Sunday, 30 November 2014

23 Apollo 12 Moon Mission

First  watched : November  1969

I  do  remember  watching  some  Apollo  footage  but  I  don't  recall  any  great  drama  so  it's  unlikely  to  have  been  Apollos  11  or  13  and  I'm  not  sure  the  subsequent  expeditions  received  much  coverage  outside  of  the  news  bulletins  so  it's  most  likely  to  have  been  Apollo   12.

Other  than  allowing  Pete  Conrad  ( pictured  above )  and  Alan  Bean - both  household  names  of  course - to  become  the  third  and  fourth  people  to  walk  on  the  moon ,  I'm  not  quite  sure  what  the  point   of  this  mission  was. It  was  all  of  course  a  bit  after  the  Lord  Mayor's  Parade  as  I'm  sure  both  astronauts  realised  at  the  time. Their  day  out  was  also  marred  by  Bean  dozily  pointing  his  TV  camera  directly  at  the  sun  which  brought  the  live  transmission  to  an  abrupt  end.

Around  this  time  I  recall  PG  Tips  running  one  of  their  Collector  Card  series  on  the  Apollo  missions.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

22 Hector's House

First  watched : Uncertain

Hector's  adventures  replaced  Babar   in  the  pre -news  slot  from  12th  November  1969  although  it  had  been  on  before. Like  its  predecessors  it  was  a  French  programme  re-voiced  for  English  consumption but  the  three  characters  were  glove  puppets  rather  than  stop  motion  figures.  Despite  the  title,  most  of  the  action  takes  place  in  Hector's  garden

Hector  the  hound  lives  with  Miss   Zsa  Zsa  the  cat   ( who  I  wrongly  presumed  to  be   his  wife  )  and  they  are  constantly  visited  by  noisy  neighbour  Kiki  the  Frog.  The  two  females  regularly  team  up  to  play  tricks  on  Hector  and  prick  his  pomposity  which  he  always  accepts  with  good  grace  at  the  end.  Hector  is  wonderfully  voiced  by  Paul  Bacon, his  fruity  tones  inflating  a  bubble  of  male  pride  just  asking  to  be  popped  though  you  do  sometimes  wish  he'd  turn  the  tables  on  them. It's  impressive  that  they  managed  to  squeeze  nearly  80  episodes  from  this  simple  formula.

I  only  found  it  mildly  diverting  but  I  seem  to  recall  my  mum  finding  it  funny.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

21 Wacky Races

First  watched  : Uncertain

The  first  Hanna-Barbera  production  to  feature  here   is  my  favourite  cartoon  programme  bar  none  and  would  still  feature  in  my  Top  10  TV  programmes   of  all  time. I  had  Wacky  Races  wallpaper  for  my  bedroom  for  a  time.

I  liked  the  huge  cast  of  eleven  vehicles  and  the  uncertainty  of  the  outcome  ( except  for  who  would  come  last  of  course ! ) My  favourite  character  was  Professor  Pat  Pending  and  I  was  always  thrilled  when  he  won   the  race.

The  series  was  inspired  by  the  Tony  Curtis-Jack  Lemmon  1965 comedy  The  Great  Race  which  is  actually  pretty  awful. The  show's  star  character  Dick  Dastardly  is  fairly  closely  modelled  on  Lemmon's  pantomime  villain  Professor  Fate. Dastardly's  most  obvious  character  trait  is  insecurity. He  never  trusts  his  impressive  vehicle  to  deliver  a  clean  victory  and  will  always  sacrifice  a  commanding  lead  to  stop  and  set  traps  for  the  other  racers. While  the  traps  often  do  damage  the  other  vehicles  they  always  ultimately  rebound  on  Dastardly  to  the  poorly  disguised  glee  of  his  canine  sidekick  Muttley. Dastardly  was  not  the  only  character  to  take  illegal  action  to  undermine  the  competition   but  none  of  the  others  did  so  on  the  same  scale  and  would  occasionally  help  each  other  especially  if  the  distressed  party  was  blonde  bombshell  Penelope  Pitstop.

