If you were young at some point between 1974 and the early 2000s then there's a good chance you would have watched a Saturday morning children's TV show along the lines of Tiswas, Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, Saturday Superstore, Going Live, Motormouth, Ghost Train, Live and Kicking, The 8.15 from Manchester etc. In fact, there's more than a good chance you watched these as they were on for around three and a bit hours every single Saturday morning.
They were wonderful programmes which crammed in pretty much everything that a young person could want: pop videos, cartoons, competitions, interviews and, of course, the anarchy of live television (see Matt Bianco on Saturday Superstore). Gradually, though, the televisual landscape changed and these marathon length programmes disappeared from the schedules and were replaced by non-stop streams of children's TV across a dozen channels.
Now, recently, I was lucky enough to receive a rip of an entire edition of Saturday Superstore from 16th March 1985. Aside from a few clips that I've dug up from old VHS tapes, I know very little about Saturday Superstore as I was too young to remember it. Sure, I may have watched bits alongside my older brother, but they certainly didn't stick in my memory. Therefore, I decided that it was a fantastic opportunity to relive the experience of Saturday morning children's TV, but one that was completely new to me.
Tuning in, naturally, on a Saturday morning at 9am, I conducted a thorough watch and decided to carry out a running commentary of the events. And, maybe, I'd begin to understand whether something similar could work in the 21st century.
Starting with a cold open, we've got the three presenters Sarah Greene, Keith Chegwin and Mike Read in a ship at sea as the mist rolls in across the waves. However, this is the world of mid 1980s children's TV, so it's not a real ship. Instead, it's a few props, some wooden cut outs and a smoke machine to help disguise all the rough edges.
Up in the crow's nest is Crow, a cheap and cheerful puppet crow who sees himself as some sort of comedian. Greene shouts up "What's aloft?" and Crow responds with "Where you keep your old newspapers!". Now, as a man in my mid 30s, it's the kind of groan inducing gag which makes me shake my head and roll my eyes, but as an eight year old I probably would have thought it was some exceptionally witty word play.
Perhaps pre-empting my thoughts on Crow's joke three decades on, a deep sea diver emerges from the smoke and presents the presenting trio with a message in a bottle which reads "Enough of this rubbish, it's Saturday morning, it's nine O'clock, it's time for Saturday Superstore!". Chegwin suspects that things are only going to get worse, so announces that he's not sticking round for this and jumps overboard.
The lively opening credits have kicked in with the plinky plonk Saturday Superstore theme tune going at full throttle as the presenters run round a shopping centre. And, my word, these credits are all sorts of 80s brilliance. Not only do we get to see them trying on some truly horrific fashion of the time, but we also get to see Greene pulling perhaps the most sultry pout in the history of television. Less sultry, but equally amazing, is the sight of Read in front of some state of the art video recorders. Magnificent.
There's still some smoke floating about, but Cheggars, Greene and Read are now in the studio! And, wait... Is that David Icke? David Icke was part of Saturday Superstore? Well, I never.
Anyway, it turns out that the viewers have sent in a tonne of Get Well Soon cards as Read was off sick with a cold last week. This, however, doesn't mean that Cheggers and Greene are cutting him any slack and they're soon mocking his hair. Admittedly, it is a highly curious barnet, so you can't blame them for holding it up to ridicule. Cheggers and Greene even go to the extreme of debating whether it's real and start trying to pull it off. Turns out it's real.
No mention from Icke about lizard people so far.
There are, as there are every week, kids in the studio and this week it's the turn of a youth club from Cwmbran, Wales. To make them feel more at home, The production team have stuck a load of daffodils. A belittling stereotype I suppose, but it could have been worse, they could have suspended leeks from the ceiling, blasted out some Welsh choir music and forced them to work in a coal mine.
There's some exciting news regarding competition winners, but the Superstore team are keen to build the tension and aren't announcing it just yet. The competition in question, though, they are willing to divulge. Last week there was a prize up for grabs which would surely melt the heart of any mother: a bouquet of flowers to be delivered to the mothers of three lucky winners. And I'll let you into a little secret: it's Mother's Day the day after this edition of Saturday Superstore.
It's time for a quick run down of what's on today's show and it sounds like a belter. Bryan Adams (years before that Robin Hood song) is in the studio, Manchester United's Frank Stapleton will be talking to Icke (maybe about lizards, maybe not), Strawberry Switchblade (no idea who they are) will be in the store, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys-Jones are popping in and, finally, we'll be discovering who this year's Superstar of 1985 is.
