Tag Archives: childrens tv

tiswas: tv hall of fame induction

(Post by Colin ‘Jackie’ Jackson from Glasgow – December 2021)

Saturdays were always special for us kids in the late ‘60s and through the ‘70s.

Before we were old enough or good enough to represent our school in the sporting arena, we’d possibly go swimming at the local ‘baths.’ Or maybe, with only the occasional Hanna- Barbera cartoon screened on television to entertain us, we’d be allowed to catch a train to the Saturday Club at the local pictures house. There, we’d join the throng of similarly aged kids getting high on what would later be recognised as the ‘e numbers’ hidden in cartons of Kia Ora and ice cream as we watched some swashbuckling, black and white movie produced by The Children’s Film Foundation.

That would all change mid-Seventies.

For a start, I would by then have been seventeen years old and regarded with some suspicion had I attempted admission to The Saturday Club. That aside, television companies recognised the audience potential and began to expand their model of importing cartoons and reruns of Gerry Anderson gems.

The ITV network initially trialled programmes by linking cartoons, sketches, pop music and mini-series into one long, ‘umbrella show.’

Several regionalised ITV stations ran with the idea from 1974 onwards. Over time though, they all succumbed to the show inaugurated by the Midlands station, ATV, and by 1976 children of the three TV-channel generation, benefitted from a heavyweight ratings war between the ITV network and the BBC equivalent.

As you were once ‘Stones’ or ‘Beatles;’ as you were once ‘Donny’ or ‘David,’ you were now either ‘TISWAS’ or ‘Swap Shop.’

OK, so I wasn’t a ‘kid’ anymore but there’s nothing says an eighteen year old can’t enjoy these type programmes, right? So the choice came down to watching someone on BBC have a serious discussion with David Bellamy about conservation …. or watch some Brummie lad dressed in outsize khaki shorts and sporting a ginger coloured stick-on, Bellamy-esque false beard, repeating the innuendo loaded phrase, “Well – gwapple me gwapenuts!”

It was a no-bwainer!

It wasn’t until 1977 though, that we in Scotland, served by STV, got to see the programme regularly and in its entirety. By then, Sally James had been enlisted as co-presenter with Chris Tarrant. With some sporadic appearances under his belt, comedian Lenny Henry became a regular presenter in the following year, as did former member of The Scaffold, John Gorman. It would a further year down the line before Bob Carolgees & Spit the Dog joined up, completing the team I remember most fondly.

Comedians Jasper Carrot, Frank ‘it’s the way I tell ‘em’ Carson and Jim Davidson would also pop in to the show now and then.

Reflecting the music of the time, TISWAS (This Is Saturday – Watch and Smile) was chaotic and anarchic. It was slapstick. It was infectious. Whether it be in the school playground or the office workspace, the show’s catchphrases were repeated incessantly:

“O-o-o-o-o-k-a-a-a-ay!” we’d gargle in the voice of Lenny Henry’s character, Algernon Razzmatazz.

“Com-post Cor-ner!” we’d shout in a Crackerjack style.

(Watch Chris Tarrant cringe at the even-for-Tiswas ‘non PC joke at 2’ 51″ )

“This is what they want!” we’d joyously proclaim when doing something fun.

Ccchhhhrrrrt  ….Spit!” we’d mimic when something met our disapproval.

“It’s Telly Selly Time,” we’d sing, annoying our parents any time there was an advert break in Coronation Street etc..

“Wuwal retweats, wuwal retweats, where wobin wedbweast goes tweet tweet,” we’d pwance and sing in the public pawk. (Oh –  just me, then …?)

Initially inspired by Jasper Carrot and encouraged by Sally James, we’d all roll on our backs ‘dancing’ the ‘Dying Fly;’ the Phantom Flan Flinger would push ‘custard pies’ into the faces of the children in the studio audience and big-name guests alike; kids, and in later series’, their parents, would happily be enclosed in a cage and have buckets of water / gunge / goo poured all over them.

Distinguished TV newsreader Trevor McDonald would laugh and laugh at the sketches featuring Lenny Henry’s hilarious send-up, Trevor McDoughnut.

TISWAS catered for all – boy or girl, even young-at-heart Mums …. and with Sally James as presenter, quite a few Dads too, I can imagine!

It was just genius!

What else would a youngster now want to do on a Saturday morning? Go ingest some wee-infused, heavily chlorinated water at the swimming pool where you got shouted at for ‘bombing’ your pals?

