Saturday, 25 August 2018

A Further 42 Lesser Known British Children's TV Shows

Last year, I wrote an article which looked at 42 lesser known British children's TV shows that, for one reason of another, failed to gain a mention in all those 'best ever children's TV' polls that occasionally get trotted out to state the obvious. It's proved fairly popular with my readers, so I decided to gather together a further 42 lesser known British children's TV shows to pore over and see if you remember. Or, at the very least, think "Oooh! I wouldn't mind watching that!"

So, uh, yeah, here's a lengthy look at a further 42 lesser known British children's TV shows:

1. The Giddy Game Show - ITV - 1985 to 1987


Young children love playing little games that stimulate their memory and visual skills, so The Giddy Game Show was perfectly placed to tap into this obsession. Created by Marian Lines and Joy Whitby, The Giddy Game Show aired on ITV over the course of fifty two episodes in the mid 1980s and was produced by Yorkshire Television. Episodes aired during the ITV lunchtime slot and also in the afternoon Children's ITV slot.


An animated affair, the series is presented by the titular Giddy (Redvers Kyle), a green, helmet clad alien who, in a state of almost delirious happiness, flies about on a red wand and helps to point out the correct (or occasionally incorrect) answers. Giddy isn't on his own of course and is joined in the observatory setting by the professor Gus (Richard Vernon) and Gorilla (Bernard Bresslaw).

The games are relatively simple affairs such as identifying which pantomime animal on a stage is making a particular noise e.g. a donkey braying. In amongst other games such as matching pictures of children in a playground, there are also The Thrilling Adventures of Princess Galaxzena. A green haired alien, Princess Galaxzena regularly finds herself embarking on quests to find four polychrome parrots on the planet Arborium or stifling the yawns of the dreaded Yawns of Snoronia.

2. Hattytown Tales - ITV - 1969 to 73


When you think about FilmFair you tend to associate it with The Wombles, Paddington and The Herbs, but rarely is Hattytown Tales high on the list of association. However, for 39 episodes, Hattytown Tales - written and narrated by Keith Chatfield - helped to further the reputation of FilmFair. Commissioned by Thames Television, Hattytown Tales ran for three series and its 10 minute episodes were directed by Ivor Wood.


The residents of Hattytown all live in hat based houses and are, themselves, actual hats albeit with arms legs and eyes. The characters personalities are reflected in their hat based designs so, for example, Sancho (a mexican) is anthropomorphised into a sombrero. Other residents of Hattytown include Bobby the Constable (in the shape of a police helmet) and, more confusingly, Mr Wimple who isn't a nun, but is, in fact, the mayor of Hattytown.


Episodes of Hattytown Tales find the inhabitants of Hattytown trying to remove nesting birds from Sancho's car, worrying far too much about the post being late and Sancho (along with his faithful donkey Carrots) is tasked with building a hot air balloon for the King of Hattytown.

3. The Hills of Heaven - BBC1 - 1978


Mucking around and causing trouble is part and parcel of being a child, but every now and then things can go awry. Thankfully, these incidents prove to be valuable life lessons, but, at the time, they can seem absolutely terrifying. It also makes for fantastic television, so misadventure plays a big part in children's television as seen in The Hills of Heaven.

Based on the John Farrimond novel of the same name, The Hills of Heaven was dramatised by BBC1 by Barry Collins and directed by Eric Davidson. The adaptation took place over three 30 minute episodes and aired on Wednesday evenings at 5.10pm. An omnibus edition of all three episodes later aired on BBC1 in 1980, but no further repeats have been forthcoming.

Taking place in the slag tips of Lancashire, The Hills of Heaven looks at the foolhardy antics of children Billy Walsh (David Haddow), Mick Mack (Malcolm Sproston) and Nancy Brindle (Katie Armstrong) who cause a series of coal wagons to derail in a coal yard. Out of the wreckage, however, comes an injured tramp (Ray Smith) who blackmails the children. The final episode finds Billy having to choose between protecting his own back or telling the truth and saving the tramp.

4. Chish ‘n’ Fips - ITV - 1984 to 1987


Gnomes look like friendly old sods sat on their toadstools and brandishing not just a fisherman's rod, but usually a big smile. What, though, are these stony souls thinking as we busy ourselves with our human lives and dramas? To get an insight into their thought process you should probably take a look at Chish 'n' Fips. David Wood’s gnome based children’s show Chish 'n' Fips originally started life as a theatrical production in Christmas 1980, before being produced for television by Central Television in the mid-1980s for two series.

Mr Fisher (Mike Grady) and Mr Wheeler (Tony Aitken) are two gnomes who live out the back of a fish and chip shop, so it shouldn’t take a great leap to see where the show’s title comes from. The two gnomes discuss the antics of the ‘big ones’ (humans) and are joined in the garden by their friends Bleep the robot, Henrietta the Tortoise (Jacqueline Clarke) and Chips the cat. Life for the gnomes adheres strictly to The Code of the Gnomes and songs feature heavily throughout the series.

5. Fred Basset - BBC1 - 1977


The adventures of Fred Basset have delighted his fans for well over fifty years, but not everyone knows that the long-eared canine once leapt off the pages of the Daily Mail and onto the screens on BBC1. First appearing in print in 1963, it took another 14 years for Fred, Jock and Yorky to make the transition to television. Fred Basset was produced by Bill Melendez Productions for BBC1 with 20 five-minute episodes going out at 5.35pm. The series was repeated up until 1981 on the BBC and, later, repeats were also broadcast on Channel 4.


If you've ever read any of the Fred Basset comic strips then it should come as no surprise that the Fred Basset tv series mirrors it very closely. Episodes find Fred being chased by giant cockerels before he himself sprouts wings and flies skyhigh (okay, that's from a dream sequence), Jock bravely, but foolishly attempts to take on the toughest dog on the block and Fifi the French poodle turns all the canine heads in town.

