Thursday, 6 June 2013

Scragtag and his Tea Time Telly


Genre: Childrens
Channel: BBC1
Transmission: T.T.V: 31/10/1985 - 25/04/1985. Scragtag: 18/09/1986 - 18/12/1986


Some cats you want to sit on your lap and purr approvingly as you slurp a cup of tea and watch telly. Other cats you physically cross the road from just in case you catch something - you know the types, the scraggly looking ones who are most at home when they're rummaging through a bin. You wouldn't think they'd make a great children's TV host, but it turns out Scragtag wasn't too revolting.

A Scraggy Old Cat

Scragtag's first vehicle was Tea Time Television and this series saw the raggedy kitty living in a chest of drawers behind a secondhand shop. In amongst all the junk of the yard, Scragtag discovers an old TV which transmits 'T.T.V' - a curious collection of quizzes, stories and cartoons. And old Scragtag wasn't on his lonesome as he was accompanied by his loyal friend Tim. A gnome. Made of stone. And mute. Nothing mental there then!

Tea Time Television only lasted one series, but a year later the format was rejigged ever so slightly under the banner Scragtag and his Tea Time Telly. And lawks a lawdy, a bit of a spanner had been thrown into Scragtag's plans! You see, his beloved chest of drawers had gone missing, so it was time for an epic quest up and down the country to get his grubby paws back on his furniture.

Behind the Puppet

Scragtag was operated and created by Marcus Kimber who started off working with the subversive puppets on The Young Ones - once his showbiz career was over he later became a secondary school teacher. At least that's what one errant ex pupil told us. Roy Milani produced the series' and Ian Stubbs was on hand as director to guide Scragtag on his motivation.

Tea Time Television was never repeated, but 6 episodes of Scragtag and his Tea Time Telly were repeated in mid 1988 on BBC One. Scragtag also popped up as a guest on an episode of Take Two in May 1986 where he discussed Tea Time Television with Phillip Schofield. Scragtag's final hurrah was in 1991 in Scragtag and Toddles, Ace Detectives. 

A series of books followed the TV series', but are more narrative affairs which present a much more humble and innocent Scragtag. Interestingly, the books reveal that there was a Scragtag fanclub you could join. We recently saw a Scragtag badge up for sale on Ebay - we cruelly missed it - and suspect this was part of the fan club package.

Meeting Scragtag 

Despite being just about old enough to catch Scragtag, the series' completely passed us by at the time. It was only whilst rifling through some dusty Radio Times that we discovered the show.
Scragtag looked a verminous chap and therefore he was right up our alley, so we headed to the BFI Archive to investigate this grimy feline.

Scragtag, himself, is amazing. A great creation packed full of jokes, arrogance and confidence, Scragtag drove the show forwards effortlessly and had one of them great cockney accents that you just don't get in children's TV anymore - God knows why Children's TV execs fear the glottal stop, but they do. Anyway, Scragtag, yeah, as we said he's amazing. In fact, he's second only to Roland Rat in the pantheon of 80s puppet frontmen.

One of the episodes we saw featured The Chuckle Hounds aka The Chuckle Brothers performing at a local theatre to a crowd of incredibly 80s schoolkids wearing parkas and clutching at mini thermos flasks. It's adds a nice variety feel to the show and gives Scragtag a chance to engage with the kids. And, again, it's here that his personality shines through, particularly on the old gag telling front - Scragtag LOVES a gag!

The cartoons and stories are pretty entertaining as well. Peregrine Piecrust is a series of animations linked with a surreal narration about a young Yorkshire lad called Peregrine. A rather bonkers, and Italian, cartoon entitled Mr Hiccup also concentrates on a behatted gent who can't stop hiccuping and causing chaos. It's manic, it's crazy and it's exactly what kids need to get their imaginations working on full throttle.

However, one of the cartoons we saw - Wummies - was as disappointing as children's TV gets. It's as dull as ditch water and appears to feature what can only be described as 'little lumps with big noses embarking on mundane adventures'.

The quizzes presented failed to connect with us as they were mind numbingly tedious. Maybe the under 5s would find them an engaging challenge, but anyone else watching would have fallen asleep. A bit more work was needed on these sections which end up feeling like filler.

Scragtag Coulda Been a Contender! 

Overall, we found Scragtag to be very entertaining in places, but the show had so much more potential. By weeding out the weaker cartoons and the simplistic quizzes, more screen time could have been given to Scragtag's personality. The result would have been a stronger show and perhaps resulted in further series'.

If anyone has episode of Scragtag, then please get in touch as we would be interested in viewing more and being able to provide a few screencaps. At present, the only commercially available footage of Scragtag is on the 'Continuity' special feature on the Dr Who Trial of a Timelord DVD boxset. A quick snippet of Scragtag is shown and is where our only picture of Scragtag comes from.


ARTICLES

Radio Times 26th October - 1st November 1985

Thursday is a big day for a rather scruffy cat called Scragtag – he’s a guest on ‘Breakfast Time’ and in the afternoon, he’s starring in his own show (BBC1). Scragtag lives in an untidy back yard behing a second-hand furniture shop. Among the junk is an old television. When he switches it on the set gives him his very own channel – TTV, which stands for Tea Time Television. Scragtag makes a lot of comments – not always complimentary ones – about the shows on TTV as he invites young viewers on BBC1 to watch with him. On TTV there are cartoons like Mr Hiccup, quizzes, and the adventures of a boy called Peregrine Piecrust. Scragtag’s off-screen assistant, former Punch and Judy man Marcus Kimber – he also created the puppets in ‘The Young Ones’ – says this streetwise moggie will have quite a lot to say about TTV during the next 22 weeks.

