I think it’s fair to say, that I have always held a fascination with retro and vintage media. It is only in the last ten years that I have really begun to fully embrace it. From watching classic television shows to collecting vinyl records, my interest in the past has helped me to establish various personal markets that steer my everyday; This website wouldn’t exist without it!
I feel, however, that there are moments when I look at the things I liked as a child and teen, and realise there were things that broadened my horizons without realising it. Many of us who grew up in the 1990s will remember the plaudits and relevance aimed at classic Disney animated movies; Many featuring iconic voices including Verna Felton and Phil Harris would pop up later in my found appreciation of American Old Time Radio. My interest in the British Rock band Status Quo led me to discover music that inspired them and everything around it. These are all things that have an obvious route elsewhere. The following thing I shall discuss, however, was a lot more subtle.
Renford Rejects was a television show that aired on Nickelodeon between 1998 and 2002 and aired 52 episodes over 4 series. It followed the adventures of a group of teens who didn’t make the school football team, so they formed a 5-a-side team instead. It was a beautiful mix of football and comedy with a touch of absurd, fantasy and celebrity cameos thrown in. I started the Renford ReWatched podcast to share my love of the show and make sense of the underlying complexity the show holds. As I’ve dug deeper, I have realised that this show gave me clues that educated me in certain areas of vintage media.
1: The Classic Footballers
The show’s cast consisted of a small group of teens, punctuated by some veteran performers who tied everything together. One of the quirks of this format was the inclusion of cameos by celebrities and footballers. A show aimed at a teen audience may have usually opted for what was current, but Renford Rejects strayed into other territory; Much to the delight of the all-ages audience that developed over time.
Then-current footballers, such as John Harly, Shaka Hislop, Gianfranco Zola and Martin Keown, all made memorable appearances on the show. Even Harry Redknapp, as manager of West Ham, popped into Gracelands cafe in an episode! However, seeing the likes of QPR’s Stan Bowles, Ian Rush and members of the 1966 World Cup-winning England squad was unexpected. As someone who knew nothing about the history of football, it encouraged me to want to learn. If I hadn’t had the inclination, there is a chance adults around me would have told me anyway!
Lastly, regular spoof appearances by Bob Wilson and Jim Rosenthal topped everything off. They were established figures in broadcasting who were sending up both of their professions. What legends.
2: The Music
Renford Rejects was so crammed with music, that it has never been released on home media or streaming. Indeed, it became known for its indie 90s soundtrack, including the use of Manic Street Preachers’ Australia as its theme tune.
Among the contemporary tunes was the use of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s Make Me Smile from 1975. There was something about the clean sound of it that caught my ear, and I think it taught me that even older records could still sound fairly contemporary.
3: Eddie McAvoy’s Rockabilly Obsession
The character of Eddie McAvoy was an integral part of the show. It was his Gracelands cafe, run with his wife Priscilla, that formed the central focal point where characters meet. This was the location for some of the show’s most iconic moments, and the odd bowl of chips. It was also an opportunity for Eddie, sometimes with an acoustic guitar in hand, to dish out advice occasionally via a string of Elvis puns.
At the beginning of the show, a huge deal was made of Eddie’s love of Elvis Presley. It was treated as a running joke, a way to distantly distinguish him from his teenage customers. Most of this was fairly basic references that most people could understand, but there was one occasion where they went a bit deeper on Eddie’s knowledge than you might expect.
I recall an episode where Eddie is trying to negotiate the release of Robin Walker, who has been held hostage. The kidnapper leads a negotiation that includes Eddie’s motorbike and side car, her Wilson racing helmet and an entire collection of Gene Vincent LPs. Eddie asks if this includes Mitchiko from Tokyo; A rather obscure reference for a teen show! Nevertheless, it firmly cemented in my mind the name Gene Vincent, whom I became a fan of years later.
4: The Established Cast Members
While the show had a main cast of teens, there were a few experienced veterans who played the adult figures.
Eddie McAvoy was played by Alex Norton, who had had a long-established career. He is known for his role as DCI Matt Burke in STV’s Taggart, alongside a plethora of appearances across the decades. He also has a list of movie appearances that includes Braveheart, Robin Hood and Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man’s Chest!
Norton’s wife, Sally Kinghorn, played Eddie’s wife in the show. Her character quirk was that you never saw her face on screen, it was usually obscured by the serving hatch. Ironically, there is a chance I’ve actually seen her face as her filmography is incredibly long.
Bill Homewood played disciplinarian school teacher and Razors coach, Basil Stoker. Bill has had a wide and distinguished career that includes children’s television, audiobooks and acting in the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also played a role on 1980s game show The Adventure Game.
From these three actors alone, several doors opened for exploration.
So in conclusion, Renford Rejects gave me many points to start from, whether a familiar face, an area for exploration or an appreciation for the history of football in general.