6. Rub-a-Dub-Dub - ITV - 1984


Not to be confused with the similarly titled Rub-a-Dub-Tub from the same channel and during the same era, Rub-a-Dub-Dub was produced by David Yates and Joe Wolf as a David Yates Production in association with Media Home Entertainment Inc. The recognisable and inimitable animation was provided by Peter Lang and Alan Rogers following their work on Pigeon Street. Episodes ran for five minutes each and went out at 4.15pm in the Children's ITV schedule.


At the very heart of Rub-a-Dub-Dub are nursery rhymes. Episodes start with Mother Goose finding a particular and, on the whole, unlikely item in a bath tub to help kick start the theme of the episode and these can include a horse, a watering can or even three pigs. Stories, songs and nursery rhymes then conspire to provide a brief burst of entertainment and rhyme, so expect to see the pigs playing and singing Pat-a-Cake and a cat and cow putting on a live rendition of Hey Diddle Diddle.

7. Roy Castle Beats Time - BBC1 - 1974 to 1975


One of the nicest men to ever grace British television, Roy Castle had a varied career on TV thanks to his myriad talents. Most people immediately reference Record Breakers when it comes to discussing Castle's legacy, but a year or two after that series started, Castle hosted a show which concentrated on his main love: music. Two series of Roy Castle Beats Time aired in the mid 1970s on BBC1 with the first series going out at 5.15pm on Wednesdays and the second series filling up the 4.50pm slot on Fridays. Neither series (which were both produced by Alan Russell) received a repeat in the schedules.

Roy Castle, of course, hosts Roy Castle Beats Time and uses it as a platform to interview a variety of musicians and allow them to demonstrate their musical talents. An accomplished musician himself, Castle meets such varied guests as The Royal Marines Corp of Drums, Acker Bilk and The Nolan Sisters. Castle also gets involved in the music and may just as easily find himself holding a baton and conducting three bands at once as he does dusting down his trumpet and playing along with the Abbotsfield School Jazz Orchestra.

8. C.A.B - ITV - 1986 to 1989


Who doesn't love a good mystery? That's right, everyone loves a mystery and firing off a million questions at once, so it remains a hugely engaging device in televisual drama. Particularly for inquisitive children. And, serving up plenty of mystery was C.A.B.

Despite running for 33 episodes over three series, C.A.B remains forgotten by most of those who were the right age to be tuning in. C.A.B was produced by Thames Television for ITV and made up part of the Children's ITV schedule, namely the 4.20pm slot. The first series was written by Denise Coffey, who was drafted in as a last minute emergency writer, with John Kershaw taking over script duties for series two and three.


Having been asked to look after Ma Mossop's junk shop, Colin Freshwater (Felipe Izquierdo) and his friend Franny (Louise Mason) embark on a series adventures a little more thrilling than selling old 78s. The first series finds Colin and Franny attempting to decipher a series of fiendish riddles and clues to secure the lost treasure of ancient tomb, the second series brings a spooky Egyptian mummy and the search for a secret weapon while the final series finds evil forces trying to capture the British throne.

And what does C.A.B stand for? Colin's Awfully Batty.

9. Heggerty Haggerty - ITV - 1983 to 1984


Harry Potter is just a tad popular with children and you could argue that this is down to J.K. Rowlings talent with the written word. Alternatively, you could say it's because children love magic in all its many forms. Anyway, years before Rowling started writing about that bespectabled wizard, children were being entertained by a witch in Heggerty Haggerty.

A production by Yorkshire Television, Heggerty Haggerty comprised 26 episodes during its two series run in the mid 1980s on ITV. Nigel Plaskitt - best known as the puppeteer behind Pipkins - acted as producer on the series with Alister Hallum taking hold of the director duties. Heggerty Haggerty was devised by Elizabeth Lindsay who dreamt up the idea whilst out walking in the New Forest and illustrations were provided by Peter Rush. The 10 minute episodes aired in both the lunchtime slot and the Children's ITV afternoon slot at 4pm.


Narrated and presented by George Cole, Heggerty Haggerty concerns the magical happenings of friendly witch Heggerty Haggerty's life. As with all good (or bad) witches, Heggerty Haggerty is joined in her adventures by the observant, yet anxious Black Cat and the mischievous Broomstick. Together, this triumvirate will find themselves confronted with giant geese, running shoes that have come to life and the meteorological terror of a magic whirlwind.

10. In the Town - BBC1 - 1973

Life experience is in short supply for preschoolers and any form of television that broadens their knowledge of the wider world can only be a good thing. The world, after all, is a varied place and very young children are still getting to grips with it so shows such as In the Town are invaluable in providing them with a little more knowledge. There was only one series of In the Town produced and this consisted of seven 15-minute episodes which made up the early afternoon Watch with Mother slot. The series was repeated several times throughout the 1970s with the final transmission taking place in 1977. In the Town was directed by Peter Wiltshire and, thankfully, all the episodes still exist.

As you can guess by the title of the programme, In the Town is set within a town. However, there's a little more to it than that. Soundtracked by the narration of Gordon Rollings (voice of The Herbs), In the Town is a documentary series looking at the employees and industries of urban Britain. With only seven episodes produced it's a relatively short jaunt around the country, but there's time to meet Peter the policeman from Canterbury, the fishermen of Conway and the potteries of Stoke on Trent.

11. Pigsty - BBC1 - 1990 to 1991


You only have to take a cursory glance at this list of children's TV shows to understand that there are some unusual and lively ideas out there, but Pigsty may be one of the most downright absurd. Luckily, children love the absurd and the unusual, so Pigsty is well placed to, at the very least, tap into the imaginative capabilities of children. The brainchild of writer Paul Mendelson (So Haunt Me, My Hero), Pigsty ran for two series between 1990 - 1991 as part of the Children's BBC lineup on BBC. Episodes were 10 minutes long and aired in the 4.25pm slot on Mondays.