Before all that, though, it's time for a Tex Avery cartoon. On this occasion it's something called 'Rock-A-Bye Bear' which features a dog getting pins stuck into its backside on numerous occasions. Great fun if you're a pin (and that's your bag), but bad news if you're a dog. Ultimately, it's a rather dull cartoon punctuated only by the hollering of an angry bear trying to get some sleep.
It's time for more get well messages for Mike Read, the kids really loved him back then (even if he had been a fusspot the year before and refused to play Relax by Frankie). As for Greene, well, her hair looks amazing here. The amount of hairspray involved probably put a hole in the ozone layer though. Nonetheless, there's an engaging personality bubbling away within Greene and I still maintain that she's the greatest primary school teacher that never was. Well, her and Chloe Ashcroft.
Anyway, there's another competition (or Store Bargain) coming up and you can win a 14" Sony television. All you have to do is list your three favourite features on Saturday Superstore, three things you dislike about the show and then suggest a new item. Answers on a postcard - when was the last time someone entered a competition on a postcard? It's all premium rate text messages now.
Whilst all this has been going on, that little robot called Sieve Head has been bleeping and spinning about on Mike's desk. It's a remarkable construction for the BBC in 1985 and is highly impressive. These days, of course, it would be a charmless CGI creation to save on space, money and time. In fact, you only have to zip forward nine years to find a CGI cat companion called Rats in the Broom Cupboard. Remember him? No, no one does. Says it all.
Now it's time for the first of two specially recorded music videos featuring Strawberry Switchblade. As I said earlier, I have no prior knowledge of who they are or what they sound like. Well, guess what, they're bloody amazing? Dressed in a manner which can only be described as Gothic French maid spliced with the DNA of a New Romantic, they're a world away from the Primark clad pop stars of today.
And the song they're performing - Who Knows What Love Is - is a fantastic slice of dreamy pop rock backed with chiming harmonies. Sadly, a quick bit of research reveals that they only completed one album before splitting up. Will I be downloading the album and sticking Strawberry Switchblade posters on my wall after this? Almost certainly.
It's time find out who the winners of the Mother's Day flower baskets are. And, as Greene reveals, Interflora will be delivering the baskets that very afternoon, which is pretty impressive. The question which was set last week by John (I assume Craven) was fiendishly difficult: What is the correct name for the plant commonly known as Mother in Law's Tongue? I have absolutely no idea about this and I'm an adult in my mid 30s, so how they expected children to know this is beyond me.
And, remember, in the mid 1980s there was no such thing as Wikipedia. Finding out the answers to such perplexing questions took some real legwork. I doubt this particular answer would be found in the family encyclopaedia, so some genuine legwork would be involved. I'm talking about a trip to the library and a severe scanning of the books in the botany section. All this for the love of a mother, it almost brings a tear to my eye. Anyway, the answer is Sansevieria and the three winners - as picked from a shopping basket - are:
- Terry Peacock (Read mocks his handwriting)
- Rosalyn Porter
- John Kernow
Their mothers are going to be cock-a-hoop.
It's time for David Sandeman! But who is he? I didn't know either, but it turns out he managed to sail across the Atlantic in his boat Sea Raider when he was 17 (he's 26 now). There's a short film of his exploits backed by Rod Stewart's Sailing. Following this, we cut to Cheggers and Sandeman in the warehouse. Sandeman's exploits are certainly impressive (all I did at 17 was fail my driving theory test), but he's not the most scintillating 26 year old in the world. In fact, he's akin to a company director in his mid 50s down at the local sailing club.
Cheggers, however, is his usual ebullient self and reminds you why he was on TV for so long. Oh and he informs us that there's a dinghy show currently on at Crystal Palace. I suspect that less than 0.1% of the Saturday Superstore audience attended this.
Mike and Crow are reading through the viewer's letters. A couple of viewers were so shocked to hear, on a previous edition, that Crow was smelly that they've decided to remedy this by sending in some Crowfume. Crow says it smells horrible, but Read ignores this and throws it all over Crow. Read then goes on to advise listeners they can ring in to speak to the guests and, if they feel like it, make fun of them.
As Bryan Adams is one of the guests today, it's time to watch the video for his latest single Somebody. It's a very Bryan Adams song and video featuring Bryan Adams being Bryan Adams in the style of Bryan Adams.
Bryan Adams is in the studio chatting to Read. There's some rather mundane waffle about Adams' morning routine and his latest European tour. Adams mentions that Switzerland is his favourite country and Read takes this opportunity to inform Adams that his garden was thick with snow this morning. Understandably, Adams is far from flabbergasted at this news.
