe in again. England let us down big time at the Euros, from a personal perspective Swindon were also a disappointment last year. If for no other reason than it would give me another reason to keep paying my inflated Sky bill.

I asked mega fan Andrew of DTDIEHARD.NET (@dieharddt on Twitter) for his explanation as to the shows success:

“It was such a bold, ambitious show, taking the real life world of football
with this other fictional world and throwing them together.”
“It created a real buzz and being so well-written you’d become attached to the
characters/players and follow them on their journeys with Harchester
United.”
“Another great thing about Dream Team was, it was a show which didn’t
discriminate to the viewer or the football fan. It was something anyone
could get into without feeling you were being disloyal to your real team.
You could like Harchester guilt free!”

“And it being on satellite too, when the qualities the show offered were
more accustomed to what you’d be seeing on terrestrial television. It
really is remarkable that Dream Team was as good as something terrestrial TV would have put out.”
“In fact terrestrial did want it from Sky and tried to get it.”
“Some say Dream Team would have achieved it’s full potential in terms
of more widespread praise and viewership that it couldn’t with the Sky of 1997-2007, but staying with Sky kept the show true to itself, they had the
football rights after all which was always a part of Dream Team’s soul which it wouldn’t have held onto if it had gone to ITV”

“Personally, one of the reasons for setting up one of the sites was I felt
the show deserved as much love as possible, and memories have been and
continue to be kind to the show.”
“People enjoy remembering Alison King as Lynda Block when they see her as Carla Connor in “Coronation Street”, as
one example.”
“You rarely see any bad views given on the show, they are always constructive if so. But when Sky did pull the plug in 2007, I really believe they didn’t anticipate people to still be talking about the show in these years that have followed.”

I have also been fortunate enough that some of the stars of the show were kind enough to speak to me:

Daymon Britton (Sean Hocknell)

“It still amazes me how many followers the show still has. It was an incredible 2 years of my early career, and an incredibly unique time in my life. I owe so much to the experience I gained during my time on the show.”

Photo provided by Mr Britton

“It still has a place in my home… Can’t say goodbye to number 15!”

Phil Barantini (Billy O’Neil)

“It was my first proper acting job and it was one of the most incredible experieces of my life. I was 17 and left home in Liverpool. I was the youngest cast member but it was without doubt one of the best times in my life. It helped shape me as an adult and I consider myself very lucky as it was my education too. I never went to drama school”.

“I watched bits of series one, but researched it more closely when I heard about the part. I remember that first day on set and meeting Daymon Britton and Terry Kiely and thinking ‘Oh my God’.”

“I remember a trip to Ireland and it was like being in The Beatles. I did not realise just how big it was over there, but Sky One was terrestrial over there and Dream Team was one of the most popular shows.”

“I still have the orange shirt in a frame at home”.

I remember being part of a charity match to help a cancer charity and we raised over £60, 000.”

“I still see or speak too Nathan Constance, Ali King and Damon Lewis from time to time. There was a reunion a few years back and loads of cast and crew made it”.

“I am friends with Francis Jeffers and I was also edited in as him so whenever I scored he would say to me ‘scored another one of my goals did you'”.

“I think they could bring it back. You cant make ten series of a show and just expect it to fizzle out. I would love to be involved again”.

Fans of Mr Barantini will not have to wait long to see him again as he is guest appearing in episode seven of BBC series Musketeers. He is also heading to Dubai soon to shoot a movie and shoot a documentary about an actor who wants to be a director.

 

Marem Hassler (Pilar Hernandez)

Promo shot supplied by Marem Hassler. Credit Karl Preston.

“I was indeed aware of the show before I joined, it had somewhat of a little kult following lol!”

“Working on the show is to date one of my favorite memories. It was really the people in production, crew and my fellow actors that made it such a great experience. and it paved the way for some of us related to our careers.”

“It was a generous place to explore the characters we played more in-depth. on and off camera a lot of fun.”

“I remember that the wardrobe was kind of the hub of everything. We had separate dressing rooms but we would sometimes talk through them getting everyone involved into the conversations – it was very close knit.”

“I remember we started a girls team for charity that would play at half time for any of the charity events that the guys were playing. We had a looooot of fun and laughter getting ready for those matches.”

“At some point the guys got really invested in training us in our lunch breaks- much to the dismay of our make up crew who had to deal with smeared mascara, and hairstyles gone crazy lol.”

“There is a reunion in the works that I can’t attend unfortunately as I’m working in LA. But I’m in contact with a handful of ex cast members.”
“There was such a camaraderie back then that I think some friendships were forged to last. Some of them are here in LA, like Ricky Whittle and I just had coffee at my local cafe  with James Daffern and Neil Christie. Nobodies changed lol! they are still super gorgeous:))”

Whether Dream Team comes back it might not be too long until we see Miss Hassler on our tv again.