Or spend the afternoon feeling sick from eating too many sherbet dabs and Spangles as you once again watched Lassie successfully navigate her way home in those days before Google Maps?

Nope – for me and millions like me, it was a bacon roll; a plate piled high with toast and jam; several cups of coffee; turn on the telly, allowing it plenty time to ‘warm up,’ sit back in the comfy chair and completely switch off from the world of school, study and exams.

It was Saturday after all, and boy, did I indeed watch and smile!

________________

nightmare on spey road

By Paul Fitzpatrick: March 2021

We’re all creatures of habit and I think it starts at an early age.

I remember my after-school routine at Primary School, it consisted of having a snack and watching a bit of tv before attempting to do any homework and waiting for my Dad to get home from work to have my tea.

This was well before my Crossroads days mind, so Miss Diane was just a twinkle in my eye back then.

The after school viewing options were all targeted at primary school children although by this stage (Primary 3) I remember thinking Andy Pandy and The Flowerpot Men were getting a bit stale and hankering for Tom & Jerry which was shown a bit later.

The post-school programmes I remember watching from this era were….

 Watch with Mother – Andy Pandy and The Flowerpot Men, entry level stuff that was starting to get a bit tiresome.

Animal Magic – good old Johnny Morris and his hilarious talking animals

Vision On – Tony Hart and his art, we all thought he was a dull version of Rolf Harris, little did we know!

Crackerjack – on every Friday, my favourite! what you wouldn’t do for a Crackerjack pencil back then

This particular day didn’t seem much different to any other, we were learning our times-tables, I’d gagged on the lukewarm school milk as usual, I’d walked home from school with my pals as normal looking for anything we could use as a football.
On getting home I’d given my Mum a hug as she served my daily aperitif and snack, orange Creamola Foam and a Lyons chocolate cup cake, and I was ready for some well deserved R & R after another hard day at the coal face.

As I settled down to watch my daily helping of kids tv I didn’t recognise the title on our black & white DER television screen – ‘Tales from Europe’…. maybe Johnny Morris had gone to a zoo in Bavaria or perhaps Tony Hart was going to sketch Caravaggio’s gruesome – ‘Salome with the head of John the Baptist’?

Actually, what followed was a lot more traumatising than the Caravaggio masterpiece.

This is my summary of the anguish that followed, so for any of you that forget the actual storyline of this gruesome fairy-tale, here it is, in all its macabre glory….

It all started off well enough with a fanfare and a handsome Prince on a horse.

He was on his way to a big castle to sweep a beautiful Princess off her feet and to ask for her hand in marriage – a classic start, this looked promising.

The Princess wasn’t for sweeping though, and it turned out she was a bit of a brat, cascading the pearls he had gifted her to the floor she demanded a grand gesture, not expensive trinkets – “The Singing Ringing Tree – Bring it to me!”

The Kings court thought this was hilarious, she was sending the poor guy on a wild goose chase, but undeterred and in true fairy-tale fashion the Prince was determined to win her hand and off he went to fairyland to find the novelty tree.

So far so good, but then 10 minutes in, a dwarf appears, scuttling around, stalking the Prince and looking a bit menacing.

Now you have to remember, any experiences of small people in my young life up till now have been pretty positive, the fun-filled dwarves in Snow White, the playful munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, the vertically challenged Tom Thumb and all the fairytale Elves and Pixies.
And not forgetting of course my favourite little fella – Jimmy Clitheroe, a 4ft 2in comic genius.

Charming little guys, the lot of them – so nothing to be scared of here.

But there was something instantly menacing about this little guy, he didn’t appear very friendly, plus he had magical powers which was a bit disconcerting.
Jimmy Clitheroe was cool, but he couldn’t turn a horse into a concrete statue by waving his hands.

The Prince being a bit giddy makes a deal with the dwarf – if the dwarf gives him the tree he will ensure the Princess falls in love with him by sunset, enabling the tree to truly sing and ring.
If he doesn’t achieve this, he will gladly let the dwarf turn him into a bear, yes you read it correctly – A Bear!

And he actually volunteered this forfeit himself!
Not the brightest Prince – too much in-breeding obviously…

Off the Prince trots, back to the castle, tree in hand to present it to his betrothed, only she’s not very impressed, with either the tree (it’s not very special for a magic tree to be fair) or the fact that it’s not singing or ringing.
When Princey says it’s up to her to make the tree perform by showing the love, she goes full-blown Mariah Carey on his ass and kicks him out of the castle for a second time, in a tumultuous diva meltdown.

