July 11, 1950 on UK TV: Andy Pandy

Andy Pandy is a British children’s television series that premiered on BBC TV in 1950, on 11 July, as part of the For the Children strand (later Watch with Mother) narrated by Vera McKechnie. Initially the programmes were transmitted live, but it was realised that if the programmes were filmed, they could be repeated. Twenty-six episodes of fifteen minutes duration were filmed on 16mm, and were produced around 1952; they were repeated continuously until 1970. This version had narration by Maria Bird. In one episode Andy Pandy sees how high he can go on a swing, an episode featured in the 1987 compilation by BBC Video. Under the umbrella title Watch With Mother as well as the Andy Pandy episodes, there were also The Woodentops, ‘Bill and Ben’, all having a similar format-filmed marionettes, there was also an animated drawn character called ‘Busy Lizzy’ incorporated into the Picture book series. All the filmed black and white 1950s original transmissions were narrated by Maria Bird, who was to become a co-producer, with Freda Lingstrom, who worked for the BBC. Bird was a prolific writer of books for the very young, notably Andy Pandy, but it was for her distinct ‘BBC English’ enunciation that she is best remembered.

A marionette who lived in a picnic basket, Andy was later joined by Teddy, a teddy bear, and Looby Loo, a rag doll, who would appear/come to life when Andy and Teddy weren’t around. Looby Loo had her own special song “Here we go Looby Loo”. All three lived in the same picnic basket. Each episode ended with a variation on the song: “Time to go home, Time to go home, Andy is waving goodbye.”

It is claimed that the design for the character was based on Paul Atterbury (now an antiques expert on BBC’s Antiques Roadshow), the then young son of puppeteer Audrey Atterbury. [Wikipedia]


June 15, 1990 on UK TV: Art Attack

Art_Attack-1990Art Attack is a British children’s television series revolving around art. The original, series aired on CITV between 15 June 1990 and 26 May 2007, and was presented by one of its creators, Neil Buchanan, throughout. Buchanan also wrote and produced the series, and came up with a majority of the creative ideas.

The programme was originally a TVS production, devised by two TVS employees, Neil Buchanan and Tim Edmunds. Buchanan and Edmunds met each other at Southern Television in 1978, and worked together on No. 73 and Do It!.

The first Art Attacks were a strand within No. 73, and this segment proved so popular, Nigel Pickard the executive producer of children’s programming at TVS green lit the pilot. The Art Attack pilot was shot on location at a disused swimming pool in Gillingham, Kent in 1989, and the series began the following year.

When TVS lost its franchise, Edmunds and Buchanan bought the rights to the show and TV-UK-06-15-1990produced Art Attack through their company, The Media Merchants. The Media Merchants used STV Productions (then known as “SMG Productions”), as the ITV company to get the series onto the network: this was partly down to the fact that Nigel Pickard had moved to Scottish Television. In 1993 another ex-TVS employee, Peter Urie set up a production management company, Television Support Services. Television Support Services managed all of the Media Merchants productions.

For the vast majority of its run, the show was filmed at The Maidstone Studios, Maidstone, Kent. In 1998, Disney bought the rights to produce foreign-language versions of Art Attack. Each version had a different local host for each territory, and was made in Maidstone, on a similar set to the original version. Neil Buchanan’s Big Art Attacks were retained in the international shows, as was The Head, who was dubbed by relevant local voice artists. Buchanan also produced the artwork for the foreign versions – footage of his hands creating the pieces would be voiced over by the local host, who would show the artwork in-between stages and explain what to do next. Disney ended production of the foreign shows in 2005.

ITV announced the cancellation of the series in July 2007. Until January 2014, the show was regularly repeated on CITV, usually on weekend afternoons. After the programme’s demise, many of the production team transferred to Finger Tips and Mister Maker, both recorded at The Maidstone Studios.

