Welcome to the third and final part of my posts looking back at my favourite childhood TV shows. In previous parts I looked at animations and game shows, and thank you again for the kind feedback on them already.
For example, a friend has reminded me of the game show Small Talk, hosted by Ronnie Corbett, where contestants had to guess the answers given by children to different questions. I’d completely forgotten about that, but I used to love watching it. So I thought that deserved a quick mention here.
Anyway, for this post, I’m going to share a random mixture of 30 other shows that I also enjoyed during my youth up to the age of 18. This doesn’t include things like sitcoms that I already own in my DVD & Blu-ray collection, but I do mention one or two other shows that I have DVDs for as you’ll see. There are also DVDs available of some of the other programmes in this list, although I haven’t mentioned them here in most cases.
As before, you can find out more about the programmes by going to the Wikipedia articles and websites I’ve linked to, and searching for other details online. It’s amazing how much information is out there about all of these old shows, the internet’s great for ensuring we don’t forget these pleasures of our past. I’ve been getting sucked into a lot of the Youtube videos I’ve found while compiling this list, and have had to avoid the temptation of watching too many, otherwise I’d never get these posts finished!
So let’s crack on with it. I hope you enjoy looking through this list and it generates further memories for you.
I hated art at school, it was one of my worst subjects. I just found the lessons boring and our teacher too strict, and I’ve just never been very artistic in general. I would much rather have had someone like Neil Buchanan as my teacher, who presented this show. He had wonderful enthusiasm and knowledge, and made some very clever artworks, including a particularly big and impressive piece at the end of every show.
You don’t get fun breakfast shows any more, just depressing news a lot of the time. But during my childhood The Big Breakfast was a great variety show, with all sorts of guests and games and general madness to wake up to. I remember it during its best period from the early days, when it was presented by Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin, often joined by the Zig and Zag puppets. Once Chris and Gaby went, and they started changing things around, it never worked so well, although it still had some good moments. It’s a pity we don’t get shows like that now.
I loved watching this serial cop show in the 90s and early 2000s. In recent years I’ve bought the DVDs of the earliest episodes from the 80s, that I was far too young to watch when they came out, so it’s been great to see those. But it’s the 90s era I remember much more clearly and fondly, as that’s when I grew up with it. Unfortunately they haven’t come out on DVD in the UK as yet (even though every episode has been released in Australia in the past), but if they did come out I would be very tempted to get them. They do repeat the series on channels like Drama though, and I have caught a few episodes there sometimes.
There were so many great characters, including Jack Meadows, Bob Cryer, Jim Carver, June Ackland, Reg Hollis, Tony Stamp, Tosh Lines, Charles Brownlow, Mickey Webb, Dale Smith, Derek Conway, Samantha Nixon, Andrew Monroe, etc, and plenty of characters that got themselves into trouble like Frank Burnside, Don Beech, Gabriel Kent, Eddie Santini, Des Taviner, Tom Chandler, etc. There were also many exciting storylines, including some really big events that really stick in my mind, such as the big station fires, the live episodes, and personal tragedies such as Kerry’s assassination by Gabriel, Bob Cryer’s accidental shooting by Smithy, poor Mickey Webb being raped, and so much more. And all of that is just scratching the surface.
The theme tune to The Bill – Overkill by Andy Pask and Charlie Morgan – is also one of my absolute favourite TV themes of all time, and was even released as a single. It’s impossible to listen to it without imagining the plodding feet stepping in time over the end credits. And it was always a joy when you got to hear the ‘twiddly’ middle eight, which was common in the early days when credits could last for ages, but it gradually became a rarer occurrence as time went on, only appearing when there were a lot of people to credit in the episode.
The title sequences varied significantly over the years, as did the theme tune, which was great in the 80s and 90s but declined in quality with each new version after that, as did the show itself. It turned into more of a soap opera than a cop show and it soon got to a point in the early 2000s where I stopped watching altogether.
Then in 2009 the show underwent a major overhaul, in one last ditch attempt to draw in new viewers and save it, but it ultimately had the opposite effect. So many changes were made, including the decision to drop the Overkill theme tune entirely, that it just felt like a completely different show. I did briefly give that series a go to begin with, but it just didn’t feel right.
