Wednesday, 29 October 2014

6. Watch With Mother : Andy Pandy

First  watched :  Uncertain

Conversely  this  is  the  first  programme  I  remember  loathing. Perhaps  it  was  because  my  sister  loved  it, ( always  a  good  default  reason  if  no  others  came  to  mind )  although   when  the  subject  of  kids  TV  comes  up  for  discussion  I've  yet  to  hear  anyone  champion  this  one.

It  went  back  even  further  than  Flower  Pot  Men , to  1950  when  it  was  broadcast  live  and  not  recorded. The  episodes  being  shown  in  1968  dated  from  1952  and  had  been  endlessly  repeated  since. By  1970  the  film  stock  was  deteriorating  so  a  further  13  new  episodes  in  colour  were  made  with  the  original  puppets.

Fifteen  minutes  with  Andy  Pandy  is  a  salutary  experience. Maria  Bird's  narration  sets  the  teeth  on  edge  with  her  school  marm  hectoring  - "Are  you  watching  children ?" - and  when  she  sings  it  gets  worse. All  the  songs  - "Hre  we  Go  Louby-Lou", "Tme  To  Go  Home" are  searingly  familiar  as  they  were  repeated  every  episode  leaving  no  time  for  much  story  development. Bird  just  chuntered  away  stating  the  obvious  while  the  three  string  puppets  did  their   limited  stuff   with  odd  pauses, the  better  to  hear  taps  dripping, people  kicking  things  over  and  other  extraneous  events  offscreen.

It's  not  surprising  Pogles'  Wood  seemed  so  good  when  up  against  this  crap.

5. Watch With Mother : Pogles' Wood

First  watched : Uncertain

Now  here  is  the  first  programme  I  can  recall  being  enthusiastic  about,  perhaps  because  there was  a  little  more  imagination  involved.

About  three  years  ago  I  bought  a  video  comprised  of  a  few  episodes  from  a  car  boot  sale in Ramsbottom   ostensibly  for  my  son  (  who  only  found  it  mildly  diverting ) but  really  to  see  if it  would  trigger  any  fond  memories. Sadly  it  didn't,  apart  from  hearing  the  magical  voice  of  Oliver  Postgate  ( voicing  Mr  Pogle   and  the  Magic  Plant )  which  is  always  a  joy,   and  I  conclude   that  I  only  remembered  missing  it  ( because  the  black  and  white  stuff  was  all  dropped  in  the  early  70s )  without   recalling  the  reasons  why. Looking  at  it  now  I  pick  up  on  the  melancholic  strain  that   was  always  present  in  Postgate's  work  accentuated  by  the  filming. It's  usually  dim  lit  and  the  episode  titled  "Umbrellas"  bravely  starts  with  footage  of  a  pouring  wet  day  in  the  countryside.

The  Pogles  were  not  actually  created  for  kids  TV  at  all. They  were  originally  a  series  of  shorts  made  for  a  film  programme  in  1965  and  deemed  unsuitable  for  kids  because  of  a  rather  nasty  witch  character.  However  the  suits  did  like   the  Pogle  characters  and  asked  Postgate  and  his  puppeting  partner  Peter  Firmin  to  make  a  series  using  them  to  illustrate  facets  of  country  life.  Filmed  footage  of  people  doing  ordinary  rural  chores  was  inserted  into  the  episodes.Their  company  Smallfilms  made  two  series  of  thirteen  episodes  each,  largely  filmed  in  Firmin's  backyard.  The  second  had  more  fantasy  content  involving  extra  puppets   which  I  suspect  was  more  to  their  taste. Mrs  Pogle's  instructions  to  the  Magic  Plant  not  to  include  any  violence  or  unpleasant  stuff  in  his  stories  seems  like  a  pop  at  critics  of  the  original  series.

We'll  be  meeting  Smallfilms  again  of  course.

4. Watch With Mother : Flower Pot Men

First  watched : Uncertain

Moving  onto  the  Wednesday  ( 9.10.68 )  I  can't  say  I  recall  finding  this  very  diverting. I  only  really  remember  that  annoying  paper  flower  going  "Weeeeed !"  all  the  time.

It  dated  back  to  1952  and  concerned  two  puppets ( with  strings  clearly  visible )  made  out  of  gardening  debris , Bill  and  Ben,  who  had  "adventures"  when  the  gardener  went  indoors  for  lunch. They  spoke  a  form  of  "gibberish"  invented  by  Peter  Hawkins  who  was  still  around  over  40  years  later  to  do  Teletubbies  and  attract  the  same  accusations  that  he  was  retarding  childrens'  language  development.  One  episode  was  hard  to  distinguish  from  another.