Being the fickle sort however she decides a few hours later she does want the tree after all and manipulates her father the King to go in search of it. (daughters twisting Dad’s round their little fingers – who’d have thought!)

By this point the handsome Prince has been turned into Yogi Bear and the dwarf is now openly mocking the Prince, suggesting he should try courting the Princess as a bear.

Not best pleased ‘The Bear formerly known as Prince’ confronts the King who’s come to Fairyland to claim the tree for his disgrace of a daughter and makes a deal with him.

The King can take the tree back to the castle as long as the bear takes ownership of the first person the King meets when he gets there (oh I wonder who that will be???).
The King agrees.

The impatient Princess waiting for his return sees her father coming back to the castle in the distance, shoves the footmen down the stairs, trips up her maid, kicks the dog out the way and guess what – is first there to greet her father in order to get her tree.

To say she’s not best pleased to hear the deal Daddy made to get the tree is an understatement and she persuades him to send the Captain of the guard instead of her, to kill the bear.

Great plan except this bear is indeed smarter than the average bear, and now he’s really pissed off, so he kidnaps the princess, avec tree, and takes her back to Fairyland (which if you’re wondering is quite close to Anniesland).

Then for no reason other than to demonstrate Eastern Bloc special effects in 1957 a giant goldfish appears in a lake and the Princess true to form acts all diva-like, enabling the dwarf to change her appearance to match her distasteful personality.
Bizarrely he gives her green hair, and she now looks like Billie Eilish.

Distraught at her appearance the Bear tells her she’ll need to change her ways to regain her beauty, so, stripped of her privileges and looks, she starts to become a nicer, more gracious person – she’s kind to animals, particularly the goldfish and a random giant reindeer who appears in a snowstorm and she’s even nice to Yogi now.

Through being charitable and thoughtful, the Princess magically regains her beauty and comes back looking a bit like Holly Willoughby.

But just when things are looking up, she encounters the dwarf for the first time who’s a bit pissed off that kindness and compassion are alive and well in his kingdom.
He tries to poison her mind against the bear, but to no avail, she professes her love for the bear.

Cue the singing ringing tree which is now singing and ringing to its little hearts content.

The dwarf ain’t having any of this though and duly creates a ring of fire around the tree, (sadly, without the accompanying Johnny Cash soundtrack).
Undeterred the Princess channels her inner Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and walks through the tinfoil, ahem flames, to embrace the tree, and by doing so, expels the Dwarves powers, which sends him plummeting underground (we’re assuming to the big fire).

All smiley and in love she duly jumps onto the back of the horse with the Prince who’s cast aside his bearish charms and now looks like Phillip Schofield and they ride off into the sunset together to host This Morning (except for Fridays).

Now as crazy as this all sounds, unless Mum sneakily infused some magic mushrooms into my cupcake (and I wouldn’t rule it out, I used to be given whisky for toothache!) then that’s what went down, I know this to be true, because I have YouTube and Google.

It all sounds very silly so why did it traumatise so many of us?

Well like I said we were used to little people being charming and friendly so the fact that this little imp was so nasty, and evil was kind of a game changer.

Also, he had no ulterior motives, he was just f*cking with everyone for the sake of it and the irrationality of this was bemusing to an 8-year-old in a world where everything kind of happened for a reason.

The show lasted for 72 minutes but was serialised in 3 episodes to ensure that children everywhere had three sleepless weeks instead of just the one.

I can vividly remember being freaked out by the little guy, had he really been killed off like the Wicked Witch of the West, who had evaporated into a kale smoothie at the touch of water, or could he come back to torment us?


That’s what kept me awake, that’s what made me continually check my cupboards and under the bed, and up in the loft – that’s what gave me the frickin’ heebie-jeebies!  

Like most of us I’ve watched thousands of hours of tv (the average in a lifetime is 78,000 hours apparently) and there are certain things you never forget –

Bowie’s first appearance on TOTP

The ending in The Sopranos

Basil thrashing the car in Fawlty Towers

Archie Gemmill’s goal v Holland in 1978

And I would have to add this show and the evil dwarf to the list as it’s been burned into my psyche since I saw it. 55 years ago.

As Rita Cruikshank rightly says – “you never forget trauma”