However, I did watch the very last episode, and the closing moments were quite emotional and very well filmed. It concluded with a lengthy one-shot take that led us through the station, passing all of the cast on the way, before watching Jack Meadows drive off while a special (if very inferior) version of Overkill played over the closing credits. It was sad to see the show end, but by that point its time had come. But I’ll always have many fond memories of the years that I spent watching it.
This is the longest-running children’s show in the world, and is still going now, inspiring children to try different activities and create different things. I wasn’t interested in everything they did, but I did enjoy watching it regularly. And it had the iconic theme tune Barnacle Bill, which everybody knows when they hear it.
Brian Conley is a fabulous comedian, singer and all-round entertainer who doesn’t appear on TV very often these days unfortunately. But this was a wonderful show that he hosted on Saturday nights. I even have a DVD that was released in connection with it. It was really funny, with characters like Septic Peg, Dangerous Brian, and of course Nick Frisbee & Larry The Loafer (all together now – “it’s a puppet!”). It always used to make me laugh out loud, and still does now.
“To me, to you!” Everyone knows The Chuckle Brothers, and sadly Barry is no longer with us. Their slapstick adventures were always fun to watch when I was little, and they always seemed like really nice guys. They even did live stage shows as well, although I never went to those. It was another show with a catchy theme tune too.
I never read the books, but I really enjoyed this BAFTA-nominated series, with Terrence Hardiman doing a superb job in the title role. It was quite scary sometimes. It also featured Tessa Peake-Jones, best known as Raquel in Only Fools And Horses, and Frances Amey was wonderful in the role of Dinah. The BBC recently broadcast a new adaptation as well, including a twist in the final episode that links it back to the original series, which is a lovely touch. So hopefully today’s children have been enjoying it.
Christmas 2020 Update: See my review of the DVD release & the 2019 revival.
Saturday morning TV used to be well worth getting up for, because you had shows like this. I loved Phillip Schofield and Gordon The Gopher, who had already become famous for the links between programmes broadcast from the ‘broom cupboard’, before moving on to this show. Sarah Greene was the other host, and there were other people who helped to present over the years too. The show had various games (including Run The Risk that I mentioned in my previous post), along with comedy and phone-ins, and it was just a lot of fun.
This drama about life in a secondary school was very popular for many years, and many dramatic storylines. I didn’t see every episode, but there was a period of time during secondary school in the 90s when I did enjoy watching it regularly. That meant I saw it when it had the new theme tune by Peter Moss, which was actually quite a cool theme.
But of course we can’t overlook the original 80s theme by the legendary Alan Hawkshaw, called Chicken Man, which did make a return towards the end of the show’s life. An alternative version of the tune was also used by the show Give Us A Clue for a little while.
This show (the sequel to How as the name implies), was a really interesting programme on ITV that taught you about all kinds of cool things in a very entertaining way, covering topics like science, maths, history and more.
This was also a very interesting show, this time on the BBC, that showed you how things were done on a much larger scale, including engineering, extreme sports and special effects. The first presenters were Des Lynam and Jenny Hull, then later we had Eamonn Holmes and Esther McVey. I particularly enjoyed the big stunts that took place at the start of each series featuring the presenters, which they then explained in detail.
This was one of the first blooper shows on TV, bringing together outtakes from many different programmes and films, mainly from the UK but there were also clips from other countries thrown in too. This was back in the days when we didn’t have the internet and DVDs on which to find this kind of material, so it felt very special to see all of this behind the scenes footage, a lot of which was very funny. You always hoped that you would get to see clips from one of your favourite shows, and you often did. It was presented with wonderfully dry humour by Denis Norden, and has been revived in more recent years with hosts Griff Rhys Jones and David Walliams, though neither of them are as good as Norden was.
The BBC’s equivalent to this was Auntie’s Bloomers and then Outtake TV, both of which I also used to watch. And you sometimes got to see ruder and uncensored outtakes in TV’s Naughtiest Blunders. So there were a variety of shows where you could see outtakes, but It’ll Be Alright On The Night was always the best.
