It has been announced that UK Children's TV Channel CITV will be having an "Old Skool" Weekend in the first weekend of next year, looking back at 30 years of children's programming on the ITV network, including the likes of cartoons such as "Raggy Dolls" and "Dangermouse" to shows with Puppets such as "The Sooty Show" and "Fraggle Rock" to "live action" dramas such as "Children's Ward" and "Press Gang". This list are 10 children's shows that I grew up with and remember with some fondness.
Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles
Yeah, that's right. Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles. See, while you Americans were getting your Ninja on, just in case us British kiddywinks were sent down the wrong moral path by all becoming ninjas and taking nun-chucks to others developing scrotal sacks, they edited the title and theme to replace "Ninja" with "Hero". And then in spoken dialogue, it was replaced with "Fighting".
Here's how much into the Turtles I was. It was the catalyst for my first (and so far only) foray into criminal fraud. Aged 7 or 8. After our summer vacation, I told classmates that I'd been to America (see, loved it even then) and had met the Turtles. You know, they were just kicking back in the street. So me and my 2 main buddies started selling their autographs (which had drawn/written on the school dot matrix printer paper!) before we started selling other sorts of things. We were a proper little second-hand shop until we got busted and had to give every penny back, which meant spending a lot of time figuring out who had given us what.
This one is barely remembered today. To be honest, even I don't remember that much about it, other than it's awesome theme song, which I've recently re-discovered. I don't know about America, but up until the late 2000's, there was a tradition in British children's TV programming that on Saturday mornings, there would be a show on for the WHOLE morning, in a studio, with guests and competitions and musical acts on, but would also show cartoons and the like during as well to pad out their 2-3 hours of TV time.
But even these shows couldn't air 52 weeks a year, usually airing in the months September to April. So in April 1992, as the seminal "Going Live!" went off the air for their "Summer break", it was replaced by a show called Parallel 9. It was actually a truly unique and ambitious show for it's time. While it was the same idea of having guests, competitions and music while showing cartoons and such, it had the unique concept of being somewhat plot-driven.
Parallel 9 was a prison-planet to which a prince named Mercator (who oddly for such a role of Kids TV host was played by an older gentleman, and given incredibly long eyebrows) was sent because he had a thirst for knowledge, an apparent criminal offence, and while on this planet, could only be awake for 2 hours on "the sixth of the seven cycles". However, he was given the ability to teleport guests up from Earth to take part in the show.
However, this version of the show lasted only it's first season, as it went over like a lead balloon with the masses and they revamped it for the second season making it far brighter, gaudier and cheaper to make (the first season featured a massive set at Pinewood Studios where James Bond movies are filmed). Like I say, now that it's 20 years old, I barely remember it. But like I say, I never forgot that it had an awesome theme, one that I've only just thought to rediscover, thanks to YouTube.
Mysterious Cities Of Gold
Again, this is one based on my memory of the theme song more than the show itself. A cartoon set in the Incan times as a bunch of kids (whose lead character I recall is called Esteban) looking for one of the seven cities of Gold, as well as Esteban trying to find his father. Actually, looking it up, there were only 39 episodes of it, but it felt like there were more sue to repeated re-airings in the mid-80's. What I remember (or at least think to remember) is that some episode had an extended opening credits sequence that would seemingly go on forever.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
Indeed, never mind Mysterious Cities Of Gold, but pretty much anything that Haim Saban and Shuki Levy composed music for in the early 80's and 90's was TV gold, pardon the pun. Another one of these was the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. And I mean the original five. Jason, Trini, Zack, Billy and every newly-pubescent boy's second favourite fantasy (behind Topanga from Boy Meets World), Kimberly. And of course, we can't forget Tommy, who was played by Jason David Frank, a man whose parent could decide on a first name to the point of having one as his surname too.
But it was proper exciting at the time, when they introduced the Green Ranger, but he was evil and then became good as the White Ranger, especially since he got to call on his Zord differently. Yes, he would become a Red Ranger and then the mentor in Dino Thunder, but he's forever the green and white Ranger to me.
Indeed, the first movie I ever went by myself to see was the Power Rangers Movie in 1995. Took the bus by myself into the city centre showed up and paid my money. Then realised the bitch behind the counter had given me a ticket for the show in progress, not the next one and so missed the first 20 minutes.
But it was so great itself, it's endured to this day and celebrates it's 20th anniversary this year. Indeed, it's still something of a guilty pleasure to watch the later iterations of the show. That said, they did "re-version" the original series a couple of years ago and made it look like ass.
Here's one you Americans may have heard of before, despite me talking about a show that wasn't an internationally aired show like MMPR or TMNT, because it was based on the American show of the same time and name. Our version of the show even had twin cheerleaders, Melanie & Martina.