Pigsty finds Pinks (Tessa Crockett) and Troyboy (Richard Gauntlett) running a pizza cafe called Pigsty. Okay, it's not the greatest name for a food establishment, but it doesn't sound that unusual, does it? Well, no, it doesn't, until you realise that Pinks and Troyboy are anthropomorphic pigs and somehow manage to use a cash register and prepare food with their trotters. The Pigsty diner is set within Promo Park, a complex headed by secret mummy's boy M.T. (Mark Hadfield) and the bins out the back of Pigsty are frequently raided by Little Pig (Peter Mandell).

12. Fun Food Factory - ITV - 1977


You don't get faces and personalities like Nanette Newman on television anymore, especially children's television where contorting your smile into imposible proportions seems to be key to securing a presenting job. It's a shame as her wholesome, engaging and incredibly British charm is quite phenomenal and exhibit A for this case is Fun Food Factory.

LWT produced seven episodes of Fun Food Factory with the series going out on Saturday mornings at various times depending on the ITV region. Episodes, which ran to 30 minutes, were later repeated in 1978. The Fun Food Factory series was a direct spin-off from the book of the same name that Nanette Newman had released in December 1976 to help inspire children to get cooking in the kitchen with illustrations by Alan Cracknell. Fun Food Factory was produced by Geoffrey Hughes and directed by Paul Smith.


Having previously appeared in dramatic film roles including The Whisperers and The Raging Moon, Fun Food Factory finds Nanette Newman getting interested in the world of culinary delights with an emphasis on health. With a couple of young helpers in the kitchen - decorated with animations based on those by Alan Cracknell - Newman guides viewers through healthy recipes such as making wholemeal bread, homemade tomato sauce and beef cake. Celebrities make an appearance in the Fun Food Canteen, so you shouldn't be surprised to see Dickie Davies, Sally Thomsett or Alvin Stardust tucking into Newman's creations.

13. The Little Green Man - ITV - 1985


Running for 13 episodes in the 12pm slot on ITV, The Little Green Man was devised and written by Matthew Smith who, in somewhat of a curveball move, is now an authority figure on the assassination of JFK. The 10-minute episodes were produced by Central Television alongside Pentagon Motion Pictures. The series was repeated a couple of times in the latter half of the 1980s and associated merchandise followed in the form of annuals, books and even an ice lolly.


The Little Green Man is narrated by Jon Pertwee (who previously worked with Matthew Smith on an unrelated pilot) and features Sidney Keets (Skeets to his friends) meeting The Little Green Man (Greenie to his friends) one evening when Greenie lands his spaceship slap bang in the middle of Skeets' garden. Far from causing a global panic of alien invaders, Greenie's presence goes mostly unnoticed as Skeets is the only human able to see him. Together, Skeets and Greenie go on a series of adventures that find them going through the looking glass, building a sandcastle and meeting a duke.

14. Jennings at School - BBC1 - 1958


Mitch Mitchell may be most well known for keeping pace with Jimi Hendix as drummer in the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but his early dalliances with entertainment came in the late 1950s when he went by his real name of John Mitchell. An early role was as the titular hero in Jennings at School in 1958 which ran for 10 episodes in a Saturday 5.10pm slot. The series was based upon the Jennings novels written by Anthony Buckeridge. A further television adaptation of the books came in 1966 in the form of Jennings with David Schulten in the title role.


A kind and well meaning chap, Jennings (John Mitchell) attends Linbury Prep School where his impulsive nature tends to find him winding up in all manner of pickles and troubles. Scientific frogmen disrupt Jennings' chaotic running of the natural history club, Jennings finds himself having to entertain General Sir Melville Merridew (Norman Shelley) and there's also time for Jennings to uncover a genuine set of fake Roman remains. All of Jennings' shambolic antics take place much to the chagrin of his form master Mr Wilkins (Wilfred Babbage) although his housemaster Mr Carter (Geoffrey Wincott) is a little more patient.

15. The Small World of Samuel Tweet - BBC1 - 1974 to 1975


Written by Gary Knight and featuring Freddie Davies' creation of Samuel Tweet in the lead role, The Small World of Samuel Tweet ran for two series of six episodes on BBC1 in the mid 1970s in the tea-time slot. The episodes, which were twenty five minutes long, were never repeated. For many years, several of the episodes were missing believed lost, but, thankfully, these missing episodes were found in 2013 on a batch of ex-BBC viewing tapes.

The homburg clad, lisping Samuel Tweet (Freddie Davies) has found himself running a pet shop in the fictional village of Chumpton Green which is presided over by Lord Chumpton (Cardew Robinson). Being set in a pet shop the plots feature, as you can imagine, plenty of narratives thrusting animals to the fore. The first episode, for example, finds Lord Chumpton instructing Tweet to source animals for his safari, another episode presents Tweet with the challenge of training a police dog and Tweet even rushes to the rescue of a pussycat trapped high up in a barn.

16. The Brollys - BBC1 - 1990


Weather is very important to children. Sunshine means you can go out and play to your heart's content whereas rain means you'll probably be told to stay in to make sure your new shoes don't get ruined. Snow, of course, means you're likely to lose your tiny little minds. So, yeah, children certainly have an interest in metorological matters, so making a cartoon based around it in the form of The Brollys is surely a great idea.

Produced and directed by Trevor Bond for Weatherhouse Production, The Brollys was a solo outing whose 13 episodes took up residence in the Children's BBC schedule in the 3.50pm Thursday slot. David Shaw Parker provided all the vocals and narration featured in the series while the animation was completed by Thomas Barker. The Brollys was repeated fairly regularly in the lunchtime slots up until 1998 and was even broadcast as far away as Brazil.


Harry, a young lad with meteorological themed bed linen, is certainly obsessed with the weather and even has a weather house adorning the wall of his bedroom. One day, while peering exceptionally closely at the weather house, Harry finds his entire being drawn within the weather house. Inside, he meets the occupants, Mr and Mrs Brolly and a fluffy cloud who soon becomes Harry's best friend. Mr and Mrs Brolly, of course, design and craft the weather, so Harry soon gets caught up in the machinations of this and finds himself tackling the challenges of each weather system.