This educational TV service ran for a very long time, and I remember watching some of the shows when it was on Channel 4. Which sounds confusing, but ITV were still producing the shows at that point, even though Channel 4 was broadcasting them.
To this day I still remember that there was a room at the end of our primary school building which we would be taken into, and a trolley with a TV and video recorder wheeled in for us to watch one of the programmes. We learnt a lot from them, and it made a nice change from listening to our own teachers.
The image that has forever stayed with me, however, isn’t one of the shows themselves, but the junctions between them. The various ITV regions across the UK would often show their own educational programmes, before rejoining the national network again, so there were always gaps to fill while all regions waited for everyone to catch up in time for the next programme. Show timings were very precise to make this work, not just being rounded up to the 5-minute mark, but starting at seemingly random times like 9:42 or 10:13. In addition, it was also very useful for teachers to have a bit of time to get children settled down in front of the TV before a programme started.
Channel 4 therefore had a 3D animation, which seemed very cool for its time, of a spinning cube with sides made of the ITV logo, reflecting rainbow colours as it slowly went around. Then, when the next programme was about to air, the cube was replaced by a large circle, with the ITV Schools logo in the centre, and lights around the edge that would go out to count down the final minute.
And it was all so memorable because of the two pieces of music that went with those sequences. They were both composed by Brian Bennett, former drummer with The Shadows, under the pseudonym James Aldenham.
The spinning ITV logo was accompanied by a sumptuously epic piece called The Journey, which at full length lasts for 6 minutes. So normally you would only hear a snippet of it, but there were a few occasions when the gap between programmes was so long that you did get to listen to it in its entirety, which felt very special. The track is available to download from Amazon and iTunes if you want an official copy. And then the music used for the final countdown was called Just A Minute, which was also released on CD 30 years ago. To this day both of those pieces of music instantly take me back to my childhood.
I really enjoyed reading the books about the mischievous William Brown by Richmal Crompton, and listening to the audiobooks narrated by Martin Jarvis, But there was also various TV adaptations as well.
I grew up with the 1990s series, with Oliver Rokinson as William Brown and Tiffany Griffiths as Violet Elizabeth Bott. And that was fun. I really like the theme tune by Nigel Hess for that series too.
But I’ve also seen the 1970s series, starring Adrian Dannatt as William and Bonnie Langford playing Violet to perfection, and while it feels quite dated now it still has funny moments. And I’ve seen the most recent series from 2010, starring Daniel Roche as William (best known as Ben from Outnumbered) and Isabella Blake-Thomas as Violet. While only 4 episodes were made, and it’s not as good as the other adaptations I’ve mentioned, it’s still enjoyable.
This was another fun Saturday morning show that saw us through the 90s after it replaced Going Live!. It had many presenters over the years, reaching its peak when Zoë Ball and Jamie Theakston were in charge, but Andi Peters and Emma Forbes were good too, as were many of the others. The show had a wide variety of content, including cartoons like the Rugrats, competitions, musical performances, games, gunge, phone-ins, special guests and much more. There was always something different and fun to look forward to.
Saturday night TV at its best, I loved watching this show hosted by Noel Edmonds every week. It was always a mad mixture of entertainment with all sorts of guests turning up. There were many regular features, including games like Grab A Grand and The Number Cruncher, and surprises like NTV for viewers at home and Gotchas for celebrities. And there was a lot of gunge used on the show, either in the gunge tank or on the railway that took people around the house. Nobody was safe, not even members of the audience sitting in their seats in the studio. Noel himself was often pranked at the end of each series too. The show was at its peak during series 1-5, then rapidly went downhill in series 6-8 due to all the changes, but it still had a few good moments here and there.
I also enjoyed Noel’s Christmas Presents, where he delivered special festive surprises (not pranks, but proper gifts) to members of the public who deserved a treat, one of whom was a friend of mine from school!
