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With the shameless help of wikipedia here are my top ten children's programs. As I was only as big as a thimble when most of them were on telly it's only fair I research them to put names to faces, hands to puppets bottoms, Finger Mouse well and truly fingered by 'Yoffy'. I always wondered about Yoffy. Some of you older ones will know who Yoffy is and most of these and one or two of you will even remember them in black n white...as dose Totalserenity...
Geoffrey, the presenter of Rainbow and the man of questionable sexuality to some, actually lives near me in my hometown of Northampton, answering that very question by having a wife and two kids, although that tends to mean little in showbiz. He was the human form, of course, on Rainbow, the mentor to a fluffy pink Hippo, a man-size teddy bear and Zippy, the loud mouth as yet unidentified creature, and still reminds me of Tony Parsons, talking crap just to get on camera. And for trivia buffs two of the three puppets were voiced by Rob Skelton, the voice of the Daleks in Dr Who!
The idea of the show, of which there was over 1000 episodes in those two decades, was to be an America version of Sesame Street, Geoffrey the teacher to the animal puppets in a classroom and the kids looking on would be unaware of the extreme campness going on, all of them sleeping in the same bed? There was also a singing trio called Rod, Jane and Freddy that would come on with a song about letters or words that the kids would sing along to.
Today Geoffrey appears regularly in panto and was last seen on telly advertising Virgin Money. It's not been as good for George; post Rainbow, punched in the face at an awards ceremony by a drunken spectator. Rather predictably the characters now appear at student unions across Britain. The team once released a naughty video on you tube not suitable for kids.
This one went out at lunch times for all those kids that didn't have school dinners because they were babies (me). The puppets were Hartley Hair and an old tortoise, created by master puppet maker Inigo Pipkin, played by George Woodbridge, who never looked well on screen, in fact dying backstage after just one year of the show. But the show has to go on and more puppets were added along with a new host who I can't recall, Topov, Pig, Mooney, Pigeon and Octavia the newbie's. The show was very low budget and the puppets rather moth-eaten and cheap but it was either that or school dinners, so a very reassuring experience for me as I wasn't eating school dinners when watching it.
This was a hybrid of 'Fingerbobs', which had only one run
in 1972, hosted by 'Yoffy', a Canadian mime artist, real name Rick Jones. Gulliver the seagull, Scampi (a scampi...) and Flash the tortoise supported the Finger Mouse, all cheaply made finger puppets of course. Rather sadistically, Jones destroyed the puppets on air for the final episode because he was so fed up with the things. I think you can draw a picture. The main problem with the show was indeed Yoffy. He always looked like a bloke you wouldn't want your kids to go anywhere near, like those children's entertainers with highlighted hair you see that set up in your local shopping centers with the Punch and Judy's.
#4 BLUE PETER
1958 and onwards...
I won't lie guys but I'm in love with Konnie Huq. When the gorgeous and leggy Katy Hill left, my heart sank but when Konnie joined my spirits (and other things) were lifted. Why is it that Blue Peter always has crumpet on it, the young kids oblivious to all the goodies on offer, the suggestive ejaculation from a squeezy bottle going unnoticed?
There's eye candy for mums too, the young clean cut handsome graduates only to willing to abseil a cliff so the girls can catch a glimpse of Richard Bacons six-pack, apparently giving my Konnie a special half-hour or two behind the cardboard props in the 1990s. grrrr!
In my days it was the oddly sexy Val Singleton who caught dad's eye, and Peter Purvis's if the truth be told, owning up in his autobiography to letting her squeeze his squeezy bottle more than once. Ewwwwww! John Noakes, of course, would have none of that, only interested in the dogs on the show (cough!) But the 80s saw a change in kids TV, the men becoming more effeminate on the show (Simon Groom, Mark Curry and Chris Wenham to name but three), reflected across the whole of children's programming in the 1990s to the present day. If you didn't look or sound gay you weren't likely to be employed for some reason, ironic, really, as that wouldn't get you a job as a primary school teacher anymore.
#5 THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT
There's no doubt there was a lot of subtle and hidden deviancy around in children's TV in the sixties and seventies, shows like the Magic Roundabout an example of, a French show more than hinting at European decadence and drug culture by those who know, be it well hidden to primary school kids of course. Captain Pugwash famously had characters called Willy, Master Mates and Seaman Stains, Channel Fives Captains Tugg comic book series joining in the in giggle some 20 years later. I'm afraid kid's shows from Europe have a reputation.
