Category Archives: Kids' TV

Doctor Who – Matt Smith Teams Up With Two Former Companions*


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[*Or three if you count K9.]

Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith will cross over for a guest appearance in the forthcoming fourth season of Doctor Who spin-off show The Sarah Jane Adventures.

And in the latest crowd-pleasing blast from the past, actress Katy Manning will reprise her role as former companion Jo Grant in the show, alongside Smith and Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane.

Manning accompanied Third Doctor Jon Pertwee between 1971 and 1973.

She and Smith will appear in a two-episode run of the spin-off, which is aimed at a younger audience than the parent show.

Full BBC press release here.

Sarah Jane Smith (travelled in the TARDIS between 1973 and 1976, taking over as The Doctor’s companion after Manning left. She appeared alongside both Pertwee and fourth Doctor Tom Baker.

She was reunited with The Doctor (in the guise of David Tennant) during the second series of the revived Doctor Who in 2006. The character, arguably the show’s all-time favourite companion, was then given her own spin-off show, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which also included occasional appearances by the Doctor’s robot dog K-9 (who was reintroduced full-time in season three).

The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney), another long-time Doctor Who mainstay who first appeared in the 1970s, has also appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Incidentally, Katy Manning famously caused a bit of a stir when, shortly after leaving Doctor Who, she posed naked with a Dalek for a saucy nude magazine photoshoot.

The photos are pretty tame by modern standards but possibly still NSFW, so click here, here, here, here, here and here to see them.

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It’s Theme Tunes Day – The White Horses


A real cracker of a theme tune for you this week, one which is regularly tops greatest TV theme polls.

It’s White Horses, the theme song from kids TV drama The White Horses. It is sung by Jacky, aka Irish singer Jackie Lee who, you will remember, also provided the vocals for the wonderful Rupert The Bear theme song (click here for my post on that classic).

The series was a Yugoslavian/German co-production called Počitnice v Lipici in Slovenian and Ferien in Lipizza in German. These translate literally as Holidays In Lipica but when it was dubbed into English and broadcast on the BBC, it was renamed The White Horses, after the distictive Lipizzaner horses bred at the stables where the story takes place.

The plot centres on Julia (Helga Anders),  a teenager from Belgrade who leaves the city to spend the summer on her uncle’s stud farm.

The series consisted of 13 half-hour, black-and-white  episodes. It was made in 1966 and first aired on the BBC in 1968.

The memorable song White Horses was written especially for the English-language version by Michael Carr and Ben Nisbet but proved so popular (it was released as a single and reached No.10 in the UK charts in April 1968) that it was later dubbed onto the original Slovenian and German versions of the show, replacing the theme originally used overseas.

Like many classic kids’ shows from that era, it continued to air regularly in the UK throughout the 70s before finally being put out to pasture in 1978. It has not been seen on UK TV since and, in fact, the English dubbed soundtracks from all but one episode have been lost.

Here are the original TV opening titles plus about 10 minutes of the sole surviving English-language episode (unfortunately embedding is annoyingly disabled, so you’ll have to click the link below to go to YouTube to watch this one):

And here is the full version of the theme song, uploaded to YouTube by Jackie Lee herself (this one plays fine):

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Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – The Perishers


Running a bit late this week, I’m afraid.

Back in the days when we only had three channels and kids’ TV meant Saturday mornings and the two hours in the afternoon before the news, there was no more important schedule slot than the five-minute spot just before the news began at 5.30pm.

It was always filled with some bizarre, creative and often surreal animated series, including classics such as The Wombles, Paddington, Roobarb, Ivor The Engine, Willo The Wisp, Noah and Nelly, Barbapapa and, of course, The Magic Roundabout.

Few of them ran for more than a single season of a dozen or 20-odd five-minute episodes (though they were repeated regularly for years) and yet many of them are still fondly remembered today.