In  some  ways  the  interactions  between  the  characters  when  Dastardly  wasn't  around  were  the  most  interesting  parts  of  the  show. There  was  a  blossoming  romance  between  Penelope  Pitstop  and  Peter  Perfect  whose  ego  was  nonetheless  punctured  by  frequent  mechanical  failure. Red  Max  in  his  car/plane  hybrid  was  a  bit  of  a  chump  whose  efforts  to  get  ahead  usually  came  to  grief  without  any  assistance  from  Dastardly  

Seventeen  episodes  each  containing  two  seperate  races  were  made  between  1968  and  1969  and  over  the  34  races  the  first  place  honours  were  fairly  even  shared  with  every  car  bar  Dastardly's  wining  either  three  or  four  times.  If  second  and  third  places  are  counted  there  is  more  of  a  disparity  with  the  Slag  Brothers  notching  8  runners  up  slots  and  the  Army  Surplus  Special  only  one  and  no  thirds.

Some  of  these  characters  we'll  meet  again  in  spin-off  shows  but  the  original  remains  the  best.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

20 Ken Dodd and the Diddymen

First  watched : Uncertain

Sadly  this  show  is  a  fading  memory  as  it  appears  all  the  episodes  have  been  wiped. There's  not  much  on  the  net; the  series  doesn't  have  a  wikipedia  page of  its  own  or  an  imdb  entry and  there  are  no  clips  from  the  series  on  youtube. There  are  still  some  annuals  and  records  knocking  about  but  no  footage  to  jog  the  memory.  I  liked  it  but  can't  remember  too  much  about  it  other  than  it  briefly  popularised   the  word  "marmalize" as  a  threat  of  violence.

It's  been  claimed  that  the  Diddymen  and  their  jam  butty  mine  in  the  real  life  Liverpool  suburb  of  Knotty  Ash  derive  from  local  folklore. That  may  be  dubious  but  they  do  pre-date  Doddy, having  been  mentioned  in  his  idol  Arthur  Askey's  routine. Doddy  realised  them  with  rather  scary-looking  string  puppets  who  spoke  with  his  speeded  up  voice.

Much  of  the  humour  derived  from  national  stereotypes  so  probably  wouldn't  have  aged  too  well  and  certainly  any  suggestion  that  Hamish  McDiddy  was  careful  with  his  money  would  be  received  with  a  wry  chuckle  now.

It  was  broadcast  on  Sunday  evenings  in  ten  minute  episodes. I  don't  know  how  many  episodes  were  actually  made  but  it  ran  between  1969  and  1973. The  Diddymen  continued  to  feature  in  his  stage  routine  and  sporadic  TV  appearances  but  as  children  or  dwarf  actors  rather  than  the  actual  puppets.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

19 Watch With Mother : Mary Mungo And Midge

First  watched :  7th  October  1969

As  it  was  first  broadcast  the  day  after  Chigley  I  guess  I  saw  this  one from  the  beginning  too.

Mary. Mungo  And  Midge  was  always  more  of  a  favourite  with  my  sister  than  me. I  guess that's  because  one  of  the  titular  characters  was  a   young  girl  although  she  had  all  the  personality  of  a  tin  can  before  they  put  the  label  on.

The  series  ( 13  episodes  in  total ) was  made  by  John  Ryan  Studios  who  had  previously  done  Captain  Pugwash.  It  was  in  colour  but  was  otherwise  extremely  basic  with  its  figures  merely  cardboard  cut  outs  with  few  moving  parts  bobbing  along  in  front  of  stylised  static  backdrops.

The  "novel"  feature  of  the  show  was  its  urban  setting. The  trio  lived  on  the  top  floor  of  a  tower  block  in  a  busy  town  which  formed  the  backdrop  to  most  of  their  adventures. However  Mary's  room  seemed  suspiciously  spacious  and  her  voicing , by  Ryan's  daughter  Isabel, wasn't  particularly  proletarian. The  other  voices  and  narration  were  by  straight  laced  news  reader  Richard  Baker.

The  formula was  pretty  simple. Midge  the  irrepressible  mouse  got  into  scrapes  from  which  he  was  usually  rescued  by  grouchy  old  dog  Mungo,  a  killjoy  and  know  it  all  that  I  absolutely  hated. Mary often  only  had  a  peripheral  part  in  proceedings. Being  a  BBC  show  it  often  dropped  educational  content  into  the  script  which  gave  the  series  a  rather  leaden  feel  though  I  suppose  I  can  muster  some  affection  for  it  now.

