Kids TV: Then and Now

A while back I happened to notice that the closing credits to CBeebies at 7pm as the time comes to say goodnight have changed.  Suddenly, Topsy and Tim, Sarah and Duck and Chuggington have popped up, and are going to bed (or in Chuggington’s case, the train equivalent) alongside Rastamouse, the Clangers and those talking vegetables from the Thing With The Annoying Northern Bloke in a Van.

Where is 64 Zoo Lane?  I cry out, aghast, as I struggle to remember which other programmes the new arrivals have pushed out.  Images of happy times past spent watching 64 Zoo Lane at my old flat in London flash before my eyes.  Piglet rolling around on the floor before he could crawl; Piglet pulling himself up on the TV stand; Piglet shouting “A-DA” at the giraffe as it pops the little girl back through her bedroom window, Piglet bashing the television screen with a toy car.

And then I realise.  Time is slipping by.  Piglet is getting older, and 64 Zoo Lane has slipped into television past, along with such classics as Mr Ben, Cities of Gold, Rolf Harris, Jim’ll Fix It and Superted.

And yet….and yet….Classics from yesteryear keep popping up in the children’s television schedules.  It seems we can’t get enough of The Clangers, Postman Pat, Fireman Sam, Teletubbies and Thomas (the tank engine) and Friends.  Either that or the TV people don’t have any new ideas and have to keep recycling ones from days of yore.

So I thought now would be as good a time as any to introduce a brief critique of Children’s Television: Then and Now.  I have already written about my thoughts on the new-fangled Postman Pat with his absurdly expensive range of mail-delivering vehicles, but how do the others compare?

1.) Teletubbies

The Teletubbies first crossed my radar (no pun intended) when I was but the mere tender age of sixteen.  Old enough to know better, but apparently still young enough that I was hooked, despite my already being at least fourteen years past the target age range.  “again, again again!” I would cry, in a high-pitched squeal, whenever something good happened, even though the Teletubbies only ever said that when something very boring happened, like a brief video of some children screeching in a field.  Eighteen years later, and nothing has changed.  Nothing at all, except that the Teletubbies, like me, have gotten sprogged up, and produced the Tiny Teletubbies, a little gaggle of children of their own.  Who’d have thought it?

2.) Fireman Sam

It goes without saying that when you are an elder stateswoman such as myself, things were invariably better in the old days, no matter how demonstrably false that proves to be.  The 1970s?  A veritable golden age to those who lived through it, despite the fact that we now know that it was in fact a misogynistic hell-hole peopled by marauding glitter-encrusted ogres fondling everyone on Top of the Pops and everyone was still sitting in a bomb site despite the war having finished thirty years earlier (and I know this to be true, people, because I have watched Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, and if there is a better social commentary on the era I have yet to see it).

However, Fireman Sam is that rare piece of ingenuity. A children’s television programme where the slightly shonky original is NOT AS GOOD as the current incarnation.

For a start, I give you Penny, in the olden days a forgotten add-on and probably love interest to the titular character; in the new version a fire fighting heroine in her own right.

Secondly, Bella Lasangne, the most crude racial stereotype ever imagined, has left Pontypandy for good.  Probably in an ice cream van.  Arrivaderci Bella.  And best of all, Fireman Elvis Cridlington is still busting out some moves last seen on the King himself circa 1977.  Long live Fireman Sam, and may Naughty Norman Price forever be a thorn in thy side.

3.) Thomas and Friends

I know, I know, I’ve bleated on about this before.  In fact, I seem to spend most of my time these days lamenting the continued cultural dominance of a fictional island stuck in the 1950s and still running steam trains (according to the Fat Controller’s Wikipedia entry-yes peeps, HE HAS ONE) the venerable Sir Topham Hatt was opening branch lines all over Sodor, just as Dr Beeching was closing them down on the mainland.  And if that’s not the feverish dream of a steam enthusiast, then I don’t know what is.  But although I still have an issue with the general lack of female trains (Emily and the few others that pop up every now and then seem to be token females, rather than plot-drivers in their own right) at least the unashamed lack of modern mores leaves me with something to mock when I am stuck watching Gordon get stuck in a snowdrift again, or James being cruel to Percy.  And Cranky the Crane deserves his own spin-off show, possibly called “Cranky’s Return: Heavy Industry Returns to Brendam Docks in Light of Brexit Vote.”  You heard it here first.

And so, there may be no more Cities of Gold, Dogtanian and his Muskahounds are relegated to a BBC1 series where humans have taken the parts previously made famous by dogs and cats in what I can only assume is a flagrant betrayal of Alexandre Dumas’ original literary intentions; and SuperTed is still waiting for his renewed chance at the limelight, but children’s TV is not so different now to how it was back in the glory days of my own childhood, which were, of course, only glory days because I was there, and I wear my rose-tinted spectacles with pride.

And so to the eternal question, the call to action you have all been waiting for: Which children’s TV programmes would you like to see resurrected for the twenty-first century, and which should be forgotten forever?

3 Little Buttons
Cuddle Fairy
Diary of an imperfect mum

28 Comments Add yours

  1. I hate how everything is CG these days – bring back the old-fashioned cartoons! I used to love Loony Tunes as a child, and I even liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles even though it was (supposedly) for boys.

    1. Min says:

      Ah the Turtles were great. I remember how they seemingly took over everything for a few short years in the late 80s. I guess CG is easier to work with, but the new Clangers has kept the old style figures, and I love their little knitted outfits too!