And then things get deep when Adams starts discussing musique concrète which Wikipedia describes as "a form of musique expérimentale that exploits acousmatic listening, meaning sound identities can often be intentionally obscured or appear unconnected to their source cause". This is absolutely unnecessary at 9.30 in the morning.
Moving things back into the realms of children's TV, it's time to reveal the winners from some of last week's competitions:
- Alvin Stardust competition: Viewers had to look at the letters on a telephone's keypad and determine the number combination that spelled out SUPERSTORE. Fiona Bell from Chatham is the winner and gets an Alvin Stardust record and a phone.
- Nicholas Lyndhurst competition: To be in with a chance of winning some Only Fools and Horses photos and Rodney's jacket, you had to write in and confirm what's written on the side of Del Boy's Regal Reliant van. As we all know, it's "Trotters Independent Traders" and the winner is David Fargood from Clacton.
Read hands back to Cheggers and Icke who are with the kids from Cwmbran. Cheggers, for some unknown reason, is doing a 'Rolf Harris with a wobble board' impression, but it doesn't really work. Following this disastrous impression, Cheggers and Icke - whilst a mic hovers into view several times - are getting to know the youth of Cwmbran who also happen to own some of the worst jumpers ever seen on British TV. Cheggers has written a song for them to sing with its main subjects being Saturday Superstore and Wales, but it's no Strawberry Switchblade.
Now over to Greene and Read who are unfurling an exceptionally long roll of paper. And on this paper are 3,000 stickers all loving applied by hand by Melissa and Belinda from Weybridge. Quite why they've done this I'm not entirely sure. It's certainly taken a lot of effort, but they could have just as easily got their names mentioned on Saturday Superstore by drawing a picture of Read eating a pie. These days, of course, Pinterest would offer up a virtual solution to Melissa and Belinda's effort.
Greene and Read move on to taking some calls from the viewers. Peter Grant rings in to ask if the presenter's lines are from a script or made up. Read scoffs at this and explains that they couldn't possibly learn a 3 1/2 hour script in a week. Greene is a little more polite and holds up a copy of this week's running order to show how they work. Peter Grant then asks for the presenters to say "Hello" to his brother Benjamin, but Read chooses to ignore this.
I was a little snide about Sandeman earlier, but it turns out I was wrong. He's back with Cheggers in the warehouse and discussing his exploits in a little more detail and his story is one of graft and bravery. Several callers are waiting to ask Sandeman questions regarding the loneliness and danger he faced whilst crossing the Atlantic and he handles these admirably.
Following these calls, it's time for another competition and this time there's a nautical theme to tie in with Sandeman's presence. On offer is a Topper dinghy and, although it's not up for grabs for an individual, you can win it for a local youth group or club simply by nominating them. The winning nominator, however, won't be left empty handed as they'll win a week's worth of dinghy lessons.
Now it's time for the Telegrams which feature various drawings and paintings by viewers on themes such as birthdays, odes to football teams and even requests for Joe. S to ask out Dena. It's a standard staple of children's TV and can still be found on the various children's channels today. Most pressing, though, is the question regarding whether Joe. S asked out Dena and if they're still together today. In my most wild fantasy, they still are and they had a son which they christened Mike Read. S.
This week's telegrams are backed by the dulcet tones of Penny Crook singing her debut single Will You Help Me. Penny, of course, was the 1984 Superstore Superstar. And she's a bloody little talent. Unfortunately, it appears that her career sank without trace as various Google searches reveal nothing. Therefore, it would appear that she was the Steve Brookstein of her day. And that's a label no one wants.
Just coming up to the hour mark and it's time for Sound Off with Greene. This is where the viewers can write in to complain about various grievances that they want to get off their chest.
Several viewers are put out that they find it impossible to buy records before they're in the chart (something that's ridiculously easy to achieve in the internet age), another viewer is desperate to find out if there's a Bruce Springsteen fan club (Greene then plugs a fan club directory, but cruelly it doesn't contain one for The Boss) and there's a big demand for more no smoking areas. Nowadays, there's no need for a postage stamp to get your airs viewed, you just log onto Twitter and rant about whatever you want, so Sound Off feels strangely archaic.
It's time for a bit of Frank Stapleton, but, before they talk to him, it's time to show off a few clips of his footballing brilliance. Following this, David Icke settles down to interview Stapleton who is fresh from a 2-2 draw with West Ham the night before. Back in 1985, footballers weren't as drilled in media training as they are today, but Stapleton doesn't fare too badly. There's also the opportunity for David Eccles from Bingley to appear on TV with Stapleton as he won a competition in Match magazine. And Eccles sits next to Stapleton like an absolute pro.