Perhaps that is because that five-minute slot was an overlap between kids’ and grown-up TV, so parents getting in from work and settling down to watch the news would watch those little five-minute shows along with their kids.

In any case, this week’s short but sweet classic theme comes from one of my favourite of those five-minute wonders, The Perishers.

It was based on a daily comic strip that appeared in the Daily Mirror newspaper from 1958 until it was retired in 2006 following the death of Maurice Dodd, who had written and pencilled the strip for most of those 48 years.

With its focus on a small cast of children – Wellington, Maisie, Marlon and Baby Grumpling – and Wellington’s dog Boot, with adults nowhere to be seen, The Perishers could in some ways be considered a British take on Charles Schultz‘s American classic comic strip Peanuts, though without any of the schmaltz and sentimentality.

The animated adaptation was made by FilmFair for the BBC in 1978. Only 20 five-minute episodes were made. It is perhaps most notable, in a production sense, for the fact that the cast included the late, great Leonard Rossiter (star of The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin and Rising Damp) as the voice of Boot.

I think the reason why The Perishers cartoon is one of my favorites is because I was such a fan of the comic strip. For many years, until they stopped printing them sometime in the 80s or early 90s, I used to get the annual collected editions of reprints for Christmas and still flick through them from time to time.

Alas, they are all out of print now – given the high quality of Dodd’s scripts and artwork, it’s perhaps surprising that archive editions of the strip have never been produced. Someone needs to do something about that.

Anyway, you can check out the official Perishers website, now maintained by Dodd’s family, for more information. And here are the opening titles for the TV show:

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Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – The Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe


I mentioned it a few weeks ago in this post, so what better time to pay tribute to the theme from classic 1960s drama serial The Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe.

The series was made in France in 1964 and first aired in Germany in four 90-minute episodes. The dubbed English-language version was split into 13 half-hour episodes and first aired in the UK in late 1965.

It remained a regular fixture on British kids’ TV, on Saturday mornings and during the school holidays, throughout the 1970s and early 80s, before the BBC’s broadcast rights finally ran out in 1982.

It starred Austrian actor Robert Hoffman as Crusoe, though in the English version, his voice was supplied by actor Lee Payant.

The English language version did not only replace the dialogue on the soundtrack – it also ditched the mediocre music from the French/German versions with a wonderful new theme and score written by Robert Mellin and Gian Pier Reverberi (the latter of whom would later found Rondò Veneziano).

It’s this theme that the series is probably best remembered for and which is etched into the memory of generations of British kids. It is another genuine contender for the title of greatest TV theme tune of all time.

Here is that theme tune from the English-language version as it originally aired on TV (plus the opening six minutes or so of the first episode):

And here is the wonderful suite of music that makes up the full version of the theme tune:

 

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It’s Classic Clip Friday: The Armando Iannucci Shows – Except For Viewers In Scotland


A little digression before we get to this week’s Classic Clip.

I can’t remember the last time I watched anything on ITV. But still, I mentally spat out a non-existant mouthful of an imaginary beverage last July when STV, my local ITV franchise, decided to drop many of the network’s most popular primetime dramas and replace them with locally produced Scottish programming.

It soon became clear that by “locally produced Scottish programming”, they really meant cheap and pointless documentaries covering well-trodden ground, with titles such as The Greatest Scot, padded out with repeats of second-rate, 30-year-old movies.

To give non-British readers an idea of what this meant, imagine that your local TV network affiliate had replaced this week’s premiere of Lost season 6 with a documentary about the greatest trees in your area, followed by a screening of Weekend At Bernie’s 2. It was like that. Only worse.

Of course, like all the ITV regional stations, STV already shows a certain amount of local programming but, traditionally, this has rarely intruded into primetime.

The decision to ditch some of ITV’s most popular and most-watched shows, albeit English-made ones, was a foolhardy move, which we all know was really done in an attempt to save money rather than anything so noble and worthy as celebrating Scottish culture or giving viewers a better viewing experience – in fact, by its very nature, it did exactly the opposite. And ITV sued STV for £38million into the bargain.