  2. I used to love Postman Pat when I was a kid but I do not like the new one 🙁 . Bring back the old one! I also remember Button Moon? Was that it? I loved Fraggle Rock and Inspector Gadget. There was so much good TV back then. I feel all nostalgic now. I might have to go and find them on You Tube! Oh and I have a soft spot for the Northern Bloke or Mr Bloom but he isn’t a real Northener, he is pretending to be one. It is a fake accent! We met him at Jersey Live and Oldest went on stage with him. I played it cool, I did not demand a selfie and then try to plant a kiss on him *cough*

    1. Min says:

      What, Mr Bloom is not a real Northerner? I feel cheated! Now I don’t know if I can trust anyone on CBeebies again. Next thing you’ll be telling me that Gem from Swashbuckle isn’t a real pirate, or that Andy doesn’t really work in a museum with a time travelling clock! Shocking. Anyway, I loved Inspector Gadget too. He was great. Much better than Broadchurch and all that violent Scandinavian stuff that passes as detective work these days. Bring back Gadget. Go Gadget, go!

  3. suz says:

    Great post. You can give me the Clangers over Peppa Pig any day.
    #BloggerClubUK

    1. Min says:

      I quite like both of them to be honest! Thanks for commenting.

  4. Rach says:

    For me, I think TV was better when I was a kid in the late 80’s/early nineties. I miss Rosie & Jim, Playdays et al. Some of the stuff they stick on for kids these days is utter rubbish, although, in saying that, there is some educational stuff which is fab. Oh and Fun House – that was a firm fave with me! #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Min says:

      Fun House was great. Pat Sharp’s hair was a legend in itself! Thanks for commenting.

  5. aww this really took me back this post! bring back Rainbow – oh and Tom and Jerry! Oh I’ve got all nostalgic now – took me straight back to my lounge as a child with the brown patterned 1970s carpet #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Min says:

      Rainbow! They should totally bring that back. Zippy and Bungle were fab!

  6. Suzanne says:

    I have to admit I’m a little obsessed with CBeebies. It’s just so bright and cheerful and everyone is so happy just to be alive. I do miss those Saturday morning programmes though like Going Live and Live and Kicking. #BloggerClubUK

    1. Min says:

      I love CBeebies as well. Piglet will make his feelings known on it now though, by shaking his head when they show something he’s not interested in!

  7. I loved reading this! One of my favourites when I was little was Pigeon Street. All I remember is a lot of cooing pigeons, very dodgy haircuts and a female lorry driver called Long Distance Clara who had her own song. It must have been a bit ahead of its time as it was on in the early 80s and I don’t think there were many famous female lorry drivers on TV back then. Button Moon is also a classic. Aw I feel all nostalgic now…. #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Min says:

      I don’t remember Pigeon Street, but I do remember watching a TV series for schools called Geordie Racer which was all about racing pigeons. We would be herded into the “TV room” at school, with its carpet and TV in a cupboard! Good times.

  8. They really have changed so much overtime. But like you said some old ones have made some comebacks as well. My little bear has taken quite a liking to Thomas which I remember being one of my brothers favorites. #DreamTeam

    1. Min says:

      Piglet loves Thomas, and I have to admit, I have seen some interesting episodes, even though I am a sworn enemy of the little tank engine and his anachronistic friends! Thanks for commenting.

  9. I loved The Raggy Dolls they were my fav along with Willow the Wisp. I do love Disney Jr t the moment. Doc McStuffins is our fav! xx

    #DreamTeam

    1. Min says:

      I’ve not seen Disney Jnr, but I do remember Raggy Dolls. The theme tune was so catchy!

  10. I bought a kids classics DVD which included such greats as Chorlton and the wheelies and Jamie and his magic torch. Can’t beat those! Thank you for sharing your fab post with us #ablogginggoodtime 😀

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for hosting and commenting!

  11. Charlotte says:

    There are so many kids programs t I would love to be brought back from my childhood. I resort to searching you tube to find my favourite classics for the kids to watch including raggy dolls, shoe people, play days and gummie bears #ablogginggoodtime

    1. Min says:

      I might have to test out some old classics on Youtube to find some that Piglet might be interested in-although to be fair there are modern versions of a lot of the ones I watched! Thanks for commenting.

  12. I absolutely loved Postman Pat and the new CG one just irritates me. Of course my girl doesn’t know any better and loves it so we have to watch it…it also bugs me that the theme tune now sings “parcels through your door” instead of the old “letters through your door”. Small things! She also loves Teletubbies and is in mild hysteria when it comes on, perhaps a timeless classic? Great post as always – thanks for linking up to #dreamteam

    1. Min says:

      Yes Piglet loves the Teletubbies too! They seem to have this odd effect on children! I hadn’t even noticed that Postman Pat now sings about parcels rather than letters, but I guess it’s a sign of the times. No one’s going to get excited about a bank statement or credit card bill.

  13. Oh my, we don’t watch any of the above. Its all about Paw Patrol and Beat Bugs here. I do miss regrets, we watch all the episodes in Netflix. I’d love to see it come back.

    1. Min says:

      Ah yes, I recently discovered Paw Patrol. It has everything Piglet loves in a show: dogs and interesting vehicles!

  14. Alex Fihema says:

    I know it’s not BBC but I’d like to see Peppa and Ben and Holly disappear (and I’ve written about them so I won’t go about it).
    However, like you I’d love to see Super Ted come back and Fraggle Rock

    1. Min says:

      I don’t know Ben and Holly, but I don’t mind Peppa. SuperTed was fab!

Leave a Reply