Monday 1 December 2014

5 Hidden Gems of Children's Christmas TV

Let's face it, Christmas was always, ALWAYS, the pinnacle of every child's year. The endless anticipation of whether you'd get all 600 items on your list, the sugar induced insanity brought on by too many Matchmakers and then, of course, there was the festive telly. All your bog standard, everyday shows, but with with tinsel hastily thrown up in the corner of the studio.

The arrival of the Christmas editions of the Radio Times and TV Times meant that it was time for some intense scrutiny of the festive listings. You had to watch as much as possible and, more importantly, plan a recording schedule. That one Christmas VHS would provide hours of entertainment all year round, because, get this, Christmas telly was that spellbinding.

In all the excitement of Christmas, though, some of the shows we adored were forgotten and lost to the mysteries of time. In order to make sure you know there's more to life than The Snowman, we're going to take you through our five picks of Christmas children's shows you need to watch.

ChuckleVision- Traditional Christmas - 19/12/1987

chuckle brothers christmas

Despite running for over 20 years ChuckleVision yielded relatively few Christmas specials, but one that really stands out is from the very first series in 1987.

Barry's gone and got Paul a lovely, sparkly present to put underneath the Christmas tree, but as per the standard Chuckle Brother relationship, Paul hasn't got Barry anything - it's better for Barry to give than receive according to Paul.

In between philosophical musing on the concept of altruism, we're treated to a series of sketches where Paul and Barry attempt carol singing, Merseyside DJ Billy Butler pops up with a festive edition of 'Armchair Theatre' and magician Simon Lovell conjures up a Christmas cake.

In the end everyone's left smiling as Paul makes Barry's Christmas dreams come true with a ridiculously large present, but curiously we never do find out what's in there. A particularly large jammy doughnut, perhaps?

The episode's a relatively simple affair and is a world away from the plotcentric, narrative approach of series 3 onwards, but it's a celebration of brotherly love and, apart from lashings of egg nog, what more do you want at Christmas?

'Traditional Christmas' can be found on the ChuckleVision series 1 DVD.

Knightmare Series 4 Episode 16 - 21/12/1990

Knightmare Christmas

Sure, it's not exactly a Christmas episode. Hell, for 99% of the episode there's not even a whisper about the festive season. However, that final 1% produces a wonderful bauble to hang on the Curious British Telly Christmas tree.

Helmet wearing Giles is deep in the dungeon, standing atop a transporter pad and his advisors are debating his next step. Suddenly, the dungeon begins to shake; Pickle is alarmed, but Treguard assures him it's just the end of this particular era for the dungeon. Treguard casts a quick spell to reunite Giles with Robin, Andrew and Bret. And then...

Merlin appears! And he's not just in the mood for some beardy sorcery! With a quick wave of his wand Knightmare Castle is covered in decorations and 'Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly' starts playing!

At the time we were absolutely overjoyed. School had finished a few hours earlier and we were getting more and more excited by the minute. The icing on the cake was this short, magical segment which left us with a huge smile on our face.

Giles and his team weren't exactly singing "Joy to the World" what with their quest being cut short though...

The whole episode can be found here.

Fat Tulip's Christmas - 25/12/1987

Fat Tulip Christmas

Tony Robinson's surreal tales of the goings on at Little Monkhams was rewarded with the ultimate honour of a Christmas special in 1987.

Fat Tulip wants to have a fun filled Christmas with all their best mates and plenty of stuffing sandwiches, but Thin Tim puts the kaibosh on this as he wants a quiet affair with his Aunt Mable. Out in the garden, Ernie and Sylvia the frogs have received a suspicious invitation to a Christmas party organized by the toads.

Things become complicated when Fred the Baddie turns up with 20 fellow inmates from the local prison. After Fat Tulip turns them away, 21 suspicious looking Aunt Mables turn up and are invited in. Meanwhile, the deceitful toads are party is nothing more than a ruse to rob the garden folk of their grub.

With a little helping of festive luck and cheer, though, the toads get their comeuppance and everyone else parties the night away.

Fat Tulip's Christmas was the final episode of the Fat Tulip franchise and makes for a fitting end. It's a quirky, surreal take on Christmas and Tony Robinson, again, manages to confidently portray all the characters without confusing the viewer. It also has the added bonus of Tony Robinson getting to grips with a turnip.

Fat Tulip's Christmas can be found on the Fat Tulip DVD.

The Children of Green Knowe - 26/11/1986 - 17/12/1986

Everyone's go to choice for Christmas telefantasy seems to be The Box of Delights, but that's a bit too popular for us so we're sticking with 1986's The Children of Green Knowe.

Tolly (Alec Christie) has been given the festive treat of spending Christmas with his maternal great-grandmother (Daphne Oxenford) at the family home of Green Knowe. Delightful it may sound, but it turns out that Tolly is in for a traditional Christmas ghost story.

Across four episodes and set against a wonderfully atmospheric BBC Radiophonic soundtrack, Tolly finds himself interacting with ancient ancestors and fighting evil forces on the way to rummaging through his stocking on Christmas day.

Although Christmas doesn't start making its presence felt until the last two episodes, The Children of Green Knowe retains a wintry, festive charm and you can't help but cosily wrap yourself up in great granny Tolly's family history.

The whole serial is up on YouTube here.

Roland's Yuletide Binge - 25/12/1985

roland rat christmas

The self professed rodent superstar, Roland Rat, had defected to the BBC in October 1985 and a Christmas special was hastily put together to guarantee a healthy audience on the big day.

Roland's live Christmas extravaganza from the BBC is just about to be broadcast, but there's a slight technical difficulty - Roland's asleep in the rat cave!

Rushing to the Ratmobile, Roland looks like he's just about going to make it. However, the Ratmobile is in serious need of an MOT and only manages to move a few inches before the head gasket blows.

Desperate to the point of taking Errol the Hamster's advice, Roland and Kevin the Gerbil hop on a milkfloat and 'race' to Television Centre.

A whole host of stars are waiting to greet, obstruct and divert Roland such as Frankie Howerd, Valerie Singleton, the Saturday Superstore team, Russell Grant, Jan Leeming, Ian Mccaskill, Beryl Reid and Mr Showbiz himself, D'Arcy De Farcy.

Will Roland make it to the studio in time to broadcast the Christmas special to beat all specials?!

Roland Rat's appeal was never limited to just the kids, there was always plenty for the adults to pull a wry smile about and Yuletide Binge is no different. There's laughs, stars and even a few singalongs, so it's a traditional Christmas variety show.

The show was only ever broadcast once, but luckily our parents recorded it for us on their newly purchased Ferguson Videostar. As a result, we watched it endlessly all year round for the next couple of years. That VHS was lost long ago, but thankfully the whole thing is up on YouTube here.

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