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Back in the days of the old black and white

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17.09.2003

Advantages:
Ah, they knew how to make a  kids show in those days

Disadvantages:
Made me feel positively ancient looking at how many DECADES ago this was

Recommendable Yes:

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After reading other ops on this subject, it got me thinking and I just had to go and do one myself. Bearing in mind that I grew up in the fifties and sixties, some of you will look on this as more of a history lesson ... but no, I'm not in a museum yet although lots of things from that era are!

In the beginning, there wasn't much choice of tv back then, I think there was BBC who did Watch With Mother and ITV, just the two channels. BBC was definitely the more child friendly of the two at first, and every day had a time slot for the kiddies. Not to be outdone ITV followed suit with their own programs.

In those days, it really was Watch With Mother, few mums worked outside the home. Their job was in the house, taking care of their little darlings, taking them out in prams to the park to feed the duckies, and keeping the house nice and clean, washing done, clothes ironed and put away, so that when poor hard working dad came home, he could sit down and have his tea and relax.

And poor old mum? Well, I guess the Watch With Mother gave the mums a chance of a few minutes with their feet up too. So here goes, clearing out the cobwebs of my brain to remember my favourites once again.

Andy Pandy
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Part of the BBC's Watch With mother line-up, I used to love Andy Pandy in all his flickering black and white glory, with Looby Loo and Teddy but sadly I can't remember any of the story lines. Andy Pandy had pyjamas and a night cap on his head, and used to get back into a picnic hamper (?) at the end of the show, while the theme song played "time to go home, time to go home, Andy is waving it's time to go home". Every year, they would bring out an Andy Pandy Annual, and that book showed us that his pyjamas were actually a blue and white design.

Apparently, they are now talking about bringing this show back (details at: http://www.digitalpostproduction.com/2002/02_feb/news/andypandy.htm), I just hope it doesn't go the way the Flowerpot Men did. Sometimes things are better left unchanged, and even today's kids would probably enjoy the old versions ... or they could colorize them, even.

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Yogi Bear
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He was "smarter than the average bear, Boo-Boo" for quite a few years as I recall, raiding the picnic baskets of visitors to Jellystone Park and trying to avoid the warden. He was a bear with a cub for a friend, and the show centred on his harebrained schemes which I think usually failed and the warden found out anyway. Not sure if he is still around on cartoon channels throughout the world. Sometimes they even gave him a girl bear, Cindy Bear, to play with.

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The Clangers
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How many alien movies have used the Clanger whistle and made a melody of it for their alien speech? This programme revolved around the Clangers, who had long noses and lived on a planet with the soup dragon and the metal chicken. They talked to each other in this whistle sounding do-dee-doo-doo and a narrator told the story. I'm pretty certain I saw this in black and white , but I think the video version out now is colorized. Wouldn't want to have had dinner at theirs though, as someone else mentioned, blue string soup was on the menu. Just didn't fancy that myself.

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Bill and Ben
**********

This was another Watch With Mother offering - as we kids used to say, "Bill and Ben, the flobberpot men".

Oh wow, you could see the strings on these all the time, but we didn't care! Bill and Ben lived in the garden, in flowerpots up against the wall with Little Weed inbetween them. Bill and Ben had their own language which it seems all of us children back then understood pretty well, "a flub-a-dub", "flub-flub-a dub", as did Little Weed. The grown-ups, it seems, were the only ones out of the loop.

Bill and Ben were mischievous (or in those days, naughty) as whenever the gardener went off for his dinner, they would touch something they weren't supposed to, invariably messing it up. Little Weed, who only seemed to know how to say her own name, was never naughty and would watch haplessly as they did their damage.

Despite the trouble they got into, somehow, they always managed to be back in their pots before the gardener got back from his dinner, leaving him puzzled, and in true "detective thriller" fashion, the narrator would ask "Was it Bill or was it Ben?? at the end.

Apparently, the powers that be decided to revamp this show and bring it back for today's kids, but sadly it just doesn't measure up to the original. Why do they try to "update" them? They always ruin them! Kids today would still enjoy the original versions, given half a chance.

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Stingray, Fireball XL5 and Thunderbirds
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I've put these all together as these were all from the magnificent mind of Gerry Anderson and his wife (whose name escaped me). By far the most popular (and still showing in the USA on the tech channel on satellite - I know because I've watched it!) Thunderbirds was the finest and greatest of the three. Centre-ing (how do you spell that word?) around the Tracy brothers and their International Rescue organization that always managed to catch the bad guys and save the world. Ably helped by Brains (who I think they modelled Radar on MASH on! ) who was their technical whizz-kid, Lady Penelope (I had the doll!) aristocratic spy and Parker, her chauffeur.

That they made such a fascinating show for kids with a lot of bits of junk ( a documentary about the programme showed it was low-budget, and lots of the props were household throwaway items) is yet another testimony to the Anderson's magic.

I think Stingray came first and then Fireball XL5. I do remember the Fireball XL5 theme was definitely sixty-ish music but can't rememebr much about the program itself or Stingray. I think they were about space though and bearing in mind that man had not made it to the moon back then, the idea was still very glamorous and fantastic to think about.

