Thursday, 7 November 2013

Pie in the Sky

Genre: Childrens
Channel: BBC1
Transmission: 15/09/1986 - 08/12/1986 

"The pieman and his wife who sang as they baked their pies, the smell of their pies and the sound of their singing carried beyond Earth through outer space to the planet Pie and then, from out the sky, came the pieship! A pie in the sky! Its mission to beam a dish down to earth to be filled with songs for the children of Pie who had none of their own!"

Curious British Telly has always loved a good pie. We would happily eat one every night, but researching the oddities of British TV is a demanding task and we need to keep trim.

Our romance with that genius combination of pastry, gravy and meat can be traced back to our childhood.

Afternoons were ushered in with the opening paragraph which starts this article off and, occasionally, we would have a pie later on in the evening.

They were, quite frankly, some of the craziest times that any childhood had ever seen.

And it was all thanks to Pie in the Sky.

Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane? No! It's A... Pie?!

The Pieman (David Hargreaves) and his Piewife (Chloe Ashcroft) are the proud owners of Universal Pies who live in a pie shaped house complete with a singing blackbird bursting from the roof.

Each episode sees them being visited by the Piepilot (Ben Thomas) who requests that they fill a pie dish with a song. And, obviously, a pie. It is then up to the Pieman and his Piewife to think up a suitable nursery rhyme to fill the pie with.

Once this is decided, they set to work making the pie and cutting out a fitting pastry decoration. A performance piece of the song then follows usually featuring Ben Thomas and Chloe Ashcroft, although occasionally puppets featured.

A subplot supports the main story and revolves around the piewife making her 'pie of the week' - a short performance piece also follows this.

The Ingredients of a Good Pie

Pie in the Sky was devised by Chloe Ashcroft and Peter Gosling - Peter also provided the music for the series.

The show went out in the 3.55pm slot on BBC1 during the Autumn schedule of 1986 and comprised 13 episodes. Episodes were not listed with any particular title, but fans generally identify them by the main song being featured each week.

As with the majority of BBC shows of the time, it was produced in house. Although airing in the traditional CBBC timeslot, the show fell under the See-Saw banner.

An interesting quirk of the show is that David Hargreaves and Chloe Ashcroft were - and still are - an actual husband and wife. The don't make pies though. Well, they might every now and then, but generally they are actorman and actorwife if you want to keep the vaguely sexist moniker theme going.

Serving up a Slice of Pie

Here at Curious British Telly we were able to remember a few things about Pie in the Sky. Most importantly we had always remembered the title of the show. Other shows, from the same era, that we had watched remained nameless until the advent of the internet, but Pie in the Sky was a rare exception.

Remembering the title, though, did lead to intense frustration over the years. At school, in the late 90s, everyone would reminisce about the shows we had watched back in our early years. The same old shows were trotted out, namely Thundercats, Trap Door, He-Man and Jimbo and the Jet Set.

However, when Curious British Telly would ask "Do you remember Pie in the Sky?", we were greeted by looks of bemusement and met with the reply of "Pie in the Sky? What? That thing that was on last year? With Richard Griffifths? That weren't a bloody kids show!".

At this point, we would begin to walk away gritting our teeth and performing anger management techniques.

Yes, unfortunately, there was an identically named gentle drama several years after the children's show. Curiously, David Hargreaves appeared in both which makes researching the show that little bit harder!

One final thing we remember about the show, for some unexplained reason, was the Pieman's preoccupation with sorting his bicycle clips out.

Watching the episodes back, we found that Pie in the Sky struck a good balance between the acting sections and the performance pieces.

The Pieman and his Piewife interact with a chemistry borne from their long marriage which helps nudge the performances up a notch. Ben Thomas doesn't have much to work with as the Piepilot seeing as he mainly has to act a bit hyperactive. Thankfully, during the performance pieces he gets to shine and even shows off some decent mime skills.

The nursery rhymes have a certain charm to them and often capture that dreamy feel that so many shows of this era captured. One episode which really stood out is one where there's a fusion of Hickory Dickory Dock and Three Blind Mice. It excited us, but also scared us at the same time.

One thing that we could have done without was the 'Pie of the Week' section which seemed to serve no purpose apart from making up the running time. The budget, also, is fairly low and this leads to unimaginative sets which detract from the wonder of the show.

Pie in the Sky still has an entertaining feel all these years later, and that, after all, is the point of television.

It's not really the type of show that would ever receive a commercial release, but several episodes are available on YouTube.

One to revisit if, like us, you spent your early years watching the show. Perhaps enjoy the show with a piece of pie. And a little glass of gin.


  1. Amazing, I loved this as a kid. Whenever I ask people if they've seen 'Pie in the Sky' they always assume I mean the Richard Griffiths thing, then when I explain this to them they look at me like I'm mad.

    1. Yeah I just had exactly the same thing with me!

  2. It's a pain we know all too well!

  3. I loved this show when I was a child :)

  4. And you, Cecilia, are a shining example of a childhood well had!

  5. Yes I remember Pie In The Sky. Is this due for a release on DVD?
    I think Peter Gosling's best show was Are You Awake Yet. Another
    space themed show was Galloping Galaxies but I think that theme
    tune was written by Jonathan Cohen.

    "Pie ship to pie man..."

    1. Sadly there's little chance of Pie in the Sky ever getting a DVD release but, as ever, we live in a delirious state where this dream will be realised!

      We did a piece on Galloping Galaxies a while back that you might like:

  6. I honestly had begun to think I had made this show up, no one else seems to have watched it or remembers it! And much like many of you, if I did ever mention it, people thought I was talking about the Richard Griffiths show

    1. Glad that we were able to convince you that you weren't losing your marbles and THIS version of Pie in the Sky did actually exist!

  7. "If my pies could talk, if my pies could speak, I wonder which pie would be pie of the week!" P.S. Do you think they called each other pieman and piewife in bed? tee hee!

  8. All the contents you mentioned in post is too good and can be very useful. I will keep it in mind, thanks for sharing the information keep updating, looking forward for more posts.Thanks sky tv

  9. All I remember is the pilot of the pie ship saying "pie ship to pie man!"
    We had some crazy TV as kids.