17. Galloping Galaxies - BBC1 - 1985 to 1986


Bob Block is perhaps best known for writing Rentaghost, Pardon my Genie and Grandad, but he also wrote two series of sci-fi sitcom Galloping Galaxies. Produced by Jeremy Swan, the two series (whose original title was World's Apart) ran for five episodes each on BBC1 as part of the Children's BBC lineup in the mid 1980s. The two series were later repeated in 1987 and 1988.


In the year 2487, Captain Pettifer (Robert Swales) helms the Voyager merchant spaceship along with Mr Morton (Paul Wilce) and Mr Webster (Nigel Cooke). Helping to navigate the ship and perform various computing tasks is SID (voiced by Kenneth Williams) the ship's computer whose initials stand for Super Intelligent Deducer. Floating through space can be a perilous affair and you'd be pushed to find more peril in the form of pirate chief Mick Murphy (Sean Caffrey/Niall Buggy) whose main lackeys are Robot 20 (Matthew Sim), Robot 7 (Michael Deeks) and Robot 35 (Julie Dawn Cole)

Accidentally beaming Miss Appleby (Priscilla Morgan) from the 20th Century on board the Voyager is the kind of calamitous undertaking that Pettifer and his crew encounter on a daily basis. The crew also find themselves having to avoid the stomping feet of the 50-foot high Tawlblyters, rescuing their time travel expert Dinwiddy Snurdle (James Bree) from the clutches of Mick Murphy and dealing with Superbeing (Melvyn Hayes), the greatest showoff in the galaxy.

18. Little Big Time - ITV - 1968 to 1974


Little Big Time was a Southern Television production which ran for six series and, initially, hoped to launch Freddie Garrity (he of Freddie and the Dreamers) into a new career as a television personality. A number of writers were involved with Little Big Time over the course of its run and these included Mike Hazlewood, Albert Hammond and David McKellar. Only one episode, from a domestic recording, is believed to exist with the rest of the series missing.


The original series, filmed in the Nuffield Theatre at Southampton University, of Little Big Time starts off very much as a variety show with guests including the ventriloquist John Bouchier and Charles Lewson, a man who spends his time digging through the British Museum for vintage song and dance routines. The second series, while still including variety acts such as Carl Ruger’s Chimps, also includes a panto segment entitled Oliver in the Overworld – the third series would be purely dedicated to the Overworld serial where Oliver has to be careful of the hungry drains. Later series also see the introduction of Freddie’s Joke Hall of Fame which features Tony Robinson in an early role.

19. Lay on Five - BBC1 - 1985 to 1986


21 episodes of Lay on Five were produced for BBC1 in the mid-1980s with the entire series being produced and directed by Christine Hewitt. The 15-minute episodes feature Floella Benjamin travelling around the country to meet youngsters to shake hands (or 'lay on five') with. There's a little more to Lay on Five than just shaking hands though. Donning a pair of flippers and a snorkel, Floella heads down to the Kingfisher Swimming Pool where there will also be a tale of dangerous pirates roaming the seas and down at the Westminster Sports Centre it's time for the "wriggle on your bottom" championships.

20. It's Your Word - BBC1 - 1971 to 1973

One of the lesser known children’s quiz shows, It’s Your Word consisted of 21 episodes over the course of three series in the early 1970s. Each series had a different presenter with Jonathan Dimbleby (1971), Ray Alan (1972) and, finally, John Craven (1973) taking charge of the show. The 30-minute episodes aired late on Monday afternoons and the first series was directed by Brian Hawkins with Cynthia Paul taking over the reins for the last two series. All episodes of It’s Your Word are currently missing believed wiped from the BBC archives.

It’s Your Word is a simple quiz show format which starts each series with eight regional teams vying to be crowned quiz champions. The rounds are a mixture of physical prowess and general knowledge, so, for example, contestants may find themselves trying to burst balloons whilst wearing boxing gloves one minute and, the next, taking part in an Olympic sports quiz with British hurdler David Hemery. The aim of each round was to collect letters which would eventually combine to form mystery words.

21. Gran - BBC1 - 1983


Airing in the lunchtime SeeSaw slot on BBC1, Gran was a 13 episode series with episodes running to five minutes and written by Joanne and Michael Cole. The stop-motion animation was provided by Ivor Wood of Woodland Animations who had previously animated Postman Pat and would later go on to produce Bertha and Charlie Chalk. Repeats of Gran continued until late 1989 when the series was retired to a televisual nursing home.


Gran (voiced by Patricia Hayes) may look like the quintessential British gran, but, although she does like to knit, she's also partial to digging for dinosaur bones, indulging in a spot of hang gliding and revving up a motorbike to get down the shops a little quicker. Gran, being a gran, must have a grandchild of sorts and this comes in the form of Jim (also Patricia Hayes) who isn't quite as foolhardy as his grandmother, but finds himself getting involved all the same.

22. Teetime and Claudia - ITV - 1982 to 1983


A production by Yorkshire Television, under the watch of producer Joy Whitby, Teetime and Claudia was an animated series which aired for two series in the early 1980s on ITV. Teetime and Claudia's 10-minute episodes aired, first, in the 12pm lunchtime slot and were repeated later on in the day in the late afternoon children's strand of programming. Writing the series was Simon Purcell whilst the animation was provided by Digby Turpin. Purcell and Turpin had previously worked alongside Joy Whitby on the children's show Little Blue.


Teetime (Gerry Cowan) and Claudia (Tessa Worsley) are, respectively, a cat and dog who live with their owner, Auntie. Teetime isn't the sharpest tack in the box, but he's a lovely canine and spends his days with Claudia who is a self professed clever cat. The world of Teetime and Claudia is seen through our furry friends eyes as they encounter goats, Teetime proves his obedience to Auntie and Christmas time brings a new coat for Teetime and a special bowl for Claudia.