The rounds of the two version were almost identical as well. Only really was the first section different, and even then, it was essentially in name only. While the US version had "Stunt Games", we had "Messy Games". That said, we did stick to prop gunge and not, as research says about the US version, things like garbage and the like But then you had the best part, which was the "Grand Prix" that saw the teams carting around the studio, with the winning team getting to find token in the Fun house itself for prizes.
What made the show really fun was that it was totally stuff that kids would want to do. Dicking about in gunge, racing go-karts and then buggering about in a big structure with obstacles and stuff. It was so awesome and every week would be half an hour of living vicariously and being jealous of the kids who got on.
While the US version had hundreds of episodes, it lasted only a few years between syndication and a run on FOX. Meanwhile, the UK version ran from 1989 to 1999, although it only had about 140 episodes (due to us Brits not filming as many episodes of shows as Americans do.
Kids of today like playing such Fantasy RPG games such as Skyrim or World Of Warcraft or some such nonsense with wizards, goblins and mages and where a dragon will more than likely show up at some point. Which only just goes to show how much ahead of it's time Knightmare was as a TV show when it aired from 1987 to 1994. Hell, even with the technology advances that there are today from then, the Knightmare of 1990 would still be a highly forward-thinking TV commission for someone to make.
The show was made with the-then rather pioneering technique of shooting in a blue chroma-key setting, allowing rooms (and later, actual outdoor areas) to be projected onto the chroma backdrop. So while the contestant was only ever in a completely blue room, what we would see were the backgrounds and flooring projected on.
The show ran for 8 seasons, with the final one actually being fully CG rather than Chroma. Well, as CG as it got in 1994. The show remains a cult classic amongst fans and many episodes are on YouTube. Also, there is a top quality parody of it that was recently done.
How 2 ran from 1990 to 2003, based on the original show "How" which aired from the 60's to the 80's. It was an entertaining educational show looking at science, nature, maths and occasionally myths and puzzles. It was presented by one of the presenters of the original show, Fred Dinenage as well as Gareth Jones (known as Gaz Top) and for the first six years Carol Vorderman. It was far from being the only educational show in children's TV, But it's colourful set and jovial hosts made it one of the more fun ones.
Maid Marian And Her Merry Men
Many still love and/or have heard of the British comedy classic Blackadder, and this show could be likened to it. While it didn't do the Blackadder thing of shifting time periods, and was certainly more child-friendly than Blackadder, there were certain elements of the show, such as referential humour to the modern day transposed into the past, spoof and the use of language that could draw connections. That probably had a lot to do with the fact that it was created by Blackadder's Baldrick, Tony Robinson, as well as Blackadder creator Richard Curtis who script edited early episodes.
The show was, as the title suggests, a spin on the Robin Hood mythology, with Marian taking the role of the leader of the group, a freedom fighter, rather than a member of the royalty. Robin Hood, who was still part of the group, was cast as a vain "yuppie" who was seen by the public to be the leader. They also had Little Ron, Rabies and Barrington, the latter played by Danny John Jules (Cat from Red Dwarf) who would sing most of the show's songs, each episode having one.
The show would last for 4 seasons and a Xmas special, running to 28 episodes in all and remains a beloved classic.
No, not the thing that masquerades as Thundercats these days. The PROPER Thundercats fromt he 1980s. The one with the actual theme!
Between this, He-Man and Transformers, these were the cartoons that were barely disguised as toy commercials, and I had everything I could get my grubby little consumerist hands on. What makes me prefer the old version to the new one, which is OK, and indeed, they follow a similar story and continuity, but I don't like the fact the new one casts the characters as, essentially, children. Teenagers at best. They were proper grown ups in the 1980s and that made it seem better. Heroes to be looked up to, not "equals" that were focussed-grouped to within an inch of it's life the notion being "Kids wants to watch kids". At least I have the 1980s version to remain as a much loved memory.
Who can't love Thunderbirds? Again, I don't mean the recent remake that cast the main characters, in essence, as teenagers who had to save the day, but the original "supermarionation" series. And none of this McFly nonsense with the theme. THERE IS ONLY ONE THUNDERBIRDS THEME I RECOGNISE!
My personal favourite episodes were the ones where they actively used Thunderbirds 4 & 5, because they were so few and far apart that despite being in the credits every week, it was almost redundant to have them featured at all. Certainly Thunderbird 4. At least John or Alan (whomever was on duty) in Thunderbird 5 would send the messages to Earth. Indeed, the rare times that John was back on Earth made for a special episode.
Indeed, Thunderbirds is SO enduring, despite that some of them have had remakes and films and stuff, this is the only show that you'd have a hope of seeing on TV today in it's original form, as it gets regular, albeit not constant repeats on BBC 2.
Hang on...Thundercats...Thunderbirds...Where was Thunderdogs?