“I’m in several really cool projects
– South Beach, where I play Lieutenant Whitney it’s a 6 part series and I think they are working at getting it to the UK for know it was showing on HULU
-Actor’s Anonymous, produced/starring by James Franco.
-Negative and “the Other” are all being released this year.”

“But I guess what I’m super excited about is my film company that is doing some fun projects.(www.viscusfilm.com). My father was a filmmaker so I guess it makes just sense to follow him down that path too:))”

“Duo- a short film that I co wrote, co produced and acted in has just gotten it’s 14th award and its 20th selection.”

“My company just finished a TV- show and I’m in preproduction on my first feature ” Pen Pals”, that I’ve written and will direct. So- a lot going on for sure lol!”
“Last but not least DAD inc, which is a pilot I just shot and promises to be be great show:))”

Promo shot supplied by Marem Hassler. Credit Brendan Norman.

James William-Watts (Lee Pressley)

“I auditioned for Dream Team when I was just leaving school at the age of 18. I was told about 4 or 5 months later that I had got the part. From day one life on set was an adjustment, but an easy one thanks to the cast and crew.”

“The show had already been well established when I got there and I felt that I had a solid grounding on what it was all about. What I think people who watch the show should understand is that the squad/team was almost identical to a Premier League team in every sense. We trained and ate together, we socialized together, and for many of us, we even lived together.”

“The hours on any set are always generally long, so you have to be comfortable with the people that you were around. I’m very glad to say this was the case with all not just the cast but also the crew. Now when you put 15-20 boys in any dressing room or training field together, you are always going to run into pranks . . . and this team were no exception.”

“On the training ground you were made to do forfeits if you lost a session. This was particularly hard as most of the footballers that you see on the show are ex pros or non-league players themselves. It makes you really appreciate the skills these boys have got.”

“Now I don’t mind admitting this, but I’m not the best footballer.
‘Headers and Volleys’ is about as far as what I ever got. I can hold my own on a football field, but I would never get MOTM.”

“On that note, we used to play a lot of charity games and I would always feel that my skills would never live up to the skills of the star striker that I played. That was true until one game. We played not too far from my home town of Liverpool one weekend. I had played the first half and, as usual, affected the game is no way. As I was walking out of the tunnel, the linesman asked me for my shirt at the end of the game. I agreed if he’d keep his flag down for me in the second half. We shook hands and off we went. Anyway half way through the second half, the bench could see me running out of energy and they were reading a sub. This was when I thought I had one last attempt on goal to do something. I had family and friends in the crowd also, so the pressure was on. A ball gets put through to me and I was about 10 yards offside. I ran with the ball about 40 yards with 2 defenders on the back of my heals with the keeper rushing out at me. I closed my eyes and hoped to the best. I somehow managed to get used the ball, looping it high into the air. This was when time slowed down as I followed it upwards looking like it was never going to come down. Finally it do and it sailed right into the net. From the stands it looked like it was totally deliberate and more importantly it looked like a beautiful goal. We all celebrated and it was probably the only time on a football field I think that I could ever do my character proud.”

“I’m happy to say that I still speak to many of the guys. It can be hard to meet up sometimes with everyone being scattered all around the country and, in some cases, around the world. It’s always fun to see old friends and occasionally you get to work with them again.”

“I would like to see Dream Team come back again some day, especially with the Premier League being as unpredictable as ever, I think there is lots of scope for another show.”

“Overall, it was a great honour and privilege to be a part of a production that I always watched and loved. It had a an amazing following and we owe so much to the fans. They were the true hero’s that kept the show alive.”

“From the production to the cast to the crew, it was excellent place to work. We all learned so much together and it will be an experience that I will never forget.”

“Will it come back some day? I hope it does. If not, it’s got it’s own little place in our TV history.”

 

Thank you so much to everyone for taking part.

After a decade without The Dragons I think now is the time for its return. With the underdog success that Leicester City have enjoyed, the drama of this summers Euros and the fact that Sky One have new comedy show ‘Rovers’ now showing, there is place in the market for it.

Consider all of the big stories in the last ten years writers can use for inspiration and if all else fails they could right a drama on Swindon Town.

If any potential writers of any perspective revamp happen to read this, let me point you in the direction of:

Luis Suarez bite

Luis Suarez racism row

Rio Ferdinand drugs test

Ashley Cole shooting the works experience kid

Paolo Di Canio and Leon Clarke fighting after Swindon Town v Southamptonn game

Marc Viven Foe and Fabrice Muamba stories

All offer story plots.

You could also opt to drop Harchester into the football league and use Bradfords run in the cups a couple of seasons ago as well as the AFC Wimbledon and MK Dons story.

Opinion Time

Should Dream Team return?

Who makes your all time Harchester 1 to 11?

Mine looks like:

GK – Wright

CB – Dillon

CB – Baptiste

CB – Sullivan

RWB – S. Hocknell

LWB – O’Neil

CM – Linger

CM – Mackay

AM – R. Naysmith

ST – C. Rose

ST – Fletcher (C)

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