Best left or time for a refresh? Kids TV retrospective: Part 1

The return of the Clangers earlier this week sparked off an interesting chat with a fellow Geek about old kids TV shows being remade, I got to thinking about the shows I loved as a kid, whether they would benefit from a little noughties magic or whether they would be best left as memories of a golden age gone by.

The list is by no means exhaustive and this is but part one of a four part list where the final 5 shows will be harvested from the suggestions left here and on facebook, so please do comment on the shows you loved and which ones you think deserve pimping!

Thanks to being born on the cusp between the decade that reinvented style and the decade that killed cool, most of my references come from the 80’s, if that’s too old or too young for you, have a look anyway, I’m sure you’ll know most of them!

So, here we go on a giddy swagger, dusting off the Retrospectoscope and journeying far back down nostalgia avenue, finally asking the question, would it work if they made it now?

1. Danger Mouse

Danger Mouse is the only show on this list that we know for sure is going to be remade, whilst being one of many that feature the most excellent vocal talents of national treasure David Jason.

Danger Mouse takes it’s influence from British spy fiction, particularly James Bond and the Danger Man series starring Patrick McGoohan and follows the adventures of the titular character, Danger Mouse!

DM is accompanied by his cowardly hamster valet, Penfold, who was excellently voiced by the late great Terry Scott and who provided the main comedic element to the show and is why every kid with glasses in my childhood was know as Penfold!

Danger Mouse and Penfold battle against a mixture of baddies, set on destroying the world or the British government or just generally being bad eggs. The most famous of Danger Mouse’s foes is the evil toad, Baron Silus Greenback and his crow henchman Stiletto Mafiosa, but there were many in the shows long run, including Count Duckula, but more about him in number 2.

Each episode also features Danger Mouses boss, Colonel K, a forgetful Chinchilla with a colourful and eccentric background who give DM his missions via a huge TV screen in DM’s Post Box located secret base.

Danger Mouse was produced by Cosgrove Hall Films and Ran on ITV for 10 series with a whopping 161 Episodes from September 1981 to March 1992.

Verdict: Cautiously Optimistic.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t too sure about this being remade until I heard that Alexander Armstrong would be taking the titular role of Danger Mouse. Alexander has proven his chops with the Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly cartoons and lets not forget the most excellent Armstrong and Miller show. The supporting cast will also include Kevin Eldon (Alan Partridge, Big Train, Brass Eye) as Penfold, Stephen Fry (like you need me to tell you) as Colonel K and the wonderful Dave Lamb (Come dine with me) as the Narrator.

Really, the new series is beginning to look like it might just be OK! Watch this space for a full write up when it comes to television later this year.

2. Count Duckula

Originally a spin off from Danger Mouse, Count Duckula originally starred as recurring ‘villain’ but was soon given his own series. Duckula is a vegetarian Vampire Duck, again voiced by the inimitable David Jason.

Duckula comes from a long line of evil genius Vampire ducks, each one only able to be killed by sunlight or a wooden stake through the heart. Once dead Count Duckula can only be resurrected once a century with a secret ritual and a quantity of blood. In the current counts case Nanny, a hulking great bird with her arm perpetually in a sling and little smarts about her, accidentally replaces the blood in the ritual with Ketchup.

The stories often centre around Duckula’s adventures in search of riches and fame, assisted by the castle’s ability to teleport around the world. Another regularly occurring theme is the repeated attempt by Igor to turn Duckula into a proper vampire.

Duckula was produced Cosgrove Hall Films and aired on ITV for 3 series from September 1988 to February 1993.

Verdict: Why not?
If they can make Danger Mouse work, and that is a big if, then why not Duckula? Again I’m not sure you could replace David Jason, but why would you have to? Bring him back, if there is one thing we’ve learnt about David Jason it’s that he can revisit old roles and has been doing so for most of his career.

3. Chock-A-Block

Chock-A-Block is one of my earliest televisual memories, only 13 episodes were created but it aired from 1981 through to 1989 and was part of the See Saw line up that replaced Watch with Mother.

Chock-A-Block was a big yellow computer filling the entire studio that gained its name from the coloured wooden blocks that were used to program it. Chock-A-Block was operated by either Chock-a-Bloke Fred Harris or Chock-a-Girl Carol Leader, either of whom would start and finish the show by driving in on a little yellow buggy.

To the young Iain this show was the nuts! The car, the computer with all its buttons and lights, the animations and synthesized sounds, the whole package, this thing was Kiddy-crack. As I mentioned, it’s one of my first TV memories and that tune has been buzzing round my head for decades. I was surprised to find out that only 13 episodes were made as it was so fundamental to my young little brain. Sadly only five out of thirteen episodes survive in the BBC archives, a great loss in my mind

Verdict: Not a burgers chance at a Geek Power meet up!
Oh it’s great looking back at this crazy Psychedelic nuttiness and I’d love to see the missing episodes, but lets face it, kids expect and are used to more these days. Maybe it would have a place on Cbeebies with Rebecca and Andy (ok I have small children alright) but I doubt it would ever happen.