Monday, 24 November 2014

18 Watch With Mother : Chigley

First  watched  : 6  October  1969

As  I  said  at  the  start  I'm  pretty  sure  I  can  remember  Chigley  starting  as  a  new  series.

Chigley  was  the  final  and  by  far  the  least  regarded  instalment  of   the  Gordon  Murray  trinity. There's  not  much  of  it  on  youtube  and  it  rarely  crops  up  in  nostalgia  discussions. I'm  not  quite  sure  why  that's  so. One  possible  reason  is  that   it's  the  most  politically  dated. The  character  of  Lord  Belborough  summoning  the  workers  to  his  park  for  a  concert  and  zooming  around  on  his  private  railway  is  redolent  of  the  Pym  and  Prior  school  of  patriarchal  Toryism  soon  to  be  hit  into  the  long  grass  by  Margaret  Hilda.

Another  possible  reason  is  that  some  of  the  storylines  relied  on  guest  appearances  by  the  likes  of  Camberwick  Green's    Windy  Miller  or  the  Trumpton  fire  brigade  which  gave  Chigley  a  bottom  of  the  barrel  reputation. Murray  ( who's  still  alive  at  the  time  of  writing )  did  some  other  stuff  in  the  seventies  but  none  of  the  titles  ring  any  bells  and  he  moved  into  producing  miniature  books.

Looking  at  the  scanty  clips  now  what  strikes  me  is  how  much  the  animation  had  progressed  in  the  two  years  since  Trumpton . The  fire  brigade  in  the  latter  series  never  attended  a  fire  because  it  was  too  difficult  to  realise  but  here's  the  Chigley  train  puffing  out  smoke. The  puppets  have  a  much  greater  range  of  movement; there's  nothing  like  the  six  o  clock  exodus  of  the  biscuit  workers  in  either  of  the  prior  series.

I  liked  Chigley  best  because  of  the  prominence  of  the  train. Through  the  encouragement  of  my  dad,  railways  were  my  first "special  interest"  and  it's  not  entirely  evaporated  even  now.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

17 Babar

( Thanks  to   for  the  picture )

First  watched : Uncertain

From  Monday  29  September  1969  The  Magic  Roundabout  was  rested  for  a  while  and  replaced  by  Babar  , another  French  import  narrated  by  Eric  Thompson  although  that  was  the  limit  of  his  involvement. The  scripts  were  written  by  Peggy  Miller.

The  lovable  elephant originally  appeared  in  French  childrens'  books  by  Jean  de  Brunhof  in  1931   He  had  already  been  the  subject  of  two  Bollywood  films  by  the  time  this  series  was  made.

There's  very  little  on  the  net  about  this  series. It's  only  listed  at  the  bottom  of  Babar's  wikipedia  page  and  most  references  are  to  a  French/Canadian  cartoon  series  which  was  shown  on  the  BBC  in  1989.

I  remember  little  more  than  the  name.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

16 Blue Peter

First  watched : Uncertain

Blue  Peter  returned  from  a  summer  break  , some  of  which  the  presenters  spent  in  what  was then  Ceylon  , on  Monday  15th  September  1969. I've  no  idea  whether  I  actually  watched  that episode  but  I  do  recall  a  period  when  Patch  was  one of  the  dogs  and  he  died  in  1971  so  it's  possible.

I  was  never  really  fond  of  Blue  Peter  despite  being  one  of  the  fortunate  generation  that  was  watching  when  John  Noakes  was  on  the  show  and  hurling  himself  into  dangerous  challenges. With  his  untamed  Halifax  accent  ( a  dream  for  countless  crap  impressionists  like  Eddie  Large ) and  slightly  unkempt  appearance  he  was  a  welcome  contrast  to  stuffed  shirt  Peter  Purves  ( who'd  been  in  Dr  Who  for  a  while,  though  from  the  ones  I've  seen  he  was  a  terrible  actor )  and  Valerie  Singleton  who  was  like  an  awful  po-faced  schoolteacher  although  by  the  time  I  was  tuning  in  she  was  trying  to  re-position  herself  as  a  serious  news  journalist  and  may  have  been  more  fun  earlier  on  in  her  stint. While  I  wasn't  bowled  over  by  her  jolly  replacement  Lesley  Judd  , she  was  a  definite  improvement.