There's also the chance to reveal the results of a football based competition which Jimmy Hill recently set. Viewers were challenged to match his picks for the best European XI of 1985. And little Carl Dean of Tollerton has matched Hill's picks and, my word, it's a phenomenal selection which would easily rival that of any other era. Stapleton is impressed too and reveals how Ray Wilkins has recently been eulogising about the amount of things that Platini can do with a football.
Unfortunately for Carl Dean of Tollerton, though, there doesn't appear to be a prize on offer for matching the thought processes of Jimmy Hill. And if anything deserves a prize it's that.
It's now time for Mike Read to serve up a couple of BBC plugs. Casually brandishing a copy of the recently launched BEEB magazine, Read informs the viewers that there's a new 'pop video' programme coming Lift Off! which is looking for photos of pop fans with pop stars. I can't remember Lift Off! at all, but it appears to have run for three series in the mid to late 1980s.
The wonder of pop stars soon segues into something a little more highbrow as Read turns his attentions to Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest project. Dedicated to the memory of Lloyd Webber's father, Requiem is a requiem mass which has recently premiered in New York. And, for the choirboys of Winchester Cathedral, it's proved to be an exciting adventure. In the studio to discuss their transatlantic exploits is Paul Miles-Kingston.
Although Miles-Kingston is a little shy at first, all staring at the floor, he soon warms up and starts talking about his Requiem experience. He mostly chats about how he fits in his choir work with his school work and how the New York school kids were much better at basketball - I'd like to see them try their hand at cricket or lawn bowls as it would be a much different story. Miles-Kingston is also overjoyed that he got to work with Placido Domingo as a result of Requiem.
And it turns out that Miles-Kingston carried on singing for a few years and is currently holed up as the director of music at St Peter's School, York.
Read's musical odyssey has now set its sights on rock music, so it's back to Bryan Adams. I'm actually warming to Adams now, mostly because he's a football fan and has played quite a bit in Canada and Portugal. I'd like to have seen David Icke grill Adams on the history of Canadian football, but, instead, it's time for some questions from the viewers.
Adams reveals that if he could meet anyone then it would be John Lennon. Now, this is hardly an original choice, but Read is completely taken aback by this fact because, guess what, he himself has said the same thing before. Adams is rather nonplussed by this revelation, so he starts answering a question regarding what he would have done if he wasn't a singer. And, in true Canadian style, he tells us that he would have been a lumberjack. This, apparently, is every boy's dream in Canada, so Read informs Adams that every boy's dream in Britain is to be a train driver. Is it? Is is really?
And then there's a question from Penny Feurr who wants to know who Adams would most like to duet with. He's not sure he can top his recent duet with Tina Turner, but John Lennon (upon Read's suggestion) is also a contender. It's a nice enough question, but then things go a little odd. Read tells Penny Feurr that she's a got a nice voice. Okay. Then he expands on this idea by saying she has a sexy voice. Read, please! You're 38! When could that sort of comment ever be a good idea on a children's show? Oh, sure, you find out after this that she's 16, but still, JESUS!
The section concludes, not with Read expressing any hint of embarrassment, but with a Bryan Adams competition. Up for grabs is a heavy red jacket (I'm not sure what a heavy jacket is), a VHS tape and a record. The question set is ridiculously easy, especially when compared to that Mother in Law's Tongue question, and is: what is the national emblem of Canada?
Cheggers is back in the warehouse and, with him, is multi-million pound entrepreneur, Richard Branson. However, far from being a confident businessman, Branson is ridiculously nervous and awkward here. He's also wearing an incredibly dull 80s jumper. Branson is here to discuss his attempt to claim the Blue Riband trophy for crossing the Atlantic in the quickest time. Instead, he mostly mumbles, trips over his words, giggles and plays with his face.
Here's a little spoiler for you: Branson's 1985 Blue Riband assault failed, but he later succeeded in 1986.
It's time for another Strawberry Switchblade video recorded specifically for Saturday Superstore. This time they're performing their single Let Her Go and, again, it's a pleasing slice of jangly, dream pop. This time there's also the added bonus of some gloriously 80s multi-view effects on offer, so it really does have everything.
Finally, Strawberry Switchblade are in the studio! And aren't they a lovely couple of young women? Comprised almost entirely of giggles and effervescence shot through with punk sensibilities, Bryson and McDowall reveal how they met through their boyfriends and that it's easier to style their hair when it's dirty. The cherry on top, though, is that they're big fans of The Young Ones and Robbie Coltrane. Seriously, what is there to dislike about them?
