Friday 8 September 2023

Random Episode: Thinkabout (25/11/1985)

Over the many years that Curious British Telly has been running, I've covered plenty of children's programmes which have become obscured by the mists of time. However, barely any of these have fallen under the sub-genre of educational programming. You know the type, the programmes which you watched at school when the teacher would wheel out the TV in a caged fortress. So, today, we're going to take a look at a fine example of these in the form of Thinkabout.

Truth be told, I can barely remember any of the schools programmes I watched whilst at school. Sure, I can remember Look and Read, How We Used to Live and Words and Pictures, but that's about it. Perhaps this lack of recall is down to the fact that many of these programmes were far from exciting. Sure, it always meant a break from the classroom and not doing any work, but the content was always educational, wasn't it? Luckily, it turns out, not everything was long division and algebra. There were, as Thinkabout proves, many which felt more like one of the lunchtime 'fun' slots for children.

Thinkabout, which appears to have originally run for two series between 1984 - 85 on BBC2, was repeated up until 1990, so there's every chance I was sat in front of it at some point. Only one episode has emerged online - hence this edition of Random Episode - but it certainly doesn't ring any bells with me. But, from what I can glean, it's an interesting and charming little show.

Let's start by looking at the theme tune, which is an absolute cracker. Sounding much like any assembly hall in the mid-1980s, the theme tune for Thinkabout contains some simple synths alongside a basic drumbeat as a small chorus of primary school children chime harmoniously with lyrcis about finding new ways to do things and the importance of thinking about how things work. Coupled with the animated photo montage of children - resplendent in mid-80s fashion, the winner of which is the Pittsburgh Steelers top - larking about and, uh, finding things out, Thinkabout sets out its stall early on.

Radio Times Clipping - 15th September 1984

Naturally, it's very difficult for me to get a full handle on the series as I've only got access to one episode. And there's very little information regarding the series online. However, after getting in touch with one of my contacts - the ever reliable Graeme Wood - I was able to get hold of perhaps the only press clipping known to man regarding Thinkabout. It's a brief preview of the series, but it confirms that the raison d'etre of Thinkabout is to "interest even the youngest children in scientific ideas and language associated with practical aspects of life."

It certainly sounds educational, but in reality it's relatively light on hard learning, as you would expect for a programme aimed at 5 - 7 year olds. The series appears to focus on the activities taking place at a block of flats where Frank (Jim Dunk), who looks like a classic woodwork teacher, is some form of resident handyman. He's joined by the eternally cheerful Sally (Vicky Licorish) who assists Frank with whatever his weekly task is. And, in this edition of Thinkabout, they're decorating the flats.

But Frank and Sally aren't on their own. They also have a band of tiny helpers in the form of Sharon, Nicky and Bradley. The theme of this particular episode is "cover up" so there's, well, several instances of things being covered up whilst the team go about decorating the flats e.g. covering themselves up in overalls, covering up a bit of dirt with wallpaper and covering Bradley in a dust sheet. It all sounds very slight and basic, but it's convivial and genuinely feels much more like it belongs in the lunchtime slot than an educational one, all it needs is a jolly story in the middle.

The action in the flats is broken up with several interstitials, so let's take a look at some of these curious beasts. Firstly, early on in the episode, there's an admittedly cutesy, but incongruous animation featuring a dinosaur uncovering a series of layers on a present which gets larger and larger as each layer is removed. Then there's some location footage from a primary school where a child - apologies for laughing so loud at this - suggests a good way to keep rain off your head is to cover it up with a drawing - eventually they agree that a saucepan is probably a better method. We also get treated to a joyous hymn dedicated to 'covering up' which involved coconuts, gloves and a penguin on a slide.

I can't say that the educational aspect of Thinkabout on this showing is particularly strong, but apparently there were related notes for teachers to stimulate further learning. Nonetheless, this Random Episode of Thinkabout proved enjoyable enough and, if it were 1985 again, I would be making sure I tuned in for some additional entertainment. And, my oh my, those cockney accents on the kids - especially Bradley's - are remarkable, you simply wouldn't hear them on television today.

I'm only aware of one other Thinkabout episode being available - and that's within the BFI Archive - so, if you happen to have any old recordings of Thinkabout, then please get in touch and I'll get them online!

No comments:

Post a Comment