When it came to the school holidays if there was one thing you could be almost certain of appearing on the BBC morning kids tv schedule it would have been Why Don’t You? The show is another shining example of the BBC’s ability to make long running TV series, with it first appearing on screens in 1973 and disappearing 42 series later in 1995.
The premise of the show was to give you ideas for things to do once you finally switched the goggle box off. Indeed, its official full title was actually Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go Do Something Less Boring Instead? but being a bit of a mouthful was thankfully shortened to just Why Don’t You? The format as I remember it best was a group of vair unobnoxious child presenters informing you of things to make or cook and introducing short films following some viewers hobby, rounded off with some jokes and sketches.
During the 1980’s there were a number of Why Don’t You? gangs, as they were called, who all hailed from different parts of the UK. Initially there was just the Bristol gang, but they were soon joined by gangs from Newcastle, Liverpool, Cardiff, and cities in Scotland and Ireland too, though I forget which ones now. This was quite amusing as some of the kids had some pretty thick accents.
The things the gangs taught you how to do were the typical fare of activities such as “make your own board game” or “cook these fairy cakes”, the standard introduction being something along the lines of “To make chocolate rice crispie cakes you will need…” before a big list of ingredients was reeled off. Some of the gangs would perform little sketches, and I distinctly recall the one liner jokes that were delivered by a sponge or tennis ball that had a mouth cut in the side which opened and closed when squished by the hand holding it.
The films about a viewers hobby varied in quality, though most were quite interesting. I remember two little lads who had a cine camera and made their own films who I was very jealous of. They had made their own version of an Indiana Jones film, complete with special effects. There was a scene where they recreated the mine cart ride from Temple of Doom, and had the bit where Indy tries to stop the cart by putting is foot on the wheel whereupon sparks flew off. The boys had achieved this using a strategically placed sparkler left over from bonfire night.
I’ll leave you with some interesting facts about Why Don’t You? Firstly Pauline Quirke and Ant McPartlin were both once members of Why Don’t You? gangs, and secondly the later series, which started to be a bit more story led, were apparently produced and directed by Russell T. Davies, the driving force behind the new series of Doctor Who. Please yourself, I thought they were interesting…