There's also a fantastic competition on offer. Up for grabs is a Strawberry Switchblade 'bath bag' which comes complete with strawberry toothpaste, strawberry lip balm and a set of strawberry bath mits. Outside of the bath bag, there are some rather swanky vinyl picture discs for their latest single and a copy of the promo video. In order to win all this wonderful booty, you need to inform the guys and gals at Saturday Superstore what the name of the plant family is that the strawberry belongs to.
It's a decent question, not exceptionally difficult, but one which would take a little bit of work for children to discover. Today, of course, you can Google it in three seconds flat. The answer, to save you three seconds work, is the Rose family.
Next up is Plug of the Week and, if you're a young ornithologist, you're going to be a like a pig in the proverbial. If you're not, then, I don't know, maybe you'd go and grab a Panda Pop for this bit.
Receiving a plug this week, through Greene's infectious enthusiasm, is the Young Ornithologist Club. In particular they're looking for help from the general public in the migration patterns of birds returning to Britain. Through the medium of a special phone-in model, viewers can contact regional numbers every Tuesday to describe the migration patterns they've observed locally. Where can you find these numbers? On good old Ceefax, so there's a brief snippet of archive Ceefax magnificence.
Again, the progression of technology would mean that, firstly, children would be completely baffled by what the hell Ceefax was and, secondly, an app would be the preferred method for children to provide their input.
More viewers' letters and photos now with Read. Someone's sent in a picture of them posing next to a 'HEAVY PLANT CROSSING' sign which has seen better days and now reads 'HEAVY ANT CROSSING' which Read finds hilarious.
Catherine Hall, meanwhile, has written in as she's desperate for a Saturday Superstore pen and, to prove this, she's composed a rhyming poem to describe her insatiable desire for said pen. She's even enclosed an SAE for them to send it to her, so she's not being completely unreasonable. Read says they'll send her a pen. I really hope she received it. And still has it.
Icke hasn't been on screen for a while now, so it's time for his sporting passions to come to the fore once more (it's not just Catherine Hall who can rhyme) in Sporting Requests. I'm not entirely sure why, but the section starts with Read, rather eccentrically, throwing a fish prop over to Icke.
Picking up this fishy baton, Icke entertains viewers' requests for sporting footage from the archives. Up this week is footage from the 1984 Benson and Hedges Cup final, the North of England XI playing the All Blacks in 1983 and, most delightfully, the daughters of marathon runner Colin Kirkham have written in to request footage of him coming 4th in the 1971 European Games marathon.
Thanks to YouTube, and its abundance of sporting clips from 1890 up to this afternoon, this type of section would be completely redundant now.
Richard Branson has been allowed back on screen and, apparently, he's ready to take some phone calls with Read. Let's hope we're not going to witness a panic attack. The signs aren't good as he's still acting fidgety, fiddly and struggling to speak in coherent sentences. The callers don't probe too deeply and, quite frankly, I don't think Branson could have handled anything more complex than questions regarding his favourite hobbies (windsurfing, tennis and swimming) and that his favourite football team is Oxford (although he's only saying that as he lives there).
Read, aside from boasting about having been round Branson's house, seems most concerned with the surname of a caller by the name of Andy Eleazu. Read is disappointed that young Andy doesn't know the origins of his unusual surname, but even a quick Google search uncovers little on the name Eleazu (it may be Nigerian). It's also the perfect moment for Read to spoil the identity of today's surprise guest by telling a Paul Young fan that she should keep her eyes peeled later. Don't ruin it for the kids, Read. Please.
I'll turn the focus back to Branson as this section should be about him, not Read's eccentricities. So, yes, Branson is still here and he's got a competition with some quite astounding prizes. There's a Virgin bag packed full of Virgin goodies including t-shirts, computer games and a calculator, a model Virgin plane and, wait for it, two return tickets to America. Just imagine heading to America in 1985 and watching The Goonies a cool five months before it came out in the UK. Amazing.
All you have to do is answer this question: What was the name of the plane that Charles Lindbergh made the first solo flight across the Atlantic in? The answer, which is probably easy enough to be found in any encyclopaedia is The Spirit of St Louis. I can only imagine that the BBC post room was flooded with entries that week.
Attentions now turn towards the SuperSponsorBoard with Greene where sponsored events are given a quick plug. There's an exhibition (confusingly it's not sponsored) at Britannic House (now known as CityPoint) on Down's Syndrome to look forward to and the Focus Gateway Club are doing a 400 mile relay race from Edinburgh to London. Everything featured is for a good cause, so it's a fine lesson in altruism in the viewers and hopefully sparked an interest in charity work.