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The Magic Roundabout
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This was around for the second time when my kids were small, having started when I was younger. I bought my son a Magic Roundabout playset with a train that ran around the outside of the oval, with a carousel at one end and park at the other, and the figures could slot into places on the plastic base or in the train or carousel. And it played The Magic Roundabout Theme too.

Lots have been said in recent years about underlying drug themes. Maybe true, maybe not, but as kids we weren't aware of it, all we knew was that we enjoyed the 5 minute daily segments of Dougal the dog (who seemed to circle incessantly), Dylan the rabbit, Brian the snail, Rosemary, Ermintrude the PINK cow who seemed twopence short of a shilling, and my favourite ......boingggggggggggggggggggggg Zebedee. He was a funny little thing on a spring and bounced all over the place.

I think the colours and the illustrations and themes definitely were of the sixties - pychedelia ruled! Were they influenced by drugs ... or is it possible the ideas were formed in the minds of hippies who imbibed? I really don't care. To us kids it was lovely, and that's what counts. As a programme for children, it worked.

At the end, Zebedee would bounce across the screen, "and time for bed" said Zebedee, the narrator would say. Funny enough, back then I think my bedtime was 6 o'clock and the news came on at 6pm, and this was the last of the kids programmes for the day. So it really was time for bed.

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Blue Peter
*******
Gosh, I think when I watched this it had Valerie Singleton on it with Peter Purves and they were later joined by John Noakes. In Junior School it seemed like the greatest thing was to get a Blue Peter badge. This was one of those great programmes that actually moulded our minds into being decent citizens and helping people and animals. I think their first dog on the show was Petra, a German Shepherd, and they had a cat to but I can't think of its name.

They did adventurous things too, like parachuting, sailing, skiing. They had guests who were experts about various things, they did a craft section and showed how to make things from cereal boxes and loo rolls ( they aren't allowed to use loo rolls any more for health reasons, are they?)

Blue Peter is still around today, albeit with a C21st look to it, jazzed up beyond recognition. When I saw it a couple of years ago, I felt that it had fell to the changing times, although one has to admire its staying power.
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Flipper
*******

Before we understood how intelligent dolphins are and began utilizing their extraordinary powers, this show introduced us to one.

Set in Australia, Flipper was about a dolphin who was able to communicate with a young boy. The boy managed to always find some kind of crime going on, or people needing help in some way, and he and Flipper would solve the problem and in the case of the criminals, would shop them to the police.

This was one of a few animal/human interaction shows around at the time, and Australia was at the forefront of them. Another was Skippy (about Skippy the bush kangaroo) with a similar idea, and one which I think was African (?) maybe, Daktari (those old enough to remember will immediately think of Clarence the cross-eyed lion).

Of all of these though, Flipper was a firm favourite, and they did a couple of movies and I think redid a series of shows a few years back (that might be a decade ago even!)
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Ivor The Engine
*************

Another end of the day, 5 minute slot, Ivor The Engine was about a little locomotive in Wales, and was read in a Welsh accent, telling the tales of Ivor's activities and interactions with the other trains and the people and places around him. Well, with the slightly unusual addition of Idris, who just happened to be a dragon. This was wa-a-a-ay before Thomas the Tank Engine.

There is an excellent site of all things Ivor at: http://www.smallfilms.co.uk/ivor/
It really is brilliant, you can listen to Ivor toot his horn, see the map of the area, all sorts. Brought a tear to my eye, the first time I found it. And I bought the video (but here in the US the lines on the tv are different so I have to get a multi-system to be able to play it. Agh!)

When I first watched this it was in black and white, but by the time it stopped being a regular on children's tv, they had been making the programmes in colour. Hard for today's kids to understand the magic of black and white tv, I think. They are so sophisticated in ways now.
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The Woodentops
***************

Another Watch With Mother favourite, this was about a family who lived in the woods - Mummy Woodentop, Daddy Woodentop, Jenny, Sam, Willy and Baby Woodentop and a dog who was called Spotty Dog (no doubt because he had spots!). They all walked kind of like the flowerpot men, and Spotty Dog was definitely double or triple jointed.

They went on picnics together and all sorts of normal-for-the-time family type things, as I recall. Just a very nice little show, wholesome and innocent. And we loved them all!

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So those are my top ten pics for the children's tv programmes that I loved back then and still think of with warm affection. There were lots of others - variety shows like Crackerjack, the Dalek masses in Dr Who (William Hartnell was the only Dr I liked out of them all), and quiz shows like Criss-Cross-Quiz which was liek a giant game of noughts and crosses with two players.

They may have been destined to the annals of time but I bet there's a great many of us who still remember them, and can still feel the comfort factor we got from them all those years ago.

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Comments about this review »

sigmatech 16.01.2007 00:58

I remember all of these apart from the Wooden Tops, all of these shows apart from the Wooden Tops ran into the 70's when I was a boy - Joe

saraha007 19.08.2005 09:31

Lots of good choices there. I think the Magic Roundabout and Blue Peter would of been my favourite out of those. Sarahx

MAFARRIMOND 23.05.2004 19:48

Good choices. Maureen

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This review of Top 10 Children's TV Shows has been rated:

"very helpful" by (100%):

  1. sigmatech
  2. saraha007
  3. whoopidoo

and 40 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.