The 1980’s were a great decade to be a kid – Part 1: Younger kids TV

1980’s TV for Younger Children

This is the first part in a series I want to do, stating my case that the 80’s was a bloody great decade to grow up in and it’s not just selective memory at work! I thought I’d start off with my favourite subject: kids TV. In my honest and humble opinion, kids TV in the 1980’s was better than it has been in any decade since. The golden era of children’s television. I can’t comment on the 70’s as I wasn’t around for most of it, and the part I was around, I was too young to remember anything. This may sound like a rather bold statement I’m making and so I will make an attempt to explain as I’m going along. For now, I’ll jump straight in with some of my favourite programs:

Button Moon

What a strange program! Appears incredibly cheap and looks like it was put together by an amateur film student using household objects left over from Blue Peter projects. Almost everything about it screams crapness and yet the younger children loved it. Somehow the whole became greater than the sum of it’s parts and it ended up being a children’s masterpiece. The novelty was in the simplicity of it’s style and structure, and the narration soothed you with it’s old fashioned clipped English tones. Children seem to love everyday household objects and maybe this program hit the spot for that reason.

I have a 10 month old baby who currently neglects all his fancy toys but finds kitchen utensils fascinating. He’ll spend long periods of time examining a potato masher, or bashing objects with a wooden spoon. I guess I should also state here that I don’t let him near the dangerous utensils before anyone thinks I let him loose on the knife collection! I bought the Button Moon DVD a few years ago for my eldest child (a toddler at the time) and he loved it. It’s amazing to think that it still has appeal even in today’s age of technological advances and ultra detailed CGI animation.

Fingermouse

What a great song! Fingermouse was a spin-off of the 70’s TV series Fingerbobs. It was a hand with a cheap cardboard mouses head on one finger. Really, that’s it. Fingermouse played musical instruments and sometimes interacted with other rudimentary hand puppet animals. This is the reason people of my generation have strong imaginations. We had no other choice and the imagination muscle was exercised on a regular basis. That’s why Fingermouse was great. Without any imagination, it was simply a show about a hand.

Pigeon Street

‘If you live – in Pigeon Street. These are the people you will meet’. I love this program and I seem to remember it being on pretty regularly. It’s gorgeously rendered with beautiful artwork and a great use of colour and shading. All the characters were so happy all the time, with permanent beaming smiles painted upon their faces. Somehow, their wobbly heads and lack of knees and elbow joints seemed to emphasise this. I can’t really explain why. A proper feelgood cartoon. If Heaven exists, I hope it looks like Pigeon Street.

Let’s Pretend

This always used to be on at lunch time. Very simple concept – gather some random household objects and invent a little play using the objects as plot points or props. Kind of like an unfunny childrens version of ‘Who’s Line is it Anyway’. Or maybe that should say ‘equally unfunny’. Again, it was a show that emphasised imagination and creativity rather than simply learning facts. I remember the opening theme where a puppet caterpillar moves along the screen, however I can’t seem to find a clip of that on YouTube.

Tickle on the Tum

‘Look down, there’s Tickle town – and there’s the river Tum’. I remember that this also used to be on frequently although I can’t quite remember at the moment whether it held a lunchtime spot, or a straight after school spot. Maybe both. It used to be on for about 10 minutes and always involved a little story and a quirky song. It had some quite well known names appear in it including Bill Oddie, Penelope Keith, Billy Connolly, and Kato! (from The Pink Panther movies!). Quite a charming little program really and another example of the ‘less is more’ concept.

Munch Bunch

Lizzie Leek, Pippa Pear, Ollie Onion, Casper Carrot, Sally Strawberry, Aubrey Aubergine, Dick Turnip, and Wally Walnut. Just some of the characters in this once popular 10 minute show from the early 80’s. I love alliterative names! It was about a bunch of fruit and veg that had escaped from the local greengrocers and set up home at the bottom of a garden. Very sweet. It had an unforgettable catchy theme tune too – as most of these 80’s kids programs seemed to have. This one isn’t quite as clear as the others in my memory (theme tune excepted) – I was only a wee little lad at the time.

SuperTed

This is a story about an ordinary teddy bear…
When he was made, they found something wrong with him…
And threw him away like a piece of rubbish into an old dark storeroom…
Then, from outer space, a spotty man, brought him to life with his cosmic dust!
He took him to a magic cloud where Mother Nature gave him special powers…
That bear became SUPERTED!

ACE! SuperTed was hugely popular and progressed from a simple book series into a huge franchise that included this wonderful cartoon. I loved watching the adventures of SuperTed against his archenemies Texas Pete and Skeleton. Skeleton wasn’t really much of a baddie with his camp mannerisms and pink slippers but Texas Pete was as mean and ruthless as a rather disgruntled tiger. Apparently they’re trying to reboot this in 2016 and is being developed by the original co-creator.

Rainbow

Up above the streets and houses, rainbow climbing high.
Everyone can see it smiling… over the sky.
Paint the whole world with a rainbow.

No memory of 1980’s kids TV could exist without the inclusion of that lunchtime staple ‘Rainbow’. The gang of Geoffrey, Zippy, George, Bungle, Rod, Jane, and Freddy kept kids amused year after year. Here’s an interesting bit of trivia – Roy Skelton, who voiced both Zippy and George, was also the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen on ‘Doctor Who’ for 22 years (1966 to 1988). I never knew that! It must have been a nightmare for anyone that didn’t enjoy watching this band of merry men, as they managed to clock up an amazing 993 episodes! The show is also up there alongside Rod Hull and his Pink Windmill as being the campiest of the decades TV – although that’s something you only really noticed when you were no longer a kid.

Play School

Another powerhouse of pre school TV. It amazingly ran from 1964 right up until 1988. I remember it most when Floella Benjamin presented which, if I’m honest, may have been very late 70’s rather than 80’s – but I’m including it anyway. No little kid in the 70’s and 80’s grew up without knowing Humpty, Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima, and Hamble (who I always thought was called Annibal).  The show always included a look into the outside world, where viewers were asked to guess which window they’d be looking out of. The Round, the square, or the arched? Oh the memories.

And that’s all folks….. for now

Yep, that’s all for this post. In the next article in the series, I’ll be reminiscing about the really good stuff – the proper cartoons for the older kids (admittedly biased towards boys cartoons!). Stay tuned.

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