23. The Satellite Game - Galaxy - 1990


You're almost certainly aware of Children's ITV's legendary series Knightmare, but what about its sister show The Satellite Game on BSB's short lived Galaxy Channel? Created by Broadsword and Tim Child (the team behind Knightmare), The Satellite Game ran for a single series of 38 episodes running for 25 minutes each within the magazine show Cool Cube. As with most BSB programming, the archive status is not entirely clear, but several episodes have leaked onto YouTube over the years.


In a format that echoes that of Knightmare, teams of three children take on the Enigma satellite with the aim of deactivating its antimatter core by traversing a series of computer generated, virtual reality tunnels and solving puzzles along the way. Progress is made by the children guiding the floating droid LARI (Lightly Armed Robotic Investigator) who is voiced by Knightmare regular David Learner. Advice and guidance is dispensed by Enigma's ship computer COCO (voiced by Freyja Westdal).

24. Striker - BBC1 - 1975 to 1976


Written by Kenneth Cope (yes, that's right, Hopkirk from Randall and Hopkirk: Deceased), Striker aired for two series in the mid-1970s on BBC1. Producing the series was Anna Home, one of the cornerstones of children's TV over several decades, and acting as director was Colin Cant. The first series ran for three 25-minute episodes with the second series enjoying an extended run of five episodes. Both series were combined into one and repeated in 1977.

The first series of Striker finds Ben Dyker (Kevin Moreton) moving to the village of Brenton and, after initially irritating the local children, soon finds his football skills securing a place in Brenton Boys Football Team who have an important cup game coming up. Unfortunately, Ben's father Mr Dyker (Geoff Hinsliff) is far from keen on his son playing for the local football team, so Ben needs to try and keep his sporting exploits under wraps.

Striker's second series finds the lads of Brenton Boys facing a number of challenges such as taking part in the cup final, getting their changing room in shape to avoid being booted out of the league and frantically searching for a new team member following a car accident.

25. Century Falls - BBC1 - 1993


These days, Russell T Davies is best known for writing Queer as Folk, Cucumber and Doctor Who, but during the 1980s up until the mid 1990s he was heavily involved in the world of children's television. One curiously forgotten show that Davies penned was Century Falls which was a six episode series that ran on the Children's BBC strand on BBC1 in 1993 in the 5.10pm slot. Episodes were repeated on the following Sunday at 10.30am with no further repeats airing. A DVD of the series was later released in 2006 following Davies' success with revitalising Doctor Who for the 21st century.


Tess Hunter (Catherine Sanderson) has arrived in the village of Century Falls with her mother Mrs Hunter (Heather Baskerville), but there's something highly unusual about the atmosphere in the village. Aside from Tess, the only other children present in the village are Ben Naismith (Simon Fenton) and his sister Carey (Emma Jane Lavin).

To make matters even more strange, Ben appears to have mysterious powers that his uncle Richard (Bernard Kay) and great uncle Josiah (Robert James) are keen to harness. Digging deeper into the village's history, Tess discovers that an occult ceremony performed 40 years previously resulted in a great tragedy. Even more troubling, however, is the realisation that Richard and Josiah Naismith are looking to repeat it.

26. PC Pinkerton - BBC1 - 1988


Ian Lavender will, to millions upon millions, forever be associated with wet-behind-the-ears Private Pike in Dad's Army, but Lavender has actually put together a varied CV over the decades. One particular dalliance in children's TV was PC Pinkerton which, on the whole, raises nary a mention in the history of children's television.

PC Pinkerton first aired in the late afternoon strand of Children's BBC on BBC1 with a total of 13 episodes making up the single series. Devised and written by Geoffrey Bourne-Taylor and John Murphy Edwards, PC Pinkerton was produced by Trevor Bond Associates. The 15-minute episodes were repeated several times up until 1993.


Based in the village of Cleybourne, PC Pinkerton (Ian Lavender) finds himself tackling what passes as crime in the incredibly sleepy and peaceful surroundings. Therefore, rather than preventing heists at the local Post Office, Pinkerton is more likely to find himself battling against the rain whilst out on his bike, searching for a lost child on the day of the all important school play and absolute terror comes to Cleybourne when Dai the milkman is late. Pinkerton, of course, isn't the only member of the Cleybourne force and is joined by Sergeant Walker and Inspector Bell to help keep the village ticking over nicely.

27. Tales from the Poop Deck - ITV - 1992


Children's TV can certainly be accused of demonstrating some stupendously bad acting, but occasionally there are some standout performers who bring a touch of quality to a production. And, sometimes, you'll find a children's show which is packed full of fantastic performers such as Tales from the Poop Deck. Written by Lenny Barker and Vicky Stepney, Tales from the Poop Deck was a Talkback production for Central Television with episodes going out as part of Children's ITV. An early evening repeat of the series aired on Channel 4 several weeks after the ITV broadcast.


Captain Henry Stallion (Nicholas Pritchard) is in charge of the HMS Intrepid which is currently shored up in Kingston, Jamaica and packed full of gold. Keen on liberating the contents of the Intrepid is the pirate Connie Blackheart (Helen Atkinson Wood) and, once it's been captured, Stallion faces the unenviable task of informing his Uncle Dennis who is better known as Admiral De'Ath (Charles Gray). Meanwhile, raising questions about the ethics behind the slave trade is the enigmatic Joe (Norman Beaton) and popping up in smaller roles are Scurvy (Dudley Sutton), Father O'Toole O'Toole (Mel Smith) whilst Griff Rhys Jones narrates the whole affair.

28. Ragtime - BBC1 - 1973 to 1975


If you want to create a good children's TV show for preschoolers then it's a seriously good idea to include stories, songs and puppets to capture the wayward attention of young minds. Play School was probably the best example of how this format could be phenomenally successful, but there were plenty of other shows adopting this model and one of the lesser known ones was Ragtime.