TV-UK-06-15-1990aThe Head, was a puppet stone bust who would humorously recap the steps needed to produce the last art piece made. After doing this, he would usually show his creation of the previous Art Attack, most times however getting it hilariously wrong and usually bursting into tears. However, on occasion, by accidentally doing part of the instructions incorrectly, he would create a different effect to that desired and be proud of his work. He would sometimes tell jokes after the Big Art Attacks. In series one, ‘The Head’ was played by Jim Sweeney, in series 2, Andrew O’Connor; and from series 3, having been redesigned as a puppet, he was voiced and operated by Francis Wright. ‘The Head’ did not appear in series 12 or 13, or in series 18 and 19. [Wikipedia]

Watch an example of the opening credits on the Vid Star YouTube Channel.

June 13, 1973 on UK TV: We Are The Champions

We_Are_The_Champions-1973We are the Champions was a long-running children’s sports programme that ran from 13 June 1973 to 25 July 1995. There was a full series every year until 1987, and one-off specials every year from 1988 to 1995. It was originally presented by Ron Pickering but, when he died in 1991, Gary Lineker took over as presenter of the remaining one-off specials.

The programme was formatted around a traditional British school sports day, whereTV-UK-06-13-1973 children would compete in various athletics and swimming competitions. Each programme concluded with Ron Pickering shouting to the children “”Away Y’ Go” at which point they would all run and jump/dive into the swimming pool as the titles ran.

The series is poorly represented in the BBC archives, with even the last full series from 1987 not existing in full according to the Kaleidoscope Children’s Guide.

Watch the 1976 opening credits on the Niall Williams YouTube Channel.

June 5, 1965: Hector’s House

Hector's_House-1965Hector’s House (originally La Maison de Toutou – “The House of the Doggie”) is a children’s television series using hand puppets. Like the better-known The Magic Roundabout it was a French production revoiced for a British audience. A gentle series, it was first broadcast on BBC 1 in 1965. In the French version, Hector is known as Toutou and Zsazsa is known as ZouZou.

The main characters, affable Hector the Dog and cute Zsazsa the Cat, live in a house and TV-UK-06-05-1965beautiful garden. Kiki the Frog, dressed in a pink smock, is a constant and at times an intrusive visitor, through her hole in the wall. Despite Hector’s willingness to endlessly help them out, Kiki and Zsazsa often played tricks on him to teach him a lesson, leading him to say his catchphrase at the end of the episode, “I’m a Great Big [whatever he was] Old Hector.

Watch an episode on HectorsHouseOfficial YouTube Channel.

May 8, 1977: King Of The Castle

King_Of_The_Castle-1977King of the Castle is a British children’s television serial made by HTV for ITV in 1977.

Written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, the series is a surreal tale centred on a lonely young boy, Roland Wright, who lives unhappily in a council flat with his father Ron and stepmother June. Escaping from a gang of local bullies in a malfunctioning lift, Roland finds himself transported to a strange fantasy environment where people and places are twisted variations of those he sees in his real life.TV-UK-05-08-1977

Philip Da Costa (pictured) starred as Roland, while other prominent roles were played by Talfryn Thomas (Dad’s Army), Fulton Mackay (Porridge), Milton Johns and Angela Richards (Secret Army). [Wikipedia]

May 7, 1966: Quick Before They Catch Us

Quick Before They Catch Us was a British action/adventure children’s television series. It starred then child actors Pamela Franklin, Teddy Green and David Griffin (Keeping Up Appearances) as three teenagers who become amateur detectives in Swinging London during the mid-1960s. Although the series was short-lived, all three stars went on to have long and successful television careers in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Its theme song, written and performed by Brian Epstein‘s Paddy, Klaus and Gibson, later became a popular tune and one of the group’s first hits after releasing it as a single. Listen to the song on Spotify.

