Monday, 16 February 2009

The Death of Children's TV

Something that makes me despair nowadays is the sight of early morning TV on a weekend.

Rarely am I at home on a Saturday morning, such is the pull of work, but on the rare occasions that I am, I'm probably one of the minority that berates the sight of yet another cookery programme!

My childhood weekends usually revolved around getting up early to watch my favourite Children's TV programmes before going off out on some farmyard adventure with my neighbours. Looking back now, it's incredible what the pull of good quality children's TV could do to a kid. I mean, I'd voluntarily and quite happily get up before 8am on a weekend to watch such morning classics as the Racoons or Chip'n Dale Rescue Rangers or Ducktales (I can still sing the Ducktales theme tune almost off by heart - scary or what!).

For those to young to remember, or old to's a little reminder...

What it all led to, for me, on a Saturday morning, was the magnificent, unmissable, 'Live & Kicking'. I was slightly behind the curve in that I was to late for 'Going Live' but in in Live & Kicking, you could find my childhood wrapped up in one, simple, superb programme for children.

I've always been a 1992-1993 kinda person. Much of my striking memories from my childhood coming from those cross-over years between going from primary to secondary school. Nothing was ever more striking than 9am on a Saturday morning, listening to those opening chords of the Live & Kicking theme tune!

Here it is from that first ever episode with Andy Peters and Emma Forbes back in 1993!

It makes the shivers run down my spine just listening to it now! All the components made it a hit. Whether it be Trevor and Simon ('We Don't Do Duvets') or the launching in the UK of what become that houshold name (and quite tight too for they were and indeed still are, awesome!), The Rugrats, this was a copper kettle hit from start to finish. From 9am until 12.15pm you knew where you could find me - on the sofa with a bowl of Corn Flakes with Ani, Emma & co.

Indeed from 12.15pm onwards, I didn't move much as my afternoon was then consumed by Grandstand. Again, those striking opening chords meant that my afternoon had arrived! My despair of the loss of children's TV is almost matched by my despair at the loss of decent quality sport on the BBC - thus making Saturday afternoon watching nowadays on the BBC mediocre at best.

Here's another those fantastic Grandstand opening titles of the mid 1990s...

But I digress, as is often my way. Back to the Children's TV...

So Saturday morning was usually a good old BBC day for me. Sunday morning though usually had a good bit of Channel 4 and surprisingly (for me), a fair bit of decent US children's TV. Whether it was 'Saved by the Bell', 'Sister Sister' or 'Clarissa Explains It All' (was that a Sunday morning programme?!), I usually had plenty to watch. The climax to my morning viewing (before switching back to Channel 4 to watch 'Little House on the Prairie') was Grange Hill, old style, back on BBC2. I always preferred watching the earlier Grange Hill on a Sunday (having been to young to watch it first time round) than I was to watch the then 'current' version during the week.

Children's TV was, to pardon the pun, alive and kicking. But now quite frankly, I feel sorry for children of my nephews and nieces age. Yes if you have Sky TV or digital, there's plenty of children's TV channels to choose from. But the weekend, 'terrestrial' vintage, has long gone. The 'SMTV' generation is no more. What we have now is fractured and shows no semblance to what went before.

Weekday children's TV has also suffered. Where's the likes of Fun House, Finders Keepers and Knightmare now? Where's the overall programme that held all the component parts together? Perhaps those rose tinted glasses are shining especially brightly right now but it seems to me the something has been lost and my generation of children perhaps should be thankful for what we had.

Such is life and everything moves on. But for this little boy, the era of early 90s Children's TV, lives on.


  1. Oh Mark - in the almost-drunken aftermath of a good night out, I return to my computer to have you posting me in the direction of childhood memories. Following in a youtube trail from your links, I reach Sharkey and George, Round The Twist, Bucky O'Hare (my sister used to love this!), Alvin and The Chipmunks, Dogtanian, The Family Ness, Bananaman, Superted (who, at one stage, came to Wales to rescue red kites from the villainous Tex, as I recall), Jimbo and the Jet Set, Penny Crayon, the Dreamstone and Dangermouse. Ah, those were the days - cartoons and kids programmes that actually got kids thinking and imagining, without playing down to them or "dumbing down".

    Thankyou Mark for a trip down memory lane. Yes, I am only 23. Shush.

  2. Love your passion Mark, but on this one you're wrong. We are living in a golden age of children’s TV.
    There has never been a greater volume of children specific output.
    Cbeebies offers an incredible range of programming.
    In the Night Garden is a landmark in TV for little people.
    Programmes like Third & Bird and Mr Maker are as entertaining and informative as anything from your youth.
    The establishment of Cyw means that the little Mark Coles of the future can watch nodi and bob y bildar, Fifi etc every morning. (although why Cyw doesn’t run on Saturdays and Sundays is beyond me!?)
    Obviously, as with adult TV more choice means quality can be a bit variable. (I could live without Space Pirates, Green Balloon Club, Squiglet)
    But just as with adult TV, we never had so much good stuff available.
    This is a golden age for children’s TV.
    Don’t let the move out of the mainstream and your fondness for your own childhood blind you to the brilliance of today’s output.

  3. It’s annoying that more blogs like this, aren’t listed at the top when I look with bing online