Written, produced and directed by Michael Cole, Ragtime aired in the Watch with Mother lunchtime slot and clocked up 26 episodes over its two series. Unfortunately, only eight of the episodes remain in the archives due to a purge of children's TV shows in the early 90s at the BBC.

Fronted by Maggie Henderson and Fred Harris, Ragtime also features a number of puppets who are housed within the green Ragtime bag and include Mr Porridge, Miss Sponge, Mrs Custard and Uncle Casserole. Together, the Ragtime team play with words and rhymes such as "There was once a jolly cobbler who loved wobbly jelly. As he cobbled he dreamed of gobbling wobbly jelly" and "There was once a snake who was as thin as a rake. The snake who was as thin as a rake loved cake".

29. Once Upon a Time - ITV - 1979 to 1982


When Peter Davison wasn't busy getting to grips with the duodenum of cows in All Creatures Great and Small or battling Terileptils in Doctor Who he was carving out a nice career for himself in children's TV. Not only did Davison compose and sing (along with his wife) the theme tune to Button Moon, but he also fronted the first series of Once Upon a Time. A Granada production for ITV, Once Upon a Time ran for four series with Mark Wynter taking Davison's place for series 2, 3 and 4.


Embracing storytelling and puppet work (provided by The Black Theatre of Prague), episodes of Once Upon a Time find the storyteller (Peter Davison / Mark Wynter) reading children's stories such as The Ugly Duckling, Dick Whittington and even original stories such as The Giant in his Cradle over a series of illustrations. An occasional break from the storytelling takes place for the storyteller to interact with the puppets before going back to finish the story off.

30. Sebastian the Incredible Drawing Dog - BBC1 - 1986


Just a few weeks before Michael Barrymore hit the big time with ITV's Strike it Lucky, he had found himself starring in an altogether different show over on Children's BBC in Sebastian the Incredible Drawing Dog. Created and devised by cartoonist David Myers, Sebastian consisted of 13 episodes which married Myers love of art and fun. Sebastian, being a puppet, needed a human hand when it came to performing and this was duly provided by Richard Robinson who would later work on The Riddlers. The series was produced by Christopher Pilkington and a number of Sebastian repeats aired up until 1988.


Sebastian - breed unknown - is a brown, furry dog with a sense of sophistication you don't find in most canines. Intelligent and highly cultured, Sebastian enjoys listening to classical music and, in particular, creating fantastic artwork. He's joined, in his basement flat, by Michael (Michael Barrymore) who certainly fails to match him in the sophistication stakes. Bickering amongst themselves, a chance comment by Michael will usually lead to him dusting down the large and unusual storybook to tell a tale whilst Sebastian accompanies the narrative with illustrations. Tales featured include The Shyest Man in the World, Tall Hat Joe and The Barking Cat.

31. Bric-a-Brac - BBC1 - 1980 to 1982


There's a whole world of wonder to be found in Bric-a-Brac shops be it a pile of mysterious records containing sounds from the 1930s or even a dog eared copy of the Beano from 1938. Much more wonderful, of course, is the prospect of discovering Brian Cant and that's exactly what you could find in the early 1980s in the lunchtime SeeSaw strand on BBC1. A joint creation by Michael Cole and Nick Wilson, Bric-a-Brac ran for two linguistic obsessed series and a total of 13 episodes. Repeats of the series were frequent, but Bric-a-Brac has not been seen on British screens since 1989.


Bric-a-Brac finds the fairly absent minded shopkeeper (Brian Cant) embarking on an odyssey of alliteration using the objects of the shop to springboard onto tongue-twisting exercises. Each episode takes a particular letter of the alphabet and then runs with it. Arriving in the shop, the shopkeeper kicks off by regaling the viewer with a recent event where alliteration of the chosen letter features heavily. The shopkeeper then makes his way around the shop piling up items starting with said letter, so you soon have a bear wearing a bowler hat with bananas in its mouth. After these linguistic shenanigans the shopkeeper digs out an old windup toy which he leaves whirring across the screen as the credits roll.

32. Kathy's Quiz - ITV - 1976 to 1977


One of the best ways to get children involved with learning is to trick them into this academic task by incorporating some rhythm and rhyme. The inclusion of songs into children's TV has been a mainstay since the earliest days of the genre and one series which really understoon this was Kathy's Quiz. Produced by Granada, Kathy's Quiz ran for 32 episodes across its three series. The 10 minute episodes aired in the lunchtime ITV slot and were produced by Muriel Young.

The Kathy of Kathy's Quiz is, of course, Kathy Jones who is joined by her musical cohorts Lynn Garner and Noel Cameron against a painted backdrop of a cheerful landscape packed full of flowers and sunshine. This musical triumvirate regale viewers with a series of songs, but attached to these songs is Kathy's guessing game. Taking the first letter of each song helps the viewers to build a word to help foster an understanding of language and how words are constructed.

33. Sally and Jake - ITV - 1973 to 1974


Chorlton and the Wheelies, Dangermouse and Wind in the Willows are just a few of the massive successes produced by Cosgrove Hall Films, but before these successes, Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall were known as Stop Frame Productions. Having found work creating animations to slot into Rainbow, Stop Frame soon found themselves offered the chance to turn one of these Rainbow interstitials into a standalone series in the form of Sally and Jake. Transmitted in the ITV lunchtime slot, Sally and Jake ran for two series and a total of 27 episodes.


Narrated by Mike Savage, Sally and Jake takes place in the village of Dimbledale where the siblings Sally and Jake live. Their parents run the local grocers shop and opposite Sally and Jake's house lives their grandmother who seems to constantly have a pie or cake on offer for the children. Village life is peaceful and idyllic, so Sally and Jake find themselves hosting a sports day, going bowling, visiting the fairground and mucking around with rollerskates.

