British TV celebrity, James May, looks on admiringly at a clear model rocket (missile?) containing one very brave, 1970s-vintage, Action Man astronaut in an intriguing publicity still promoting an upcoming episode of “James May’s Toy Stories,” scheduled to air on Christmas Day, 2014. (Photo: BBC2)
If you mention the name James May, or his television show, “James May’s Toy Stories” (JMTS), to viewers here in the U.S., you’ll most likely just get a blank stare in return. But that should be expected. Since its debut in 2009, the British show has only produced 9 episodes. And when it does finally air, the shows are shown only in Britain and Europe on BBC Two. Nonetheless, GIjOE, Falcon, Geyperman and Action Man fans around the world should all now start paying attention to May’s hour-long odes to toys, because his upcoming 10th episode is intriguingly titled “Action Man at the Speed of Sound.” As its title implies, this particular episode features numerous examples of UK’s favorite 12-inch action hero participating in efforts to launch a 1:6 scale astronaut into the upper atmosphere—BREAK the sound barrier—and then return safely to Earth. Can it be done? SHOULD it be done? You’ll need to tune in this Christmas day (2014) to find out. Whoosh!!!
Don’t tell them where the explosive hatch bolts should go, or that they’re just “going along for the ride.” In this scene from “The Right Stuff,” actors recreate a disagreement the real “Mercury Seven” astronauts had with NASA engineers regarding the construction and design of their space capsules. Will Action Man get a similar chance to speak up during his own pre-flight briefing? Let’s hope so. Especially if he turns out to be a “Talking” Astronaut. Just pull that string, James! (Photo: Wikipedia)
Boldly demonstrating that they possess “the right stuff,” 12-inch GIjOEs have been launched into Earth’s upper atmosphere MANY times, most regularly, repeatedly and famously as “Mercury Joe” (shown above). MJ even has his own Facebook fan page now. WOW! (Photo: Mercury Joe)
1:6 Scale “Right Stuff” Action Figures
The concept of May’s upcoming episode of JMTS is very exciting. It instantly reminded us of one of America’s most famous space-related movies, The Right Stuff, and of GIjOE’s own trips into the upper atmosphere as the now-famous Mercury Joe. While few of us will ever experience the thrill of being a real-life test pilot or astronaut, the possibility of 1:6 hobbyists sending their own action figures into the great beyond is something which we can all reasonably now attempt. (See below.)
Stay Calm and Fly High! The original promotion graphic used by BBC2 to “enlist” 1:6 scale volunteers for May’s risky JMTS spaceflights. (Graphic: BBC2)
Anti-Action Man Bias Evident in Unusual BBC Two Press Release
May’s “Action Man at the Speed of Sound” JMTS episode is part of a big holiday programming blitz by BBC2. You’d think they’d want to stir up good feelings of anticipation for the show, but in a strangely worded press release, (for whatever reason), someone over in the promotions department at BBC2 clumsily did the exact opposite. In a surprising display of “anti-Action Man” bias, their harshly worded pre-show announcement openly derides and mocks UK’s most famous 12-inch action hero. It’s not funny. Or clever. It just comes across as “mean.” Here it is in its complete, original format (key derogatory phrases bolded for emphasis):
BBC2 TV personality, James May, buying Alan Hall’s Action Man Guides at Birmingham NEC 2013. (Photo: Stephen Lees)
“In perhaps the most challenging ‘Toy Stories’ so far, James May attempts to rehabilitate one of Britain’s most derided toys by seeing if it’s possible for Action Man to do what no toy has ever managed—travel faster than the speed of sound. For decades, Action Man, despite his name, has been a disappointment. He promised so much with his eagle eyes, his gripping hands and his natty outfits. But what has he ever achieved? Nothing….yet.After half a century lazing around the back of the toy cupboard, he must prove that he has The Right Stuff, redeem his shattered reputation and boldly go where no Toy has gone before. The challenge is daunting. Breaking the sound barrier and returning Action Man safely to the earth will test James and the team to the limit. In an action-packed series of attempts, James battles high-speed physics, unforeseen explosions and catastrophic design setbacks that account for a large number of Action Man volunteers before settling on an experimental supersonic vehicle made entirely from scratch—a vehicle that threatens to send Action Man and the team into oblivion. In a gripping final act, Action Man must not only succeed and survive intact—but go faster and higher than a rival supersonic attempt led by his arch nemesis: Sindy. Will Action Man redeem himself? Will he survive Mach 1? Or will he lose out to a doll?”