It  was  revamped  for  CBBC  in  2001.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

3. Watch With Mother : Trumpton

First  watched : Uncertain

I'm  going  to  assume  that  I  wasn't  watching  any  teatime  telly  yet  as  the  majority  of  the  programmes  that  week  are  completely  unfamiliar. Instead  we'll  moved  straight  on  to  the  next  WWM  feature  on  Tuesday  8th.

I've  only  just  learned  that  Trumpton    was  the  second  part  of  a  sequential  trilogy. I've  always  related  it  to  Camberwick  Green  and  Chigley  but  the  repeat  schedule  disguised  the  fact  that  their  productions  didn't  overlap.  The  animators  insisted  on  filming  these  series   in  colour  as  well  despite  the  fact  BBC1  couldn't  yet  broadcast   in  that  mode  which  meant  that  they  had  a  longer  shelf  life  than  many  of  their  contemporaries

Don't  worry  Trumpton  fans; I'm  not  going  to  diss  it. I  liked  Trumpton  despite , perhaps  because  of,  its  predictable  formula. The  town  of   Trumpton    also  didn't  seem  too  far  removed  from  Littleborough  ( not  yet  yoked  to  Rochdale  at  this  point ),  the  resemblance  helped  by  our  Harehill  Park  having  a  near-identical  bandstand.  The  predictability  factor  was  very  high; about  a  third  of  its  running  time  was  used  up  by  identical  footage. Every  episode  climaxed  with   some   sort  of  crisis  being  resolved  by  calling  out  the  fire  brigade. the  episode  broadcast  on  8.10.68  was  called  Mrs  Lovelace  And  The  Mayor's   Hat ; I  think  you  can  guess  how  that  panned  out.

Trumpton  ( and  the  wider  series )  has  been  subject  to  some  derision  for  presenting  an  unrealistic  view  of  English  communities   and you  do  wonder  if  it  influenced  young  Dave  and  his  Big  Society  ideas.

As  often  related,  puppetmaster  Gordon  Murray  consigned  all  his  puppets  to  the  fire  in  the  eighties  - an  ironic  fate  for  Pugh  Pugh, Barney  McGrew  and  co. A  sole  soldier  from  Camberwick  Green  escaped  the  holocaust  and  is  believed  to  be  still  in  the  possession  of  his  daughter's  friend  having  failed  to  attract  the  price  she  wanted  at  auction  in  2003.

2. Watch With Mother : Tales From The Riverbank

First  watched : Uncertain

Moving  onto  Monday  7  October  1968  and  the  Watch  With  Mother  slot   at  13.30  which  was  occupied  by  Tales  Of  The  Riverbank. 

I  have  no  separate  memory  of  the  show  in  its  BBC  days. The  show , loosely  based  on  The  Wind  In  The  Willows , was  originally  bought  from  Canada  in  1960  with  Johnny  Morris   replacing  the  Canadian  narrators. It  ran  for  13  episodes  and  proved  so  popular  the  BBC commissioned  another  39  which  were  filmed  on  the  Isle  of  Wight  between  1961  and  1962. The  sustained  popularity  of  the  show  led  to  its  revival  in  1972-3  although  because  the  BBC  suits  had  taken  a  dislike  to  anthropomorphism   i.e  matching  voices  to  live  animals  it  went  over  to  a  grateful  ITV  and  was  renamed  Hammy  Hamster .

By  that  time  I'm  afraid  I  found  it  silly  and  boring. We  didn't  have  a  hamster  until  1979  so there  was  nothing  for  me  to  engage  with, watching  a  few  tame  rodents  clambering  over  toys. It  can't  have  been  an  easy  job  for  the  cameramen, waiting  around  on  the  alert  for  the animals doing  what  they  were  supposed  to  for  a  few  seconds  and  capturing  it  in  a  usable  form. Apparently  all  the  animals  were  released  into  the  wild  at  the  end  of  the  series  and  unsurprisingly  perished  fairly  quickly.

Its  brief  revival  in  the  90s  on  Channel 5  and  CGI  film  version  which  went  straight to  DVD in  2008  passed  me  by  entirely.

I  know  many  regard  it  very  fondly  but  it's  a  no  from  me.

1. Tom And Jerry

First  watched  :  Uncertain

Looking  through  the  BBC1  schedule  for  Sunday  6th  October  1968 - I'm  not  certain  we  had BBC2  at  this  point - this  is  the  only  thing  on  there  that  my  three year  old  self  could conceivably  have  watched  with  any  attention. As  it  preceded  The  News  And  The  Weatherman there's  a  good  chance  that  I  would  have  been  in  the  "front  room"   when  it  was  on.

According  to  the  RT  the  episode  broadcast  was  The  Flying  Cat  which  dates  from  1951. It departs  from  formula  in  that  Tom's  main  target  is  the  household  canary  and  Jerry  only intervenes  to  assist  them. At  one  point  Tom  is  sent  flying  through  a  chest  of  drawers,  finds himself  wearing  a  pair  of  curtains  and  realises  they  can  function  as  wings  giving  his adversaries  some  new  problems.