Besides  the  great  Noakes  stunts  the  things  I  most  remember  are  Uri  Geller's  first  appearance  on  TV, the  pets, the  appeals   and  the   endless  models  that  always  required  "sticky-back  plastic", something  we  never  had  in  the  house. I  remember  when  we  did  acquire  a  couple  of  leftover  rolls  from  a  decorating  job  on  the  cellar  it  was  very  exciting  but  I  can't  remember  if  we  actually  used  it.

My  sister  loved  it  uncritically  and  I  remember  we  had  a  battle  royal  in  1975  when  I  wanted  to  watch  The  Tomorrow  People    instead  of  the  Monday  edition.  Our  mum  eventually  decided  in  my  favour  ( hooray ! )  which  drove  the  first  nail  into  the  coffin  as  far  as  I  was  concerned. ( Ironically  Helen  soon  became  an  equally  fierce  devotee  of  the  mutant  kids  instead ). I  think  I  did  finally  go  with  Noakes  in  1978.  I  don't  remember  Janet  Ellis, the  garden  being  vandalised  or  the  fake  donation   except  through  schoolmates  discussing  them  at  the  time.

It  is  of  course  still  going  and  at  56,  is  the  longest  running  children's  TV  show  in  the  world.  

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

15 The Magic Roundabout

First  watched : Uncertain

Another French  import  , the  story  of  The  Magic  Roundabout  has  often  been  told  but  not  always  accurately  and  there  are  one  or  two  enduring  myths  that  keep  re-surfacing. It  began  in  France  as  a  series  of  short  films  by  former  advertising  executive  Serge  Danot  assisted  by  Welsh  puppeteer  Ivor  Wood. Its  immediate  success  there  attracted  the  BBC  but  due  to  inept    negotiations  they  found  that  they  had  only  bought  the  pictures  not  the  script. Rather  than  pay  another  wad  out  to  the  French,  the  Beeb  engaged  Play  School  presenter  Eric  "father  of  Emma"  Thompson  to  produce  his  own  scripts  for  the  show  without  reference  to  the  original.

Thompson's  erudite  scripts  incorporated  contemporary  references  like  re- naming   the  beatnik  rabbit  Dylan  and  basing  the  grouchy  personality  of  legless  leading  dog  Dougal  ( the name  caused  mild  consternation  to  Danot  who  thought  it  may  be   a  reference  to  De  Gaulle)  on  comedian  Tony  Hancock. He  attracted  some  criticism  for  pitching  the  dialogue  way  above  the  intended  age  range  which  he  blithely  ignored  and  it's  quite  plausible  that  The  Simpsons  owes  something  to  his  subversive  example. Its  appeal  to  adults  was  brought  home  to  the  Beeb  when  moving  it  to  an  earlier  time  slot  from  the  one  just  before  the  evening  news  brought  a  storm  of  protests

The  subversion  angle   has  been  overstated  of  course. You  still  get  pub  bores  droning  on  about  how  all  the  characters  were  based  on  drugs  - Brian  represents  speed, Ermintrude  magic  mushrooms, Dylan  dope  and  so  on  - something  the  surviving  participants  strenuously  deny.

Danot  churned  them  out  relentlessly  - though  latterly  without  Wood  who  bailed  out  when  the  operation  moved  out  of  Paris  to  the  French  sticks - until  1971. Thompson  couldn't match  that  pace  which  meant  that  there  were  still  "new "  episodes   in  Britain  until  1977 . In  fact  there  were  still  52  episodes  that  Thompson  hadn't  worked  on  at  the  time  of  his  death  in  1982  , which  Channel  4  purchased  and  gave  to  Nigel  Planer  to  develop  to  a  generally  favourable  response  in  1991.

My  own  strongest  recollection  of  the  series  is  disappointment  that  my  favourite  character  Paul  ( the  lad  in  the  yellow  jersey  centre  left )  so  rarely  featured. In  fact  none  of  Florence's  three  human  playmates  got  much  of  a  look  in  after  the  first  year  of  the  series  as  the  animals  proved  more  popular.  

