(I know, I know, enough of the 70s schtick already. Who does he think he is, Andrew Collins? Plaid Stallions, even? If you can't face more of the same, go and check out Rimshot's short story.)
When I was tiny, I wasn't allowed to watch ITV. My mother's justification was that it was full of adverts that would corrupt my unformed psyche; but there was an unspoken acknowledgement that the real problem with the commercial channel was that it was a bit, well, common.
This left me in a quandary, because playground conversation inevitably revolved around what was on telly, and I was by definition excluded from a great chunk of it. Not all, of course: if we were discussing Dr Who, The Dukes of Hazzard or Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (all BBC), I was on solid ground. But if the others spoke of The Six Million Dollar Man, Planet of the Apes or The Tomorrow People, I was reduced to vigorous nodding and the occasional non-commital "Yeah, that was a good bit, wasn't it?"
These days, of course, I'd be able to busk the contents of last night's viewing from Wikipedia. But if my nine-year-old self was going to rise from the base of the school social pyramid, I'd need to be more imaginative. My saviour came in the form of the local toy shop, which was stacked with merchandise from all the big TV shows, in particular plastic models of the key characters. By memorising the names and what they looked like, I found it easier to work out what was going on.
One day, the talk turned to Space 1999. The general consensus was that it was really good, partly because the monsters were scarier than those in, say, Star Trek. I was well prepared. "Yeah," I chipped in, "my favourite monster's Allen."
All eyes turned to me. There was a brief, unpleasant silence.
"There isn't a monster called Allen," said one boy.
"Yes there is," I floundered. "Mysterious Allen."
They all laughed and called me a spazmo, but wouldn't tell me why. Crestfallen, I trudged back to the toy shop, and re-checked the Space 1999 toys.
"Mysterious ALIEN," I hissed to myself, and went home to watch Blue Peter, or something similarly middle-class and improving.