Every superstore needs a store detective and Saturday Superstore is no different, so please welcome Sherlock, a dog far too cute to do much more to a potential thief than nibble at its ankle. Such is the love for Sherlock that one viewer has submitted a curious drawing of Read and Sherlock. While Sherlock pads around on Chegger's desk in the warehouse, Cheggers deals with some complaints from the viewers.
Their most pressing concern is that, in the latest Saturday Superstore book, there's a mistake on page 39 that identifies jockey Bob Champion as Rob Champion. One mistake is not enough, though, and other viewers have realised that the same page claims there are 13 red balls on a snooker table when there are 15. In terms of scandals, it's not exactly the Profumo affair. Still, there's nothing more satisfying for a child than to point out an adult's mistake, so it's a good excuse for children to ratchet up their levels of smugness.
Stone me! The sloppiness continues as Read confesses that there should have been five winners in the Michael Jackson competition last week, but they only picked one! Read swiftly reveals four additional winners and, for now, all is well in the Superstore.
In fact, things are only getting better and better on Saturday Superstore as Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones are coming in to promote their new film Morons from Outer Space. First, though, we're going to take a look at the music video for the tie in single. Although a jolly little song, it's nothing remarkable and, much like the film, it made little impact on the British public. Nearly 35 years on, it's a curiosity but nothing more.
Smith and Jones are now in the studio with Read and providing plenty of value, Jones is also looking particularly smart in his suit jacket and burgundy shirt. Smith discloses that they decided to release the Morons single to make more money and Jones tells Read that the gala premiere is being held in Basildon. Read goes onto inform Smith and Jones that he was hoping to show a clip of their send up of Read's Pop Show programme, but the tape has, he says, been stolen by screaming fans. Yet more competitions need winners picked, so Read gets Smith and Jones on the prize picks.
Rolf Harris (oh dear) had previously asked "Which country is the America's cup now held in?" and the answer, predictably, was Australia. The winner is Katriana Ray from Alness, Scotland and she's won a Rolf Harris LP called 'Coojeebear and the Monster'. No doubt that record has since been smashed up.
Judith Hanns, meanwhile, has posed a question which asks "What is the vital ingredient that makes brown bread good for you?" and the answer is fibre. Can you class fibre as an ingredient? It's certainly never listed as one, but perhaps I'm being pedantic. Anyway, the prize on offer is a health plan, a couple of Tomorrow's World books (which Hann presented for 20 years) and a swimming bag. Josephine Fieldon from Garstang, Lancashire wins and Read remarks that he's never seen a swimming bag before. He's clearly never lived.
The final prize pick is for a competition set by Spelt Like This (a short lived synth-pop band) who set viewers the task of making anagrams out of the title of their new single Contract of the Heart. Suggestions from the viewers include "Choc or treat then fat", "Note for the chart act", "No chatter for the cat" and "Thatcher one for tact". However, the winner is Simon Sergeant from Farnham with "Force that chart tone". And Simon wins a dictionary, some chocolate, a sweatshirt and a Spelt Like This LP for his dalliance with wordplay.
None of these competitions have remarkable prizes, but it's always fun to receive something in the post that you haven't had to pay for; it's a joy which as welcome in 2018 as it was in 1985. Read promises that Smith and Jones will be back later, but for now it's time for Saturday Specials which, this week, is backed by Don Henley's Boys of Summer.
Saturday Specials is fairly similar to the earlier Telegrams section, but purely features photos sent in by viewers with a brief message. Again, it provides a few seconds of fame for those featured, but I suspect its main purpose is to allow set changes to take place.
It's finally time for the results of this year's Search for a Superstar! Read and Greene are standing at a podium and the contestants are all gathered round as they anxiously await the results. The whole affair is fairly low-rent compared to the sickening glitz of modern day talent extravaganzas such as Britain's Got Talent. And, as a result, it infuses the affair with a curious charm, much like an end of year school talent show.
Six lucky contestants have made it to the final and they are:
- Carl and Claire Smith: Carl's on the drums and singing whilst sister Sarah backs him up on keyboards as they perform Queen's 'I Want to Break Free'
- Cheeky Bits: An upbeat dance collective wearing some disturbingly skimpy outfits
- Derek Cullen: A dancer who enjoys dancing in PVC clothing to Carol Lynn Townes 'Believe in the Beat'
- Nigel Harvey: Ventriloquism is Nigel's area of expertise and he's a performing a routine with his monkey puppet
- Jamie Bowden and Prudence Oliver: With their eyes and hearts set on the West End, Jamie and Prudence are belting out a version of Gee, Office Krupke from West Side Story.