34. Corners - BBC1 - 1987 to 1991


Children are an inquisitive bunch and, as any parent will attest, their curiosity knows no bounds and this leads to all manner of questions on how this crazy old world works. Television is fantastic for, at least temporarily, sating this appetite when it's done right and this is perfectly demonstrated by Corners. Despite its relative obscurity in the history of British children's TV, Corners managed to chalk up five series over the course of four years with its 15-minute episodes airing as part of the Children's BBC schedule.


Set in what can only be described as a late 1980s youth club-cum-office, Corners finds a series of presenters including Sophie Aldred, Stephen Johnson, Tracey Brabin, Simon Davies and Diane Louise Jordan tackling a procession of questions sent in by children. Areas of life and intrigue tackled include questions such as: Who invented badminton? Why do we yawn? Which country does the oldest teddy bear come from? The presenters (who vary according to which series you're watching) solve these queries through a mixture of in-studio experiments and even jaunts out on location to explain the answers. Also helping to back up the presenters is Jo Korna, a green puppet with a feathered hat and terrible pun for a name.

35. Playboard - BBC1 - 1976


Puppets are fairly ubiquitous in children's TV and I'm in no doubt that at least one of your most favourite children's shows of all times features a puppet somewhere. One set of puppets that seem to languish on the sidelines of people's memories, though, are the little guys and gals from Playboard. Starting off in a 9.30am Sunday slot, the 13 episodes of Playboard were produced by Michael Cole and later moved to the weekday Watch with Mother afternoon slot for their subsequent repeats. The puppetry was provided by the Playboard Puppet Theatre who had previously worked on Play School.

Set within the world of a circus, Playboard starts with Mo (a mole) and Hedge (a hedgehog) making their way towards the circus big top where they encounter the circus staff setting up for the day's performance. Snake charmers, jugglers and clowns then proceed to put on a performance of a fairy tale or traditional folk story for Mo and Hedge. Tales featured throughout the series include The Gingerbread Man, The Three Little Pigs and The Great Big Enormous Turnip. Christopher Lillicrap presents the programme and also pitches in with some songs to up the excitement levels.

36. Caterpillar Trail - BBC1 - 1985 to 1990


Back in 1985, the head of children's television at the BBC, Edward Barnes, had grown weary of opening up the afternoon strand of children's programming on BBC1 with a repeat of that day's Play School, so a swathe of new shows were commissioned to freshen things up. One of these was Caterpillar trail which ran for seven series through the second half of the 1980s.


Fronted by Stuart Bradley through the entirety of its run and a variety of presenters including Jessica Holm, Nick Davies and Chris Baines, Caterpillar Trail helps to explore the world of nature and wildlife. Helped by young pet owners and a cartoon caterpillar, the Caterpillar Trail team travel around the country and investigate trees being planted in Weymouth, watch sheepdogs being trained in Giggleswick and take a look at a city safari in London.

37. Alfonso Bonzo - BBC1 - 1990



With nothing but a few scant pennies to hand, swapping is an essential method of trade for children but it can be a highly dangerous and risky task if you're not careful. And, if you want proof of this danger, just take a look at Alfonso Bonzo. Scripted by Andrew Davies (who also wrote the 1986 novel it was based on), Alfonso Bonzo ran for six episodes on Children's BBC in a 4.30pm time slot. The series was only repeated once, in 1991, but a spin-off series entitled Billy Webb's Amazing Stories aired a year after Alfonso Bonzo went out.


Billy Webb (Scott Riley) is the premier swapper of Splott Street and is most likely to be found negotiating the exchange of his jumper for a pile of dusty old Elvis records. Naturally, giving up his clothes for slabs of vinyl drive his Mum (Susan Porrett) and dad (Brian Hall) round the bend, but this is all before the flamboyant Alfonso Bonzo (Alex Jennings) turns up on the scene.

An enigimatic Italian with a propensity for jaunty whistling, Alfonso gets Billy involved with some outlandish swaps which finds Billy landed with an Italian greyhound and even ending up, quite literally, on the telly. The whole serial is told in flashback from a hospital where Billy is nursing a broken leg alongside journalist Trevor Trotman (Mike Walling) who also has a broken leg.

38. The Silver Sword - BBC1 - 1957


The horror and devastation of the Second World War feels a remarkably long time ago now, but back in the late 1950s the physical and mental scars were still fresh in the memory hence narratives such as The Silver Sword. Based on the 1956 novel of the same name by Ian Serraillier, The Silver Sword was adapted for television by C.E. Webber and consisted of seven episodes which aired on Sunday evenings in late 1957. A repeat of the series came in 1958, whilst a completely new adaptation of the series aired on BBC1 in 1971.

Joseph Balicki (Barry Letts), headmaster of a school in Warsaw, is arrested by the Nazis following their invasion of Poland. Sent to a prison camp, Joseph is separated from his wife Magrit (Gwen Watford) who is later taken away by Nazi stormtroopers leaving their children homeless. Having escaped from prison and finding his family gone from Warsaw, he believes they have headed to Switzerland where Magrit has family, so makes his way there.

Siblings Ruth (Pat Pleasance) and Edek Balicki (Melvyn Hayes) eventually embark on a journey to Switzerland in order to reunited with their family. The Baliki children are also joined on their quest by the urchin Jan (Frazer Hines) who has found a paper knife in the ruins of the Baliki's house and is known as the silver sword.

39. Your Mother Wouldn't Like It - ITV - 1985 to 1988


An essential part of childhood is laughter and some of the most popular children's TV shows have been ones which have clutched comedy closely to their chest. And with Your Mother Wouldn't Like It, Central Television delivered a sketch show intent on delivering rapid fire laughs for children. Three series of seven episodes each aired on ITV in the 1980s with a cast comprised of members of the Central Junior Television Workshop. The series was, at the time, successful enough to win a BAFTA in 1987 for Best Children's Programme and a spin-off series Palace Hill ran from 1988 - 91, but no commercial release of either series has ever materialised.


