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Archive for the ‘TV – Kids’ Category

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Posted by Big Boo on September 14th, 2011

HeidiIt’s testament to how often this series was shown whilst I was growing up that I remember the story, characters and theme song so well. Based on the classic Swiss book written way back in 1880 by Johanna Spyri, this Swiss/German TV adaptation was notable for it’s beautiful scenery, the aforementioned theme tune, and the terrible dubbing into English.

I should qualify that final statement. It wasn’t the quality of the voice acting in the English dub that was the problem, more the fact that as a kid watching it there seemed to be something just a little freaky about people’s mouths moving but the words you heard bearing no relation.

The story begins when Heidi is sent to live with her grandfather (who she affectionately calls Grandpapa) in the Swiss mountains. Her parents have died and she has been looked after by her Aunt Dete, who for reasons I cannot recall ends up lumping Heidi with her cantankerous grandfather, who lives in a shack up on a hillside, away from all the other people in his village.

Heidi eventually melts the old man’s heart, and she has a great time living in the mountains and playing with her friend Goat Peter, the boy who takes all the village goats onto the mountains to graze. She even manages to calm some of the bad relations between her grandfather and the villagers in the process.

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School Holidays TV Line Ups

Posted by Big Boo on August 3rd, 2011

School Holidays TVToday most of us have access to a vast number of TV channels, whether that be through satellite TV, cable of even Freeview. This means that most kids are already accustomed to having entire channels devoted to kids television running all day, every day. Things were different in the Eighties.

For part of the decade we only had three channels to choose from, and as kids we had to share these channels with all the other programmes intended for every other possible age group and interest. During term time this meant a couple of programmes for the very young around lunch time, and then a block of a couple of hours in the mid to late afternoon.

In the school holidays however, we considered ourselves lucky as both BBC1 and ITV would devote the entire morning to kids TV from around 9am onwards. This was a time when we would be treated to reruns of old cartoons, long running serials and the odd new show if we were really lucky.

Today then, I present to you my memories of watching TV in the mornings during the school holidays. Think of it as a very out of date page of the Radio Times or TV Times from the late Seventies and early Eighties.

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Chip’s Comic

Posted by Big Boo on June 22nd, 2011

Chips ComicNow, first of all this entry has nothing to do with the old British comic book Whizzer and Chips, though it does unsurprisingly have something to do with a comic, and also a TV show.

Cast your minds back to when Channel 4 first started airing (if you can remember that far back of course). When it first started it only aired from around 4pm in the afternoon, which meant it didn’t do a whole lot of children’s programming to start off with. At the weekends however Channel 4 was on during the day, so this is when it’s kids shows were shown.

Aside from Pob’s Programme, the only other Channel 4 kids programme I have any memories of was Chip’s Comic. It was a programme for younger kids which was about a computer, named Chip, that put together a weekly comic book with the aid of some human assistants (Gordon Griffin, who played a character called Inky, Elsa O’Toole) and a dog named Rover (who was actually Sir Harry Secombe’s son Andrew in a dog suit).

The show consisted of the Chip’s Comic gang putting together the latest issue of the comic, with a few madcap japes thrown in for good measure.

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Metal Mickey

Posted by Big Boo on May 18th, 2011

Metal MickeyMost will probably best remember Metal Mickey from his early Saturday evening ITV sitcom, but this wasn’t Metal Mickey’s first television appearance. He first appeared on UK screens as part of the presenting crew along with Bill Oddie and a very young Susan Tully (later to appear in Grange Hill and then of course EastEnders) on saturday morning kids show Saturday Banana in the late Seventies.

If you’ve never heard of Saturday Banana then I will forgive you. It was aired at the same time as Tiswas, and which ITV region you lived in dictated whether you got to see Tiswas or Banana. I lived in the Southern television reason (as it was back then) so we got Saturday Banana and initially missed out on Tiswas.

Anyway, that explanation out of the way, on to Metal Mickey himself. Mickey was a robot, based on that iconic design from the 1950’s of what a robot should look like, which was basically a big silver humanoid decked out with flashing lights. In real life he was little more than a radio controlled thing whose mouth would move when his creator, Johnny Edward, spoke into a microphone to provide Mickey’s voice.

On TV though, Mickey was the kind of characters most kids loved to watch. Cool to look at, and a bit cheeky with some of the things he would say to other people. Aside from Saturday Banana, Metal Mickey was often seen on other TV shows as a special guest, and it was his appearance on an episode of Jim’ll Fix It that eventually led to him getting his own TV show.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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The T-Bag Adventures

Posted by Big Boo on March 4th, 2011

T-BagYou know how there are some things which are so incredibly bad that they somehow become incredibly good? The T-Bag kids TV series are an excellent example of this bizarre phenomenon. Somehow everything about this show was terrible, yet I for one couldn’t help watching it if it happened to come on whilst I was watching TV.