- Scarlet Ribbons: Unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure what Scarlet Ribbons are doing. Okay, yes, the older girl sings a song (I can't figure out what it is) and twirls a younger girl around, but what is this?
And, as a special treat, there's a surprise mystery guest to award the prizes. Unfortunately, Read started yapping about Paul Young earlier and more or less confirmed it would be be him. And, guess what, it's Paul Young.
Read, however, manages to summon some respect for the audience by not suddenly screaming out the name of the winner and, instead, allows Young to announce the results:
- 3rd Prize: Scarlet Ribbons, who, although her act is obscure, does have a phenomenal voice on her and it's nor surprise that she takes third place. Her prize for belting out such fantastic vocals is an electronic organ with a built in music game.
- 2nd Prize: Second place goes to the familial duo of Carl and Claire Smith. They're a talented pair, but perhaps picking a song popularised by Freddie Mercury's inimitable vocals was probably too taxing to pull off. Nonetheless, they've won a cassette player with a built in recorder for vocals and backing tracks.
- 1st Prize: This year's superstar is Derek Cullen with his brand of graceful, balletic dancing taking the spoils. His prize is a Sony television and the coveted Superstore trophy (which looks like it was knocked up in 5 minutes). There's also a bonus surprise for Cullen as he'll be appearing on the following Monday's edition of Wogan.
It doesn't appear that Cullen went on to become a true superstar, but there's a very brief mention of a Derek Cullen being involved in some choreography online. I'd sleep a lot sounder at night if I knew he was still involved with his passion, so please get in touch if you know for sure. One act who continued honing his act was Nigel Harvey who worked as a ventriloquist round the holiday parks for 20 years before moving into acting.
Even though none of the contestants went onto fame and fortune, Search for a Superstar is a good outlet for young people to demonstrate their creativity.The 21st century, though, has decided to lump all age groups together in Britain's Got Talent which, if you ask me, doesn't exactly serve up a level playing ground.
Icke is back and this time there's a hint of comedy to his sports desk as he's ready to crown the 'winners' of Saturday Superstore's search for the Worst Football Team in Britain. There were hundreds of entries, but, with some relish, Icke can reveal that the absolute worst football team in Britain are Shortheath Juniors from Walsall. Their current record stands at played 18 and lost 18; in the process, they've only managed to score four goals whilst conceding 400.
Their prize for such abominable performances is actually rather fantastic. It's a visit to Old Trafford which includes a guided tour by a sheepskin jacket clad Bobby Charlton. In 1985, of course, Manchester United hadn't won the league for nearly 20 years and they were still eight years away from finally ending this barren run. It's intriguing to see glimpses of Old Trafford before all the redevelopment kicked into gear in the 1990s, but even back in 1985, United were getting the highest league attendances.
Charlton is kind enough to take the lads for a quick spot on training to hone their skills and hopefully stop the rot. And there's a further surprise in store in the form of a match against the local Salford lads. Despite being the same age, the boys from Salford are physically superior and can string a series of decent passes together. Shortheath Juniors lose count of score in the end, but, rest assured, it's heavily in favour of the lads from Salford.
Shortheath Juniors are such a great bunch of lads that Icke has got them in the studio today and it appears that the coaching has finally paid off. In their last game they managed to score two goals. Mind you, they conceded 21, but they're clearly making progress. There's more good news as Bobby Charlton is on the phone to reveal that TSB - the sponsors of the Bobby Charlton Soccer School - are going to pay for a week's worth of coaching for the team in the summer. And Charlton reckons that, although it'll be difficult, he might be able to improve them enough to win a game one day.
We're now heading from Icke's area of expertise over to Read's with Pop Panel which features all the day's guests opining on the latest music videos. It's an absolute bonanza of 80s musicianship and here's what's on offer:
- Everytime You Go Away - Paul Young: Everyone is very complimentary of what was an international best seller for Young. It's not really a surprise that everyone's full of praise as Young is still knocking about the studio. Branson, who knows a thing or two about the music industry, isn't too keen on the video though and labels it as dull.
- Call to the Heart - Giuffria: A slice of hair metal which is, to my eyes, interminably dull and riddled with every cliche of the genre. Strawberry Switchblade aren't keen on the girl in the video with a fur coat as they're vehemently against the fur industry. Mel Smith, meanwhile, is more concerned about the amount of animals killed to make the band's wigs. Overall it gets a mixed set of reviews from the guests.