Wow. Odd language, indeed. We’re not sure if BBC2’s oddly worded press release will succeed in increasing the show’s viewership or ratings, but it will undoubtedly succeed in raising the hackles and stirring the ire of millions of Action Man fans around the world. “One of Britain’s most derided toys?” Since when is that the case? And that “what has he ever achieved? Nothing” line? Please! Action Man’s popularity and achievements as a toy line stand him head and shoulders above his competition. Whoever wrote that pile of PR tripe should get his (or her) head out from under their Cabbage Patch doll sunbonnet and smell the REALITY of 1:6 heroism—Action Man!
Don’t let his “ordinary” face fool you. This unique Action Man figure is none other than Daniel Smart’s “Steve,” pausing to offer his owner one final salute before leaving on his dangerous mission into the stratosphere and subsequent appearance on James May’s Toy Stories. (Photo: Daniel Smart)
Intriguingly, it appears that one of our very own intrepid UK Field Reporters, Daniel Smart, may have also played a vital role in this exciting, new television production. According to a recent “behind-the-scenes” intel report filed by Smart exclusively with (and for) The Joe Report:
Daniel Smart, UK Action Man collector (Photo: Daniel Smart)
“Back in March 2014, I was contacted by an editor friend of mine and was told that James May’s Researcher Tom Harris and James would be at the Birmingham NEC Toy Show on 20th April 2014 and would like to meet me and ask if I had an Action Man that would like to take part in a special adventure. I already knew that Mike Rees (aka Action Burt) was to be there and Craig Crane (Doublecee) was involved in some way. So, off I went with my childhood figure ‘Steve.’ I met May and his production team, handed Steve over and did a few short interviews with him which were filmed for (possible use in) the program.”
Daniel Smart hands over “Steve” to James May at the Birmingham NEC Toy Fair on April 20, 2014. Smart wouldn’t see Steve again until November and won’t learn until December 25th exactly how his childhood Action Man was used on May’s TV show. Did “Steve” break the sound barrier? (Photo: Daniel Smart)
“James explained to me that Action Man was going to attempt to break the sound barrier and travel at supersonic speed! Everyone was being quite tight-lipped about how this was all going to take place and I was only told that my ‘Steve’ was just one of many who had volunteered for the exciting mission. Some of the figures would be ‘test pilots,’ but only ONE would make that special journey and cement his reputation as the ‘Greatest Hero’ of them all. I was told that all that took part would receive a free 1:6 overall and snazzy new flock job, but also that it couldn’t be guaranteed that my Steve would even make it back.”
The enduring and ongoing popularity of Action Man was apparent by the crowded Birmingham NEC held recently in the UK. Why BBC2’s PR department chose to describe the toy line as a “disappointment” that had “lazed around” and never achieved anything is beyond our understanding. (Photo: Stephen Lees)
Daniel Smart’s “Steve” was returned to him safe and sound, sporting a brand-new flocking ‘do featuring some WILD mutton-chop sideburns. (Photo: Daniel Smart) Click to enlarge.
“It would be great if my childhood Action Man was chosen, but deep down I secretly want Action Burt’s ‘Stuntman Extraordinaire’ to be chosen as the natural (and right) choice. Fortunately, after filming, I received Steve back in the post last week, sporting a new head of flocked hair. But the note from James only said, ‘Thank you for the loan of Steve. He has now been discharged from duty.’ The show will air on UK’s BBC2 on Christmas Day at 5.10pm. How exciting! It’s the best Christmas present I could hope for!” —Daniel Smart, UK
Action Burt’s Stuntman Extraordinaire certainly looks like he could stand up to all those g-forces. WOW! We wonder…was HE chosen to break the sound barrier? Or Smart’s “Steve?” (Photo: Daniel Smart)
Bottom Line: Regardless of how May’s attempt to propel Action Man faster than the speed of sound plays out, his December 25th episode (watch it HERE) is undeniably a program all GIjOE and Action Man fans will enjoy. Fortunately, 1:6ers around the world can catch other JMTS episodes HERE on Hulu—also for FREE. Our sincerest thanks to Daniel Smart for all his exclusive pre-show intel. We wish him and “Steve” all the best in their future adventures together. Go, Action Man!