Kate (Franklin), Johnny Martin (Green) and Mark Dennison (Griffin) use their unique talents to solve crimes in their neighbourhood. Kate, the youngest of the three, possessed a photographic memory and was a talented artist; as well as a sketch artist, she most often trailed suspects. Johnny was a technology student and often built surveillance equipment and other inventive gadgets. Mark was the “nerdy” bookworm of the group, arguably the most intelligent of the three, and was the photographer. [Wikipedia]

April 25, 1987: ALF crash lands onto UK TV

ALF-1987ALF is a 1986 American children’s television sitcom that first aired in the UK in 1987. It was the first television series to be presented in Dolby Surround.

The title character is Gordon Shumway, a friendly extraterrestrial nicknamed ALF (an acronym for Alien Life Form), who crash lands in the garage of the suburban middle-class Tanner family. The series stars Max Wright as father Willie Tanner, Anne Schedeen as mother Kate Tanner, and Andrea Elson and Benji Gregory as their children, Lynn and Brian Tanner. ALF was performed by puppeteer Paul Fusco, who co-created the show with Tom Patchett.

Produced by Alien Productions, ALF originally ran for four seasons and produced 99TV-UK-04-25-1987 episodes, plus three one-hour episodes that were divided into two parts for syndication, totalling 102 episodes.

To capitalize on the success of the series, a spin-off animated series was produced between 1987 and 1988 as ALF: The Animated Series, set on ALF’s home planet of Melmac. This was a prequel series, set on Melmac before the planet exploded. The show focused on ALF, his family, his friends, and girlfriend Rhonda and their various exploits. Each episode was book-ended by a live-action sequence involving ALF talking to the television viewers, setting up the episode and commenting on it afterward. [Wikipedia]


April 13, 1962: Animal Magic

Animal_Magic-1962Animal Magic was a BBC children’s television series which ran from 1962 to 1983 from BBC Bristol. It began fortnightly and was transmitted weekly from 1964.  Many editions of the show were junked by the BBC in the early 1990s when they were assumed to be of no further use. The signature tune, “Las Vegas” [link to Spotify], performed by Group Forty Orchestra, was written by Laurie Johnson for KPM in 1960.

The presenter was the avuncular Johnny Morris. His charismatic style and genuine Celebrity-06-20-1916fondness for animals made the show an instant hit with children and adults alike. The show combined jovial voiceovers applied to various animals from Bristol Zoo with some basic educational features.

Morris’ co-presenters over the years included: Gerald Durrell, Tony Soper, David Taylor and Terry Nutkins. When Nutkins joined the show in the early 1980s, the producers tried to update it, using new video effects technology. This allowed them to do such things as “shrink” the presenters to allow them to see life from an ant’s viewpoint, or to swim in a riverbed for example. Joe Henson and Desmond Morris also appeared on the show. Dotty the ring-tailed lemur appeared as a regular guest for eight years in the 1970s. Much to Morris’ anger, the show was discontinued in 1983 when the programme’s anthropomorphic treatment of animals fell out of fashion.

April 4 in Kids TV

45 years ago today, in 1972, John Craven presented the first edition of John Craven’s Newsround, now simply known as Newsround [http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround].  Craven presented the show until 1989, after which it has been presented by a rotating team including Juliet Morris, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Julie Etchingham, Chris Rogers, Kate Sanderson, Matthew Price and Becky Jago.  During Craven’s time as lead presenter and editor, presenting was also provided by Lucy Mathen (the BBC’s first female British Asian to present a major national TV programme in 1976), Paul mcDowell, Howard Stableford (Tomorrow’s World), Roger Finn (1985-1991), and Helen Rollason (first female presenter of BBC’s Grandstand, b. 11 March 1956, d. 9 August 1999).


The BBC children’s news programme has run continuously and was one of the world’s first television news magazines aimed specifically at children. Initially commissioned as a short series by BBC Children’s Department, who held editorial control, its facilities were provided by BBC News. The programme is aimed at 6 to 12-year-olds.

Newsround was the first British television programme to report an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in Vatican City in 1981 and break the news of the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger on 28 January 1986. The programme also provided the first reports from the Windsor Castle fire of November 1992.

Watch the story behind Newsround on ScallywagsTV2 YouTube Channel.