Lets be honest guy this program was probably made by people on Class A, all the characters spaced out and from another dimension- the crack dimension. Psychedelic was not the word! But the kids were none the wiser and Zebedee bouncing around with his eyes spinning and Dougal (made from a giant pee and based loosely on Tony Hancock) going through the bins looking for fag ends meant little to the rug rats. The Magic Roundabout in question was a central placed fairground carousel, where Ermintrude the cow and Dylan the hippy rabbit would sing trippy songs, sexy Emma Thompson narrating the English version. It was all very weird and everything was constantly spinning around as if high on something. Some say the show was based on French politicians of the day...Dougal...Degalle...? Whilst others say no, it was drugs and sex.
#6 BANANA SPLITS
'Fleegle' was a beagle; Bingo was a gorilla, Drooper a lion and Snorky an elephant. Now you know. They were a gang and lived in an encampment of sorts (the Double Decker's to be the later human version of them). The hour long show was a real mix of cartoons and silliness. The Arabian Knights, The Three Musketeers, The Hillbilly Bears (not to be confused with the Hair Bear Bunch from the Wonderland zoo...) would be the cartoon to split up the show and various other things popped up. A live action segment featured Jean Michael Vincent (he of Air Wolf) in Danger Island. The Sour Grapes club, girls who would dance into the Splits' clubhouse wearing purple minidresses, matched with pink leotards, tights, was their enemey. They would normally intimidate or frighten the Splits by gaving a note to Fleegle on a challenge or dare. You want to know why the gang culture toook hold in South Central in the 1970s? Well the Banana Splits was the reason. That's what kids learnt from these guys!
#7 WHACKY RACES
So can you name the contestants? Well of course you can't so here they are. We all got the same four.
Dick Dastardly and Muttley in the Mean Machine The Slag Brothers in the Bouldermobile The Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe Professor Pat Pending in the Convert-a-Car Red Max in the Crimson Haybailer Penelope Pitstop in the Compact Pussycat Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly in the Army Surplus Special The Ant Hill Mob in the Bulletproof Bomb Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chuggabug Peter Perfect in the Turbo Terrific Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth in the Buzz Wagon
The unusual thing about this cartoon for kids was the villains were the hero's and would win most of the races, held every week. It was a kid's show after all. Dick Dastardly would never win the race of course and was denied victory on the one occasion he actually did cross the line first, adjudged (Bernie Ecclestone style), that the tactic of extending the Mean Machines nose cone was illegal, even though it turns out it wasn't when Penelope Pitstop does
Pictures of Top 10 Children's TV Shows
Top 10 Children's TV Shows
the same thing two years before. The cartoon Baileys Comets would try to copy the series in the 70s.
# 8 VISION ON
In the old days kids programs were actually educational and not about political correctness and shifting merchandise, the Teletubbies making millions through syndication and cuddly toys, let alone making our kids even more delinquent. No, Vision On was about interaction with its viewers, weekly competitions and science experiments having us hooked. The idea of the show was to include kids with disabilities, especially deaf ones, the show unique in that way, sign language for all segments. Tony Hart, who recently died, co-presented with actress Pat Keysell. Hart would encourage kids to send in their own pictures they had created for 'The Gallery', to be featured on the show if they were lucky, but a waver suggesting you wouldn't get your work back if it wasn't featured, presumably binned! Eccentrics Sylvester McCoy and Wilf Lunn appeared as barmy scientists with equally eccentric experiments performed on the show.
# 9 TISWAS
There were only two reasons to watch Tiswas... Sally James's huge tits - that of co-presenters Bob Carolgeese and John Gorman, of course! What did you think I was talking about? Alongside Lenny Henry and Chris Tarrant, Sally would have the dads dribbling in their cereal for the popular Saturday morning to start, one in the ribs from the misses to remind him he still has the Saturday morning shop to do. This was commercial TV after all and they needed to sell ad space to get those parents buying. Lenny was hilarious and Tarrant the consummate live show host, an absolute must for all on Saturday mornings, blowing the BBCs Swap Shop and Saturday Superstore out of the water in the ratings, Sarah Green and Simon Mayo not quite as appealing.
I suppose it was the original kids show for me, certainly the first one I remember. It later evolved into Playbus and then Playdays and its most famous presenters were Brian Cant and Derek Griffiths. Big Ted, Jemima, Hamble and Humpty, and later the representative ethnic addition Poppy, the black doll, were the toys on the show, various live pets caged around the set. It was most famous for the three windows, round square and rectangle, which we kids had to guess which one whatever it is would be in. The Australians have their version, their longest running TV show. In 2004 a segment was shown there with two lesbian women taking their child and her 'friend' to an amusement park. A little girl narrating the clip, stated "My Mums are taking me and my friend Merryn to an amusement park." The clip caused uproar in the Aussie parliament. The Australin Broadcast Corporation responded, saying that "Play School aims to reflect the diversity of Australian children, embracing all manner of race, religions and family situations. Needless to say they don't have an Aborigine Poppy yet.