Monday, 17 November 2014

14 The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

First  watched : Uncertain

This  was  a  13 -part  serialization  coming  towards  the  end  of  its  run  on  8/9/69. It  was  an  expensive   French  production  with  English  dubbing  originally  made  in  1964.  Its  international  success  owed  much  to  the  fact  that  the  story  is  necessarily  told  mainly  as  a  voiceover    so  that  the  usual  problems  with  dubbing  were  largely  avoided. The  English  narration  was  provided  by  a  Lee  Payant.

The  series  was  often  repeated, usually  as  part  of  the  Summer  Holiday  schedule  and  was  last  broadcast  as  recently  as  1982. I  must  have  caught  it  at  some  point  but  it's  left  no  impression. I  can't  even  recall  if  it  was  my  first  introduction  to  the story.  Viewing  Episode  1  hasn't  triggered  anything, just  the  observations  that  Robert  Hoffman  playing  Crusoe  may  have  been  the  inspiration  for  Sting's  Police-era  bouffant  and  the  model  boat   used  in  the  shipwreck  at  the  beginning  is  heroically  unconvincing.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

13 Jackanory

First  watched : Uncertain

Almost  certainly my  first  day  at  school  was  7th  September  1969  and  that's  as  good  a  time  as  any  to  start  bringing  in  the  teatime  programmes  after  Play  School  although  some  of  them  still  ring  no  bells  at  all.

Jackanory  was  a  permanent  fixture  on  kids  TV  from  1965  to  1996  and  has  been  revived  in  all  but  name  on  Ceebeebies. The  concept  was  ultra-simple  , a  seated  celebrity  ( usually  an  actor ) read  a  children's  book  abridged  to  fit  five  15  minute  slots,  interspersed  with  illustrations from  an  over-worked in-house team  or  free lance  illustrators. In  later  years  they  introduced  special  effects  and  more  dynamic performances in  an  attempt  to  stave  off  an  inexorable  decline in  viewing  figures  but I was  long  gone  by  then. I think  my  break  with it  was  probably  enforced  in  September 1976  when  I  started  attending  a  secondary  school some  six  miles  away  and wasn't  back  in  time  for  the  start.

I  find  it  hard  to  believe  it  was  anyone's  favourite  programme. In  general  I  found  it  unengaging  . a  good  excuse  to  concentrate  on  eating  your  tea, but  occasionally  it  would  catch  my  interest , usually  if  it  was  featuring  a  book  from  a  series  in  which  I  was  already  interested. I  remember  Moominsummer  Madness  featuring  in  the  summer  of  1974  just  after  I'd  purchased  it.  The  only  book  I  can  recall  it  directly  turning  me  on  to  was  Erik  Linklater's  The  Wind  On  The  Moon but  I  also  enjoyed  the  stories  featuring  Mortimer  the  Raven  and  had  my  suggestion  we  read  one  of  the  books  as  a  class  when  it  turned  up  in  the  school  library  accepted.

On  7th  September  1969  the  featured  book  was  The  Founding  of  Evil  Hold  School , the  first, recently  published, book  by  White  Russian  fanatic  and  perennial  UKIP  candidate, Nikolai Tolstoy   and  from  the  synposis  sounds  like  an  anti-communist  allegory. The  reader  was  Kenneth  Williams, one  of  twelve  separate  stints  the  Carry  On  actor  did  on  the  show.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

12 Watch With Mother : The Woodentops

First  watched : Uncertain

Another  survivor  fromn  the  fifties, The  Woodentops  replaced  Joe  on  a  Thursday  from  4/4/69  and  again  I  have  no  memory  of  it. Even  when  my  schoolmates  started  to  reminisce  about  "the  very  biggest  spotty  dog  you  ever  did  see "  around  1982  it   didn't  ring  any bells  for  me. It  was  repeated  until  1973  so  I  must  have  seen  it  at  some  point  but  perhaps  another  helping  of  Maria  Bird  triggered  some  defence  mechanism  in  my  young  brain  and  it  got  blotted  out.

11 Watch With Mother : Camberwick Green

First  watched : Uncertain

Camberwick  Green  returned  to  the  schedules  on  Wednesdays  from  5th  March  1969  replacing  Tales  of  the  Riverbank. 

