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.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

ARE....YOU....READY? LET'S....PLAY...Snooker?!

As an avid sofa supporter of pretty much every kind of sport going (although I admittedly have little time for flat season racing and boxing), I've been greatly intrigued by the recent thinking about 'modernising' snooker by 'jazzing it up' a little, to make it a more eye-catching sport for us mere mortals to watch.

I think it's the great Ronnie O'Sullivan who has started the recent round of fevered debate on this issue by explaining his opinion that if snooker is not going to fade away and die as a spectacle, it needs to take a leaf out of the Darts handbook to survival.

As a likewise fan of darts, I find it an intriguing idea, but one at the end of the day, which might just be slightly flawed.

For me, snooker is all about those hushed tones in an auditorium. The whispered commentary of Ted Lowe and now more recently of Clive Everton (whose commentary I randomly, but jubilantly bumped into whilst surfing the myriad TV channels in Phuket in Thailand last February!), John Virgo et al along with the real sense of fair play that is rarely seen in sport nowadays (apart possibly, from the golfing arena) makes it a rather unique sporting experience. I say this as one who has as yet, been unfortunate to have not yet witnessed a live professional game of snooker in the flesh. But I'm sure when that day comes as it inevitably will (it really would have to be in the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield really), it'll only enhance my sentiments. I don't really like to think of myself as having the same thinking as Stephen Hendry but on this, we have worryingly similar views.

Having said that, a problem with snooker which Ronnie O'Sullivan alludes too, and quite rightly so, is the fact that the 'modern game' has not got those great characters that were ever present during snooker's greatest decade - the 1980s. The era of Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins, Kirk Stevens, 'Big' Bill Werbeniuk, Ray 'Dracula' Reardon and Dennis Taylor has long gone. These were real characters.

But where are the characters in today's game? The current generation are yonuger, more professional and it must be said, much more adept in larger numbers than their older contemporaries. But apart from Ronnie, there's no obvious 'big names' who can catch the public's imagination. It's not necessarily the players fault, but it is an edge that has been lost in recent years. Losing the charms which make snooker, snooker, will only be to its detriment in the long run I feel. But if we could energise the young whipper-snappers playing now into being perhaps, slightly more entertaining around the table, it would do no harm!

To see a true genius in action, here's a clip of Ronnie O'Sullivan's unbelievable record-breaking 147. In just 5 minutes and 20 seconds!

But for Snooker at it's very, very best, here's a clip from the climax of that incredible, legendary final of finals from '85 when our Dennis humbled the great Steve Davis on the final black in the final frame, to win his 1st and only ever World Championship.

Ted Lowe's commentary alone makes it compulsive viewing! This, at the end of day is what makes snooker the incredible spectacle that it is. The players play their part of course, but it's the sheer tension and drama in an arena where you could hear a pin drop that makes it a wonderful, absorbing experience!

Bringing in the darts style introductions, whilst great for darts, just wouldn't cut the mustard here. This is snooker after all! Let the action speak louder than anything else!

Still loving those glasses Dennis! Even after all these years!

Monday, 2 February 2009

It's (s)no(w) joke!

This snow malarcky has rather amused me today.

Panic! What do we do? Will our whole infrastructure, indeed, our whole way of living collpase under such grave circumstances?!

Well Ceredigion is still here, unbowed, unabashed and only very, very , very, very slightly the whiter shade of normal!

I've heard from many friends this morning who couldn't make it into London to work which gives them that bonus extra day off. Or then does it? In such circumstances should it be a day off or just an opportunity to work from home? I know which one I'd choose given the luxury!

As it is, I woke this morning at 6.30am to the gentle, caressing sounds of Strauss on Classic FM with the soothing tones of Jay Videlingum reading the 6.40am and 7am news bulletins. From the headlines, it sounded as if even Cardigan might get snow it was that bad! So I went to the window to see if there was just a dash of the white stuff on car and house roofs. Don't be so daft! In Cardigan?! Snow?! Ha! So to work I went and before I knew it I was fast asleep on the bus (it has been to known to happen from time to time). I suddenly awoke near the end of my journey, in Llanbadarn, and suddenly, as if by some magical deliverance, it was white! Not that white really, but whiter than Cardigan!

But as ever, its been pretty calm going here. I'll be off home to Cardigan in a few minutes and expect not to see a flake of snow when I arrive. This is deepest darkest west Wales after all. In over 8 years of living or being connected with Aberystwyth, I can only remember one truly impressive snowfall in which a thick blanket of snow covered the town centre, the trunk road through town, the lot - back in February 2004.

So, as I've sat here working away during the day, the constant reminders of the 'carnage' being encountered across the country, does amuse me. I'm sure our friends in Russia, Mr Medvedev and Mr Putin would be chuckling away if they saw how much utter chaos such a relatively small amount of snow (relative to what they experience at least) was having on us here.

That in all fairness is the point - this isn't something we're used to in such quantities in such a short space of time. Perhaps however, with global warming accelerating, we should see this as the beginning of a norm. Weather patterns are so distrupted nowadays who's to say more severe weather like this is not going to become an increasingly normal occurence?

But going back to my general feelings as the day has unfolded, as Duncan Borrowman had it on his Facebook status today, 'how to invade England. 1 Wait for it to snow. 2. Walk in.

I couldn't have put it beter myself!