- That Ole Devil Called Love - Alison Moyet: If Alison Moyet ever wants to cross the Atlantic then she shouldn't wait for a lift from David Sandeman as he would not have this song on his boat. Mel Smith doesn't have much time for the song, but is taken with Moyet's voice. Everyone else, though, is rather keen and Moyet's offering is deemed a success.
Judging the latest pop videos was a mainstay of Saturday morning children's TV and it always guarantees an engaging watch due to the subjective nature of taste. And, in an era where MTV in the UK was still a few years away, features such as Pop Panel act as a valuable chance to glimpse the latest music videos.
Moving on, there's time for a quick competition to be set and, seeing as You Spin me Round by Dead or Alive is flying high in the charts, Read asks the following question: What force keeps water in a bucket if you spin it around? The prizes on offer appear to be some Spelt Like This and Andrew Lloyd Webber LPs, a Morons from Outer Space 7" and some Marvel marbles. There doesn't appear to be any Dead or Alive memorabilia, which is a little odd.
Cheggers, Greene and Sherlock are back in the warehouse and there's a return to Saturday Superstore's obsession with anagrams. Having asked viewers to make anagrams out of several words/phrases related to the programme, Cheggers and Greene announce the following suggestions:
- SUPERSTORE = SOURER STEP / TRUE POSERS
- KEITH CHEGWIN = WEE HICK THING
- MIKE READ = A MERE KID
- SARAH GREENE = AGE NEARS HER
Clearly, this section is filler and acts merely as a device to pad out a running order prone to fluctuations, but at least it's fostered a sense of creativity in the viewers. Well, in at least five. Sadly, it's a feature which would warrant little respect today as cheating would be rampant thanks to the millions of anagram machines available online.
Pushing cynicism to one side, for a moment, there's something truly wonderful to celebrate on Saturday Superstore this week as Greene is presenting her 50th edition! A true professional, Greene isn't singing her own praises, but is as pleased to punch to reveal that Kevin Cook has sent in a congratulations card for her efforts. I've got no idea who Kevin Cook is, but it's a sweet gesture.
And there's also the opportunity for one final competition. On offer is a silver tour jacket featured in Morons from Outer Space and a VHS copy of the music video. The question is relatively simple as all Smith and Jones want to know is what the name of the Geordie actor/singer that's featured singing the main part of the song in the video. It's Jimmy Nail, but please note that this competition closed over 33 years ago, so please don't try entering.
There's still one more music video to come and it's everyone's favourite, Greg Kihn! Who? No, me neither. Apparently he's some type of American musician. He's the kind of American singer that your dad would have liked in the 80s. Anyway, he's performing his latest single Lucky and it's tiresomely awful.
Right, Kihn has faded out, and all there's left to do now for the presenters is to wrap up the show. There's a quick update on what's coming up next week - Carl Davis, The British Railway Steam Film, Frankie Goes to Hollwood and Tears for Fears - while Greene gives a big thanks to all the Superstar finalists. And, finally, with St Patrick's Day fast approaching, the presenters wish everyone a happy St Patrick's day and indulge in a spot of Irish dancing. Branson, who finally seems to be conquering his nerves, attempts to join in, but, oh dear, he's just as awkward as ever.
AND THAT'S IT!
Can Saturday Morning Children's TV Still Work?
Well, that was a marathon watch. Admittedly, it was very rare that you would watch an entire episode of Saturday morning children's TV. Usually, you'd get dragged out the house at some point by your parents to go up town or get your hair cut. Failing that, your mates might even come round and invite you out to throw rocks at things and steal penny sweets. Nonetheless, watching this edition of Saturday Superstore never felt gruelling and there was more than enough entertainment on offer.
There's truly something for everyone here, but viewing habits and they way we digest popular culture have changed beyond all recognition since 1985. For one thing, there are no longer just four channels to choose from on a Saturday morning. There are hundreds. This has fractured the audience in ways that Saturday Superstore could never imagine. And then there's the massive impact of social media. Virtually every feature of Saturday morning children's TV is now covered by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The opportunity on offer for children to interact with pop stars, display their photos and watch the latest music videos is available every single second of the day. Sure, there's no sense of continuity between all these different formats and channels, but the choice on offer is phenomenal. Saturday morning children's TV, as we used to know it, will never come back, but this doesn't mean we should forget it. It was the best way to satisfy a huge audience who were bored out of their minds and, as a result, will never be forgotten by those who were there for it.