The  thirteen  episodes  were  made  in  1965  and  first  broadcast  at  the  beginning  of  1966.

What  I  loved  best  about  Camberwick  Green  was  the  beginning  when  the  pierrot  puppet  started  a  Victorian  music  box  going  and  it  gradually  opened  to  reveal  the  character  who  was  going  to  be  the  focus  of  that  episode. That  worked  for  me  even  though  none  of  the  characters  had  much  individual  personality  so  it  wasn't  really  possible  to  have  a  favourite.
Camberwick  Green  like  its  sister  shows  highlighted  aspects  of  everyday  life; the  only  fantasy  element  was  the  anachronistic  design  of  many  of  the  puppets. Gordon  Murray  clearly  had  a  love  for  Victoriana. Dr  Mopp  looked  like  a  character  from  Sherlock  Holmes   while  as  you  can  see  from  the  still  above  the  soldiers  got  about  in  a  truck  while  wearing  a  uniform  from  the  Napoleonic  era.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

10 Watch With Mother : Joe

First  watched  : Uncertain

Well  this  one's  left  no  impression  on  me  at  all.

Two  series  were  made  of  Joe's  adventures  five  years  apart. He  was  a  normal  boy  who  did  normal  things. The  script  was  by  Alison  Prince  who  wrote  Camberwick  Green  and  Trumpton.
The  "animation"   consisted  of  zooming  in  and  out  of  still  drawings. I  wonder  how  I  could  have  forgotten  about  it.

9. Watch With Mother - The Herbs

First  watched : Uncertain

This  replaced  Trumpton  on  a  Tuesday  from  31.12.68  although  it  had  been  first  broadcast  at  the  other  end  of  the  year. By  contrast  to  the  previous  post  I  remember  loving  this  very  clearly  and  my  mind  still  makes  some  of  the  associations  when  common  herbs  are  mentioned. I  think  I  once  had  a  jig-saw  which  featured  them  and  when  my  mum  decided  to  restore  our  neglected  back  garden  in  1976   I  cajoled  her  for  a  little  patch  in  which  I  could  plant  (  if  not  afterwards  tend )  a  few  herbs, a  whim  that  was  probably  based  on  lingering  affection  for  this  series.

The  Herbs  was  the  first  thing  I  watched  that  had  a  large  cast  of  characters. Trumpton   probably  had  more  puppets  but  they  were  largely  defined  by  what  they - very  predictably - did and  had  little  individual  personality.  The  Herbs  was  very  character-driven ; the  stories  didn't  make  much  in  the  way  of  logical  structure . You  could  have  a  favourite  character   and  hope the  story  would  feature  them. In  my  case  it  was  Tarragon  the  dragon.    

The  Herbs  was  the  creation  of  Michael  Bond  most  famous  for  Paddington  Bear. His  barbed  script, the  humour  being  mainly  directed  at  upper  class  twit  Sir  Basil, was  delivered  in  a  dry  sardonic  tone  by  another  Play  School  presenter, Gordon  Rollings, and  punctuated  by  the  blank  stares  to  camera  of  main  character  Parsley  the  Lion  ( who  was  resurrected  for  a  spin-off  series ). Rollings  veered  between  conventional  narration  and  addressing  the  characters  - usually  Parsley  directly.

Only  13  episodes  of  the  original  show  were  made .The  show  was  repeated  until  1975.

Monday, 3 November 2014

8. Watch With Mother - Bizzy Lizzy

First  watched : Uncertain

This  replaced  Tales  of  The  Riverbank  on  Mondays  from  30.12.68. My  memories  of  it  are  scant  indeed, little  more  than  word  association  with  my  gran's  basic  enquiry  "Have  you  done  a  bizzie ?"  which  may  or  may  not  have  been  fitting.

This  was  another  Maria  Bird  puppet  effort, albeit  of  more  recent  vintage  , which  was  originally  a  short  insert  in  the  Picture  Book  programme  which  proved  popular  enough  for  a  spin-off  series  made  in 1967. Lizzy  had  a  dress  with  a  magic  flower  which  gave  her  four  wishes  a  day  the  first  of  which  was  always to  bring  her  doll  to  life, Little  Mo, the  Eskimo (  that  rings  the  vaguest  of  bells  now ) .