The premise behind Your Mother Wouldn't Like It is that the crew of a television studio are broadcasting a series of sketches and parodies. This crew consists of the dopey Loaf (Ian Kirkby) who is at the beck and call of his boss Cans (Tom Anderson). A wide variety of parodies make up the sketches with Palace Hill clearly lampooning Grange Hill (and the Royal Family), Twee-Man is a cheap and cheerful take on He-Man albeit with a coward as the star whilst Wogan and Challenge Anneka are both held up to a brutal satire. Interrupting the action every now and then is the puppet worm known as Tapeworm who's got a rather foul mouth and respect for absolutely no one.

40. Aliens in the Family - BBC1 - 1987


Familial life is a difficult beast at the best of times, but when these are splintered by divorce then things become understandably harder than ever. However, when you chuck an alien into the mix then you have to redefine exactly what a difficult family life consists of. Taking this premise and running with it, Aliens in the Family started life as a novel by Margaret Mahy before being dramatised for Children's BBC by Allan Baker in 1987. The six episode series aired in the 5.10pm slot and was repeated just once in 1989.


David (Rob Edwards) and Phillipa (Clare Clifford) have both come together following divorces from their original partners, but this new love is being slightly tested by the coming together of their respective children. David is bringing the tomboyish Jacqueline (Sophie Bold) who is better known as Jake while Phillipa is the proud mother of the image obsessed Dora (Claire Wilkie) and young, innocent Lewis (Sebastian Knapp). Dora, who is perhaps the only character in children's TV to venerate the use of bust enhancing cream, and Jake are polar opposites, so tensions between the two soon skyrocket.

Many miles above Earth, meanwhile, a Galgonquan spaceship is home to two alien siblings, Bond (Grant Thatcher) and Solita (Elizabeth Watkins). The pair are nervously awaiting the commencement of Bond's assessment whereby Solita must disguise herself on Earth and then be retrieved by Bond. Unfortunately, once Solita is disguised on Earth, it becomes apparent that it's not only Bond on her trail as a party of sinister alien Wirdegen are hunting down both Solita and Bond. Joining forces with the bickering Jake, Dora and Lewis, Bond attempts to find Solita and avoid being turned inside out by the Wirdegen.

41. Bright's Boffins - ITV - 1970 to 1972


Every child wants to be, at some point, an inventor. It usually comes when they first experience Q in James Bond and marvel at his array of amazing gadgets. On the smaller screen, an equally remarkable take on inventing can be found in Bright's Boffins. A Television South production, three series of Bright's Boffins were produced with episodes being written by Keith Miles, David Goodwin and Dominic Roche. Almost all of Bright's Boffins is missing from the archives with only a couple of episodes known to still exist.


Bertram Bright (Alexander Doré) is a highly eccentric inventor in charge of a department for inventing inventions that is so discreet and inconspicuous that it's been forgotten about by its government overlords. One contact at Whitehall that Bright does manage to remain in touch with is the mysterious Sir Desmond Dark (George Wood) who despatches orders to Bright and his team. Bright's associates include his head of security Thumper (Denis Shaw), cook and scientist Molly McCrandle (Avril Angers) and Tippy the Tipster (Johnny Briggs).

The first series finds Bright and his team working from Halfwitt House and getting to grips with computers, jumping juice and a terrifying curse. The second series see Halfwitt House burning down, so Bright and his boffins must move their operations to Larst Halt which is a disused, haunted railway station in Great Wiffington. The final series sees another change of location for Bright and his cohorts as they move to an ancient farmhouse that is covered in cobwebs and contains the remains of someone's unfinished breakfast.

42. Moschops - ITV - 1983


Even if we didn't have CGI masterpieces such as Jurassic Park, Jurassic World et al, children would still be obsessed with dinosaurs due to their cool appearance and mammoth size. A good decade before Jurassic Park roared onto our screens, a much smaller scale look at more friendly dinosaurs was unfolding in Moschops. A FilmFair production for Central Television, 13 10-minute episodes of Moschops were produced and aired in the ITV lunchtime slot.


Narrated by Bernard Cribbins, Moschops centres upon the world of Moschops, a baseball cap wearing dinosaur who enjoys playing football (albeit with a rock) with his best friend Ally the Allosaurus. Ally's Uncle Rex isn't too keen on Ally's gentle ways and pops up to remind him that he needs to be fierce like a proper carnivore should be. Ruling the waves is the manic Mr Icthyosaurus who is keen on casting spells while the chronic amnesiac Grandpa Diplodocus attempts to dispense wisdom from his dusty brain.

So, that was a bit of a marathon read (and write for me), but which of these shows do you remember? Oh, and if you've got any episodes of the ones that are missing then please get in touch! Thanks!

7 comments:

  1. Theme from The Fun Food Factory - https://left-and-to-the-back.blogspot.com/2011/02/second-hand-record-dip-part-70-nanette.html

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  2. What about Captain Zep Super Space Detective? ��

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  3. I have dim recollections of the Freddie Garrity vehicle, and particularly the Overworld sections. Weren't here two characters called Grim Gramphone and The Undercog involved in some capacity?

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  4. Wow, I'd completely forgotten about Pigsty, but the sheer strangeness of the whole thing was obviously filed away in my brain somewhere because I definitely watched it! What an odd creation that is. How it got beyond the pitch stage is a miracle in itself.

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  5. A few good memories there. A couple of other suggestions 'Streetwise' a series about cycle couriers that ran on ITV for 3 series from 1989-92 with Andy Serkis, Sara Sugarmann and Stephen McGann and Tyne Tees' 'The Paper Lads' - 'a story of people who live by the Tyne' - two series in the late 70s with a great theme song by Renaissance.

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  6. Odd how the memory plays tricks. I'd have put money on Jeffrey Segal having been in Chish & Fips - and lost it!

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  7. Does anybody know of a drama episode on ITV I think in the late 70's/early 80's. It consisted of someone trying to escape some characters in a cellar (i think) called the Bag People. Essentially people dressed up in brown parcel paper with padding. All they could say was aaaaagggghhhhh. Thanks in advance.

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