Children’s television: a conversation starter if ever there was one. Everyone remembers sitting down after school or on a Saturday morning to watch the many delights that Children’s BBC or Children’s ITV had to offer. Everyone had his or her favourite programmes, the ones that we wouldn’t miss for anything-unless, of course, we were banned from watching television because we’d hadn’t done our homework or was that just me? Hmmm…
Anyway, as I was saying: Children’s television. A quick poll in the office revealed that Fraggle Rock was a popular choice for favourite programme, as were Thundercats and the A-Team. Other personal favourites of mine were The Smoggies-environmentally aware little island dwellers with very big hair in a wild assortment of colours-, David the Gnome
(although, no one else seems to remember this one, perhaps it was all a figment of my imagination?), and Mike and Angelo- this was obviously the precursor to my love of all things paranormal, as it chronicled the life of a boy (Mike) who lived with an alien (Angelo). I think these three were my all time favourite children’s shows, although I do also recall a great fondness for The Queen’s Nose, The Wild House, Out of Tune, Maid Marion and her Merry Men, and that old stalwart of children’s television: Blue Peter.
Back to the question in hand: Was children’s television really better in “our
day”? When I say “our day”, I’m talking about the late 80s to the mid 90s (or later,
depending on how old you were when you finally realised that twenty-something students were not the target demographic of Rugrats and My Parents are Aliens).When you think of the programmes Children’s BBC has been offering in the last five to ten years it’s hardly surprising that we will collectively sigh and comment wistfully that “television was so much better when I was young”. Take the Teletubbies for example, four primary coloured ‘beings’, that I can only describe as the product of an, ahem,“biblical” union between a bear and an alien that went terribly, horribly wrong. These four creatures live in a bio dome, surrounded by rabbits, and have a child’s face as their sun, which personally I think is rather terrifying and just a little bit ‘wrong’, and I’m twenty-two, so god knows what a two year old must make of it!
Anyway, my point with the Teletubbies is that it’s not even in the same league as “You and Me”. Cosmo and Dibs were demi-gods as far as we were concerned. There is nothing remotely god-like about Dipsy, La-la, Po and Tinky Winky, other worldly yes, but definitely not gods.What about the Teletubbies ‘ successors, the Fimbles or the Tweenies? Nowhere near as entertaining as Play Days.Alright,so Why-Bird was rather a smug annoying old bird, but for arguments sake we’ll look past that.Play days was fun, and educational. Unlike the ever more extraterrestrial type beings that the CBBC schedules nowadays.
And older children’s cartoons just don’t cut it anymore, “Arthur” is boring, “Mona the Vampire”-just plain strange, and rather pointless. Where are “Denver”, “Rude Dog”-that dog had attitude!- and “Captain Planet” (did he ever bring pollution down to zero?) when you need them? There also seems to be a great lack of programmes such as “The Wild House”, “Out of Tune”, and “The Biz”- OK, so it was as cheesy as a crate of Edams, but you’ve got to admit it was great entertainment, well I loved it at any rate. Make of that what you will!
Don’t even get me started on Blue Peter; I loved, loved, this programme, and used to watch it regularly until around three years ago (I know, very sad, but what can you do?- we all have our afflictions!) when I switched it off for good.It’s awful, and really makes me cringe, two of the presenters can’t present to save their lives, and sound as if they have a perpetual case of severe rhinitis. Lovely!
So,is it really that televison was better in ‘our day’? Or are we just reminiscing through a fog of too many e- numbers and colourings? I think on the whole the quality of children’s television has deteriorated;nowadays it is all about money, how little you can make a programme for, and how much you can make from it.This approach has seemingly resulted in programmes being churned out by television companies with little thought to their content or appeal. Having said that,we probably are being more than a little biased. Of course we are going to favour the programmes of our youth-they were such a big part of our childhood. I think in reality it’s not a case of being selective in our reminiscing, but more a generational thing. I’m sure our parents thought that our programmes were utter rubbish in comparison to their hallowed Bill and Ben, Andy Pandy, and Muffin the Mule. It stands to reason really that we think today’s children’s television is sub-standard and inferior to the programmes that we loved. And if we’re totally honest with ourselves, there were some absolute atrocities in our children’s programming, “Rhubarb and Custard” anyone? No? I thought not.
Written for: Had One June 2005