Sunday, 2 November 2014

7. Play School

First  watched : Uncertain

Play  School  was  only  being  broadcast  at  11.00  am  on   BBC2  in  October  1968. It  was  first  shown  as  a  repeat  on  BBC1  at  16.20  pm  on  5  November  1968  but  I've  waited  until  getting  up  to  the  19th  because  that's  the  first  time  it  had  two  presenters   that  I  definitely  recall. I  certainly  don't  remember  creepy  Colin  Jeavons   being  on  the  show ! I'll  hang  fire  on  the  other  tea  time  programmes  for  now  because  the  likes  of  Circus  Boy, Tom  Tom   and  Belle , Sebastian  and  the  Horses  ring  no  bells  whatsoever.

Play  School  was  still  relatively  young  at  this  point  having  started  in  June  1964  when  it  became  the  first  programme  broadcast  on  BBC2  after  the  infamous  power  cut  of  the  previous  night. It  seemed  to  have  a  rotating  cast  of  about  a  dozen  presenters  who  would  pair  up  M/F  to  front  the  show. The  most  regular  characters  were  a  motley  quintet  of  ordinary  toys, Big  Ted, Little  Ted, Jemima ( a  rag  doll ) , Hamble ( a  scruffy  plastic  doll )   and   Humpty  ( who  had  the  odd  sneaky  revamp ) . It  had  a  magazine  format  with  stories, songs, skill  demos  leading  up  to  the  showing  of  some  film  footage , generally  some  horrendously  boring  film  stock  of  bottles  being  made  or  something  like  that  but  occasionally  you'd  have  a  Disney  cartoon  clip. These  were  seen  through  one  of  three  "windows"  - on  to  the  outside  world  you  see.

Top  honcho  was  undoubtedly  Brian  Cant. Since  Rolf  went  down;  Brian  has  become  the  last  redoubt  for  people  of  my  age  wanting  to  preserve  some  unsullied  memory  of  childhood  innocence; surely  he  kept  his  hands  to  himself  ? He  was  one  of  the  presenters  on  19.11.68; the  other  was  Carol  Chell  ( above )  who  had  a  rather  mumsy  appearance  but  was  still  in  her  twenties. She  always  had  this  engaging  smirk   on  her  face  as  though  she  couldn't  believe  her  luck. If  you've  seen  the  clip  the  still  above  has  been  taken  from  ( most  of  the  series  has  been  wiped ) you'll  know  most  of  the  jelly  remains  firmly  fixed  inside  the  mould  for  all  her  shaking  and  banging. She  later  became  a  TV  executive.

I think  it   was  Play  School  rather  than  actual  school  that  taught  me  how  to  tell  the  time  as  an  interrogation  on  what  time  was  showing  on  a  cardboard  clock  in  the  studio  always  preceded  that  day's  story.

Play  School's  reputation  is  pretty  bomb-proof  as  far  as  political  correctness  goes.  Paul  Danquah  ( who  is  gay  to  boot ) has  been  claimed  as  the  first  black  presenter  on  the  BBC  and  was  soon  followed  by  Derek  Griffiths. In  1975  Hamble  was  replaced  by  a  black  doll  Poppy  although  the  impetus  to  replace  Hamble   ( never  a  favourite  with  the  presenters  because  she  couldn't  sit  up )  came  from  her  fragility  rather  than  pc zeal. She  disappeared  shortly  afterwards; maybe  Les  Ferdinand's  got  her.

When  did  I  stop  watching  it ? Well  I  don't  remember  Poppy  so  it's  pre-75. I'm  thinking  it  was  probably  some  time  in  1972.  By  that  time   its  spin-off  Play  Away  for  slightly  older  children  was  established   and  I  took  the  hint. It  can't  have  been  before  the  end  of  1971 though  because  I  remember  seeing  the  promo  film  for  Ernie  by  Benny  Hill  through  one  of  the  windows; my  first  direct  exposure  to  a  current  pop  hit.

The  actual  series  ran  till  1988  , three  years  after  Brian  Cant  finally  left  the  show  following its  removal  from  the  afternoon  special. Its  influence  lives  on; Teletubbies  being  the  obvious  example.