I  loved  Tom  And  Jerry  for  the  slapstick  but  as  the  years  went  on I  grew  a  bit  more  sympathetic  towards  Tom , wishing  he'd  score  the  occasional  victory  although  he  could  never  actually  eat  Jerry  until  the  final  episode  ( pre -Taggart  of  course ).  This  was  particularly  the  case  when  Jerry  brought  that  ugly  bruiser  of  a  bulldog  into  play. Dogs  were  my  main  childhood  fear  so  that  was  a  definite  no-no  -  fight  your  own  battles  you  sneaky  rodent !

Although  the  series  has  had  numerous  reboots  right  down  to  the  present  day  I  think  I'm  only  familiar  with  those  made  prior  to  1967. I  think  I  stopped  it  watching  on  anything  more  than  a  casual  basis  around  the  mid-70s  just  when  concerns  about  the  level  of  violence  in  it were  surfacing. In  The  Flying  Cat  , Tom  is  burnt, shredded  and  cloves  a  tree  in  two , testicles  first , amongst  other  mishaps.  This  violence  was  excised  altogether  in  the  late  seventies  reboot  which  was  loathed  by  fans.

In  the  mid-sixties  US  TV  started  editing  the  original  cartoons  in  an  early  example  of  political  correctness  to  remove  or  re-voice  the  black  housekeeper  Mammy  Two  Shoes  who  was  deemed  a  racial  stereotype.

In  some  episodes  Jerry  has  a  friend  or  nephew  , a  grey  mouse  in  a  diaper  called  Tuffy. In  1979  I  called  my  new  cat  that. It  wasn't  in  conscious  imitation  but  must  have  stuck  somewhere  in  the  cranium.



It  was  pretty  inevitable  ,as  soon  as  the  Genome  Project  came  to  fruition  a  couple  of  weeks  ago, that  I  would  want  to  build  a  blog  around  it. To  a  list-fanatic  like  me  the  opportunity  provided   to  construct  a  history  of  my  telly-watching  is  irresistible.

I'm  not  going  to  stick  to  a  rigid  format  here; the  variety  of  the  subject  matter  makes  that  untenable. It  will  be  roughly  chronological  though  I  won't  get  too  cut  up  about  strict  accuracy  because  there  are  two  obvious  problems  from  the  outset.

One  is  that  like  most  people  I  have  no  idea  when  my  mum  first  put  me  in  front  of  the  telly  ( not  too  early  I  expect )  so  I   had  to  think  about  a  starting  date. The  first  programmes  I  recall  are  the  obvious  Watch  With  Mother   favourites  but  these  were  all  repeated  endlessly  so  there's  no  help  there. I've  no  recollection  of  watching  any  great  televised  event- the  Moon  Landing  being  the  obvious  one  - so  that  doesn't  assist  in  anchoring  it. I've  no  spin-off  toys  or  books  from  that  far  back  either .

I'm  sure  I  was  watching  some  TV  before  I  started  school  in  September  1969  as  I've  no  memory  of  the  sense  of cultural  deprivation  that  would  have  ensued  had  I  not. Fortunately - because  the  period  when  I  went  home  for  lunch  was  short - I  do  remember  Chigley   starting  as  a  new  programme  which  Genome  tells  me  was  Monday  6  October  1969. And  so  I've  taken  one  year  before  that  as  my  Year  Zero. If  I  was  on  balance  likely  to  have  watched  something  on  or  after  6th  October  1968  it  will  go  in.

The  other  main  problem  is  the  absence  of  an  equivalent  site  for  ITV  ( Granada  in  my  case ) . There  are  some  good  sites  but  they're  not  comprehensive, and,  I  would  expect,  vulnerable  to  legal  assault  from  IPC  magazines . That  can't  be  helped  unfortunately  - there  will  be  omissions - but  it's  not  quite  as  big  as  a  problem  as  you  might  expect. Both  my  mum  and  gran  were  distressed  Tories- my   maternal  grandfather  had  either  been  made  redundant  or  lost  his  business  before  his  time - and,  like  others  of  their  ilk,  keen  on  those  notions  of  gentility  that  could  be  maintained  without  spending  too  much  money. ITV  was  deemed  lowbrow  and  a  bit  vulgar; although  my  sister  and  I  were  never  banned  from  watching  anything  on  ITV  for  that  reason  alone,  and  TV  Times  was  a  weekly  purchase  , the  default  setting  on  the  TV  was  always  BBC. The  one  exception  was  19.30  on  a  Monday  and  Wednesday  night  when  a  certain  Salford -set  soap  was   broadcast.