4. Pigeon Street

Pigeon street was broadcast around the same time of day as Chock-a-Block and was part of the same programming set.

Again only 13 episodes were created, over 2 series, and was originally aired in 1981 being repeated for many years to follow.

Pigeon Street is an animated children’s television series, written by Michael Cole, originally shown on the BBC in 1981 as part of its ‘See-Saw’ strand for pre-schoolers. There were two series with eight and five episodes respectively, each programme lasting fifteen minutes. The series has been repeated a number of times.

The series was animated by Alan Rogers and Peter Lang of the Cut-Out Animation Co., who later went on to do a nursery rhyme series with similar animation called Rub-A-Dub-Dub.

The shows featured the everyday comings and goings of a group of characters living on Pigeon Street, a generic suburban area in a British city, also home to several pigeons which appeared in each show. The thing I remember most are the songs, each character had their own theme song and there were many characters including Clara the long distance lorry driver, her live-in partner Hugo the chef, Mr Macadoo the petshop owner and two twins, Molly and Polly, distinguishable by the letter M and P on their jumpers, Mr Baskerville the detective and Mr Jupiter the astronomer, my personal favourite.

Verdict: Not very likely.
Really there’s not much point, maybe they could remaster the original series and release it, I know my 5 and 2 year old girls would watch it, but it’s not very modern despite its forward thinking attitude for the 80’s.

5. The Adventure Game

The last show on Part one of the list is probably the one I remember the least, The Adventure Game was a kids game show but like so many others it garnered a decent sized adult following too.

The story in each episode was that two celebrity contestants and a member of the public had traveled by space ship to the planet Arg. Their overall task varied with time but the mission I remember theory was that the team needed to find a crystal needed to power their ship to return to Earth, but this changed over the seasons. Each character in the show had a name that was an anagram of Dragon, which was a nice touch and it has been suggested that the Adventure Game was an influential forerunner of The Crystal Maze, another amazing show from my childhood soon to be revived but this time as an immersive experience akin to Secret Cinema.

Patrick Dowling, the show creator was captivated by Dungeons and Dragons, a sentiment I’m sure many of you would associate with, and wanted to create a show that would capture the mood. The show has a similar sci-fi flavour to the world of Douglas Adams. Dowling asked Adams to write the show but Douglas had already agreed to write a TV series of his own radio show The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so thank heavens he didn’t, H2G2 rocks.

The show had a great mixture of logic puzzles, dragons, aliens, futuristic plastic coins and the marvelous Moira Stewart!

The Adventure Game was originally broadcast on the BBC between May 1980 and February 1986 consisting of 22 episode spread over 4 seasons.

Wikipedia has a brilliant page that goes into much further detail than I have time for, go take a look.

Verdict: This is begging to be remade.
There really is a lot of dumbed-down crap on TV these days. True, most of the shows I come across are for pre-schoolers, but my girls aren’t any younger than I was when I watched this show and I have fond memories of it. With today’s production values an intelligent show like this is exactly what the BBC should be spending our cash on.

Coming up in Part 2:
Willo the Wisp, Chorlton and the Wheelies, Button Moon, The Flumps & Supergran!!

 

I must just say thanks to Wikipedia for filling in the gaps in my knowledge and providing the stats, I don’t particularly want to, but apparently it’s the done thing to do!

Top image BBC Testcard – Copyright BBC

Iain Buchanan

If you like your geeks to be humongous, real ale drinking, meat inhaling, obscure, surreal pogonophobes, then you my friend have come to the right blog. That's right, you read that correctly, I don't like beards. There are many things I do like, however, such as Playstation, Apple, Cribbage and pickled eggs. My first computer was an Acorn Electron, my first phone was a Motorola M3788, we backed the Betamax and my first regeneration was Baker to Davison. I love films, all films, but get a full geek-on for comic book & sci-fi movies and TV shows in particular. I adore Science and Space but most of all I love the sound of my own voice, so do please forgive me if I waffle.

  • Fran Villette

    Mmmmmm nostalgia, it’s a good list, I wouldn’t think most of these need a remake but i’m sure, if they did, kids would love them. I would suggest adding ‘Playschool’ as it’s one I remember fondly.

    • Darrell Jones

      Meh, the nostalgia you get these days isn’t a patch on the nostalgia we used to have in my day.That was proper nostalgia.

    • spatchmo

      Thanks fran, I’ll have a look for part 4 and see if there are any other suggestions.

  • mhatti3000

    Great article Iain, after reading that I want to watch them now.

  • Great read, nice article Iain! Childhood was nuts!!!