It was a PR disaster for STV and they were recently forced to perform a humiliating U-turn and promise that the primetime schedules would return to their networked norm.

Like I said, I rarely watch ITV these days but I was apalled when STV made the original announcement. I knew that it would be bad news for viewers and that it would come back to kick the STV bosses up the arse sooner rather than later.

And the reason I was so certain, was because I knew, from bitter experience, that perhaps the worst thing about growing up in Scotland was the TV.

Not the general, day-to-day network stuff that everyone in the UK got, which I loved, which sparked my love of TV and which ultimately led to the creation of this blog.

And not even the woefully naff, painfully cheesy regional ITV stuff that Scottish Television and Grampian Television, and to some extent BBC Scotland, were churning out in the 1970s and 1980s to fill slots set aside for local programming (in fact, some of that was great, such as Glen Michael’s Cartoon Cavalcade (below), a delight that was denied those unfortunate enough to live south of the central belt).

No, I’m talking about the TV that came on when BBC Scotland, and occasionally STV, decided to opt out of the main BBC or ITV schedule and give us our own specialised Scottish programming.

It was invariably absolute mince. And, worse than that, it always, always preempted something that I really, really wanted to see.

The classic example that I’ve never forgiven BBC Scotland for, which is also mentioned explicitly in today’s classic clip, is those satirical end-of-year review shows that Clive James (below, right) used to do so well, which always aired on Hogmanay on BBC1.

But instead of his scathingly witty analysis of the year-gone-by, we’d get Hogmanay Live, the same old visit to televisual Brigadoon, where past-their-prime tartan-clad traditional Scottish “celebrities” (most of whom were conspicuously absent from our screens the rest of the year) sang the same old tired and depressing traditional Scottish tunes and traditional Scottish dance troupes did the sort of traditional Scottish dancing that had not been seen in public on any other day of the year since 1932.

I can’t help thinking that these Hogmanay TV specials were the real reason that Scots were notorious for drinking so much on New Year’s Eve (even by our own renowned drinking standards) – they were trying to induce a coma to avoid listening to Andy Stewart (or even worse, that annoying little kid) subjecting us yet again to his “hilarious” comedy kilt song about Donald’s missing troosers or watching White Heather Club dancers burling around the floor like Tasmanian devils on Valium, completely oblivious to the fact that every accordian-based tune they danced to sounded exactly the same and that Scottish dancing, while good fun to have a go at after a few drinks at a ceilidh, is incredibly boring to watch.

But I could have forgiven all that if only they had shown viewers the consideration of screening Clive James later in Scotland. But they never did.

While Hogmanay TV was perhaps the worst example of the “except for viewers in Scotland” curse, it was far from the only one. We were forever missing out on comedies, dramas and the best bits of Children In Need so that we could instead watch a documentary in Gaelic about fishing quotas or a Scottish continuity announcer get dunked in a bathful of baked beans.

One notable show that we never saw, for example, was Oxford Road Show. This early 1980s Manchester-based arts show featured music from some of the best and coolest bands of the time and comedy from the rising stars of the alternative comedy scene. In Scotland, we never even knew it existed until years later when clips started appearing on nostalgia shows. You don’t see many clips from gaelic-language shows on I Love 1982.

It was incredibly frustrating. And just to rub salt into the wounds, on the rare occasions when you wished that Scottish broadcasters would alter the schedules to give us our own programmes, they never did.

For example, when I was wee, we only had three channels (Channel 4 arrived when I was a teenager) and during school holidays, both the main channels (BBC1 and ITV) devoted their entire schedules to kids’ TV shows.

Which was great. We used to get some classics year after year – The Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe, The Flashing Blade, The White Horses, Champion The Wonder Horse, Zorro, The Double Deckers, The Lost Islands, The Red Hand Gang, Why Don’t You..? , Big John Little John… the list goes on and on.