Radio Times 13th September - 19th September 1986

Last year it was called ‘T.T.V.’ – Tea Time Television, the favourite ‘channel’ of a scruffy cat named Scragtag. Now the series has a new name – ‘Scragtag and his Tea-Time Telly’ – and instead of coming from the backyard of a second-hand furniture shop it’s now set in a boatyard. The ‘bloke with a bike’ will still get viewers’ letters to him, but Scragtag will also be going out and about himself. You’ll see him in a playbus and a classroom, where he’ll meet his young fans – and Tim the gnome. ‘Tea-Time Telly’ will have some new cartoons , too, and this week Scragtag will even be phoning Phillip Schofield.

9 comments:

  1. Didnt Flat Stanley appear on this???

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  2. Not sure if he did, but his stories would have fitted in with the tone of the show!

    Loved Flat Stanley as a kid!

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  3. Tee tee vee, teatime television
    I totally loved this show when I was wee. According to the dates, I was about 6 at the time so I should've been bored to my boots.

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    1. Well, Mr(s) Anonymous, I'm pretty sure you bloody well loved it for a good reason, so any boredom is probably just some deceitful hindsight!

      Can you remember much about the show?

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  4. Scragtag came to our school(Gossey Lane J & I) and myself and a few school friends appeared in an episode. For a long time I've been trying to find something online about it but no joy. Scragtag was fab!!!

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    1. It's fantastic to hear from one of the stars of TTV! What was it like meeting Scragtag?!

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  5. Ooo it was many moons ago. But I remember only a few children from each class got picked to film and it all being a big deal but lots and lots of fun too our parents all recorded the episode on vhs ha ha I'm now 34(nearly 35)

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    1. Sounds amazing beyond belief! Let's hope some footage of TTV turns up online one day!

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  6. I've been a regular reader of this site for about 6 months, but this is my first post - on an forgotten children's series from 30+ years ago that has always stuck in my head.

    I'm not sure if this is the sole reason TTV stuck in my head, but when I was about 8 (circa 1985/6ish) my dad gave me a clunky old portable cassette recorder, with microphone, that he had 'acquired' from work. Before long I was recording all sorts of sounds, which mostly consisted of holding the mic up to the telly and recording various clips to quietly listen to later than evening. I have a feeling, possibly save for the theme tune from that week's episode of 'The A-Team', an episode of TTV was one of the first things I ever (audio)taped off the telly.

    I clearly recall sitting in the back on my Dad's old Mark 1 Escort (it was an old car even then) one evening on the way back from wherever, tape recorder pressed against my ear listening to clips from 'TTV' I had recorded earlier and thinking I literally was living in the future.

    I can recall to this day the theme tune word by word:
    "TTV. ... Tea Time Television.

    Tonight's the Night... The Time is Right...
    For Tea Time Telly.
    TTV. ... Tea Time Television.

    What's on the show? If you really want to know...
    Watch Tea Time Telly. TTV."
    (The closing credits were a jazzy sax version of the theme)

    Scragtag himself was an 'orrible, mangy looking thing. I dare say I found him fairly amusing at times (oddly he's one of my vaguer memories from the show) but he was enough to make you itch just looking at him. My mum hated him and as such, didn't really like me watching the programme much. Silly moo.

    Scragtag's sidekick, of sorts, was Tim, a garden gnome. Silent, and non-moving, though I recall he would change positions when the camera wasn't on him.

    Of the actual content, I can remember Mr. Hiccup, the dodgy yet somehow charming Italian(?) cartoon about a fella who's never-ending hiccuping gets him into various capers - kinda like a Mr. Magoo but with hiccuping; who's "condition" saw him have capers trying to cross lakes and no doubt accidentally stopping the occasional bank robbery or such unwittingly.

    The other thing that sticks in my my was 'Periguin', typical generic schoolboy misadventures. The story that sticks in my mind (presumably one that I recorded) was Peregrine's love for bubble gum and how big he could blow bubbles, until one got so big it exploded all over him and had to be cut out of his hair. At the end he inists to his mum no more bubble gum, but "Is only chewing a bit of carrot... honest".

    I remember the name Quizicals but recall very little about it beyond the name.

    I'd forgotten the ChuckleHounds did segments til now; they went on to have their own short series, which I believe ran just before or concurrently with the classic 'Chucklevision' (I could look up dates to check, but... meh).

    I recall some sort of dancing mop head puppets, who looked a bit 'Button Moon'ish. Unless I'm very much mistaken, this "band" also had their own short five-minute series too.

    There was also some shenanigans with Philip Schofield, who Scragtag referred to as "Plip" and had some ongoing dispute (or admiration?) with him, until at the end of one episode (possibly the last in the series?) Philip arrived to see Scragtag; I did actually find a clip of this on YouTube a couple of years ago, not sure if it's been removed as no luck finding it now.

    When the series was tweaked in title and format, I vaguely recall it involving a big red bus in which the characters would travel and Scragtag travelling the country, even visiting a couple of schools. I remember thinking this tweaked series wasn't as fun; but then again, I was getting on towards, y'know, nine years old then.

    And there endeth my recollections of an obscure children's programme that has lodged in my head for all those years.

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