The programme first aired in 1985 and ran for nine series, coming to an end in 1992. Each series had it’s own unique title, such as T-Bag Strikes Back or T-Bag and the Revenge of the T-Set. In fact the only series that didn’t feature the name T-Bag somewhere in it was the first series, which was simply called Wonders in Letterland.

Each series followed a similar structure though. A young heroine would have to pass through many different fantasy or story book settings in order to track down a number of special artifacts of some kind (silver numbers perhaps, or pearls of wisdom) in order to put a stop to some diabolical scheme cooked up by the evil T-Bag.

T-Bag, or more correctly Tallulah Bag, was played by Elizabeth Estensen in a very pantomime villain style. By drinking tea from the High T-Plant she gained magic powers such as being able to teleport herself or other objects, and by pouring some of the tea into a saucer she could view what other people were up to, a bit like a crystal ball.

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On Safari

Posted by Big Boo on January 21st, 2011

On SafariOn Safari was one of the first kids TV game shows I remember watching that was of the “lots of messy games” format. You know the kind of thing, where the contestants are asked to go across an assault course of some sort, which just so happens to have lots of pools of water or gunge strategically placed to ensure no one gets through without getting filthy.

The show was aired from 1982 to 1984 and as the name suggests, had a jungle and wild animals theme. It was hosted by Christopher Biggins (ironically later to become King of the Jungle on I’m a Celebrity…) who was assisted by the husky voiced future EastEnder Gillian Taylforth, who kept track of the scores.

Three (later two) teams comprising a child and one of their parents would compete against each other in the games, often involving the kids doing some task involving some kind of skill (e.g. throwing balls through holes in cardboard animals or making a jigsaw puzzle) whilst the adults did the more active part, which usually involved them getting dirty or wet in the process.

Biggins, looking surprisingly dapper in his Safari suit, and brandishing a cane to give him an air of authority, was actually a great choice of host for the show. At the time he was known to kids for appearing in Rentaghost, and he always had a massive grin on his face no matter what he was doing. Like all good game show hosts he even had a catchphrase, which involved him shouting the word “Safari” and the audience shouting back “Sagoody” (i.e. “Safari’s A Goody”).

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Cockleshell Bay

Posted by Big Boo on January 14th, 2011

Cockleshell BayThink of the much missed animation studio Cosgrove Hall and you’ll probably think first of DangerMouse or Count Duckula. They were certainly responsible for a lot of the more fondly remembered, madcap and typically British animation series from my childhood, yet they also had a softer side for the younger child.

Cockleshell Bay was one such example of Cosgrove Hall bringing a more sedate and calm experience. The show was made using the stop frame animation technique, and was about the adventures of Robin and Rosie Cockle, two young twins who lived in a little seaside guest house called The Bucket and Spade, which was run by their parents.

Robin and Rosie lived an idyllic life, and I was even a little envious of them as I would have loved to have lived by the seaside when I was their age. Unlike a lot of today’s children’s entertainment, they spent their time doing normal things, like walking along the beach, playing hide and seek or just chatting with their friendly neighbours, until it was time for tea, which if I remember correctly was how the series brought most of their adventures to an end, by being called in for their evening meal.

The Bucket and Spade was owned by their parents Christopher and Helen, who had moved to the coast to escape the more madcap pace of town life. They were more than ably assisted by Gran Routy, who wasn’t actually Robin and Rosie’s grandmother, but became a sort of surrogate granny to the children.

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Rat On The Road

Posted by Big Boo on November 2nd, 2010

Rat On The RoadBack in the early Eighties Britons looked on enviously at the the US with their huge range of TV channels, whilst we had a paltry three. Not only did the Americans have far more channels but they also had this curious idea of having actual TV programmes shown in the early hours of the morning. We just had test cards and pages from Ceefax.

In 1983 things changed, and we were treated to breakfast TV. First the BBC started with Breakfast Time, and soon after ITV followed suit with TV-am. The BBC took the lions share of the viewers, and poor old TV-am limped along, ratings dropping lower each day. What could save them?

A puppet Rat perhaps? Nah, surely not. Well, yes it did. Roland Rat Superstar was initially created to introduce some cartoons for the kids during the normal running of the TV-am programming, but in Summer 1983, with just a pink Ford Anglia and a meagre budget, Roland became a bit of a legend. During the summer holidays Roland and his gerbil chum Kevin were given half an hour to entertain the kiddies, and in so doing stopped TV-am from going under.

History lesson out of the way then, I’m pleased to announce that Rat On The Road, that first true slice of Roland at his best, is to be released on DVD on November 15th 2010, and I’ve had the pleasure of taking a sneak look at the disc before release. The memories came flooding back!

The main part of the disc is a condensed version of those first Rat On The Road shows. The original format was that Roland and Kevin travelled to different parts of the country every week, exploring different aspects of the chosen city each day. This disc takes some of the highlights of the series, and splices them together with Roland, Kevin and Errol the Welsh hamster (who ironically doesn’t get to visit Cardiff at the beginning of the series), reading extracts from Roland’s diary of the trip.

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