However, the school holidays in Scotland started (and therefore ended) a couple of weeks earlier than in England. And the school holiday TV schedules were set by the networks in England. This meant that for the first couple of weeks of the hols, there was nothing on in the mornings to watch.

But even worse, it meant that we had to go back to school before the serials that we had been watching reached the final episode. I must have seen Robinson Crusoe get shipwrecked on that bloody island a dozen times over the years – yet I still don’t know if and how he ever got off it, because I lways had to go back to school long before the final episode aired (this was in the days before we had a video recorder).

Why couldn’t the Scottish broacasters have opted out of the network schedule and started the kids’ school holiday shows two weeks’ early? How hard could that have been? But no. That was too much to ask. And yet Clive James could get stuffed.

All this is by way of a longer-than-intended, but heartfelt introduction to explain why the following clip strikes such a bittersweet chord with me and why I like it so much.

It’s from The Armando Iannucci Shows. Iannucci (below, right) is best known as creator/writer/producer of shows such as The Day Today, Alan Partridge and, more recently, The Thick Of It.

But occasionally he steps in front of the camera to present his unique form of absurdist, slightly surreal satire. His Friday/Saturday Night Armistice shows, which ran on BBC2 from 1995 to 1999, are probably his best-remembered starring vehicles.

Largely forgotten, however, is his eight-part 2001 Channel 4 series The Armando Iannucco Shows, his whimsical and surreal comic musings on various aspects of modern life that was a little like a TV version of the weekly newspaper columns he used to write in The Observer (some of which have been collected into a couple of books).

It’s a shame it’s not better remembered as Iannucci has apparently said it is the show he is most proud of making and the one that comes closest to expressing his comic outlook on life.

And it costs less than a fiver on DVD at Amazon so go buy it, eh? I’m sure he doesn’t need the money but I think he’d like you to see it – and he does seem like an awfully nice chap, even by Scottish standards.

And so here, finally (well done if you read this far), to whet your appetite for the series is that classic clip I promised way back up at the top of this post:

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Skippy The Bush Kangaroo’s Dad Passes Away, Aged 91


The Choob today mourns the death of TV legend John McCallum at the grand old age of 91.

No, I’d never heard of him until today, either.

However, he was the man who created one of the Choob’s earliest and fondest TV memories – Skippy The Bush Kangaroo.

Australian McCallum, whose father had emigrated from Scotland, was an actor before turning his hand to producing. He was married to British actress Googie Withers, star of 1970s ITV prison drama Within These Walls, who is now 92 (and not dead, despite what the producers of Coronation Street think).

The Aussie-made show ran for three seasons (91 episodes) between 1966 and 1968 but was repeated regularly (in the UK at least) well into the 1970s.

The show famously featured a super-smart kangaroo who was far more intelligent than any of the human characters – all of whom could, nonetheless, somehow understand and interpret the strange clicking noises she made – and regularly saved them from the deadly situations they stumbled into week after week.

This often involved her undoing ropes they were tied up with, leading them to people trapped down rapidly flooding wells, operating complicated electrical equipment, playing the drums and piano, killing snakes, defusing bombs and so forth.

The show also, of course, had a fantastic theme tune. Here are two slightly different versions of the show’s opening titles. The second one is, I think, judging from the fact the child actors look  younger, from the pilot episode which was presumably filmed some months before the show went into production:

Here are the closing titles:

And just in case you think I was joking about the amazing feats Skippy was capable of:

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Saturday Stuff – Elmo Meets Ricky Gervais


Two TV giants, together on screen for the first time.

One is a big-mouthed, squeaky-voiced muppet with an annoying laugh… the other is Elmo from Sesame Street.

Ricky Gervais sings Elmo a lullaby about the letter ‘N’:

N is for… uh, “necrophilia”:

Elmo bites back (literally):

 

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