April 2021 Update: On Andy Pearman’s Youtube channel you can now watch the entire box set of Noel’s House Party with exclusive off-air studio recordings, plus Noel’s Christmas Presents, Saturday Roadshow and other stuff.
Paul Daniels was a wonderful magician, ably assisted by his wife Debbie McGee. So this show was great entertainment, featuring all sorts of tricks and illusions. He’s made guest appearances on many shows since then of course. For example, it was great to see him make a surprise guest appearance with his son Martin on Penn & Teller Fool Us on ITV.
This was a lovely show all about wildlife, so we got to see all sorts of beautiful animals. It had various presenters over the years, but I particularly remember Michaela Strachan, Chris Packham and Terry Nutkins.
This was another long-running show, all about people breaking lots of different world records, which was very exciting to watch. Its original and most famous presenter was Roy Castle, who broke 9 world records on the show himself. He also performed the opening and closing theme songs for the show. And I remember Cheryl Baker as another host too. But there were various other presenters as well during its time on TV.
This was a very cool show, where contestants built robots that fought against each other in a big arena. It was really clever what a lot of the engineers came up with, and it was exciting to see the robots battle it out and smash each other to pieces. Jeremy Clarkson hosted the first series, then Craig Charles took over for the rest, joined by a variety of co-presenters. Much more recently the show has been revived, hosted by Dara Ó Briain and Angela Scanlon, which I’ve only seen a few clips of but it still looks pretty cool. Jonathan Pearce was the narrator for both the old and new series.
Graham Norton has been interviewing celebrities for a long time now, and his current BBC show has been going for nearly 13 years. But his weekly Channel 4 show So Graham Norton was quite different. It involved much more adult humour and audience interaction, and searches for weird material on the internet. There were celebrity guests as well, but they were people that Graham had on his wishlist that he wanted to meet, rather than anyone who was promoting anything.
That show was succeeded by V Graham Norton, which was similar in many ways, still featuring adult humour, funny games and celebrity guests, but was broadcast every weeknight instead of just once a week. It just shows how popular Graham was at the time, and why the BBC were so determined to snap him up,
A big star in the Channel 4 shows was Betty Hoskins, a former dinner lady at Graham’s old drama school. The pair were reunited in one of the games on Graham’s show (where she won a tongue-shaped dildo of all things!), and from that point on appeared regularly on his programmes. She was a great sport and really enjoyed herself.
Betty sadly passed away earlier this month, and Graham paid tribute to her after the closing credits of Series 26 Episode 12 of his BBC show, broadcast on 20th December 2019. Her passing will probably be overshadowed by the more famous celebrities we’ve lost this year, but long-term fans of Graham knew her well and will miss her.
This could be classed as a game show, but it was basically a talent contest and good entertainment in general. Contestants would be transformed into their favourite musical stars after passing through the smoke-filled doorway, and would then perform on stage, trying to emulate the artist as closely as possible. The makeovers and performances were often very good, and there were also special editions featuring celebrities and children. There were different presenters over the show’s lifetime, but I remember Matthew Kelly best, the longest-serving of them all. Harry Hill revived it a few years ago, but it didn’t work very well so it wasn’t recommissioned.
This show, hosted by Chris Tarrant as the name suggests, was the successor to late night shows hosted by Clive James and Keith Floyd. It showed lots of weird and wonderful clips from TV shows and adverts all over the world, often quite rude in nature. Japanese gameshows were often featured as well, and they were often quite bizarre! The theme tune for the programme was Penthouse Suite by Syd Dale, which was also used as the theme music for the character of Pat Mustard in the hilarious Speed 3 episode of Father Ted.
This entertainment show, often featuring live music and other random fun, was hosted by Chris Evans and was a great way to finish the week. It was originally broadcast live in the early evening, but after some on-air swearing by Shaun Ryder and Ewan McGregor, it had to be pre-recorded. The last series was hosted by guest presenters, and a revival was shown in 2015. The theme tune for the show was by Ron Grainer, and was originally used for the 60s series Man In A Suitcase, as Chris Evans often used 60s theme music in his productions.
This show gave us a fascinating glimpse into the future, by showing us the latest developments in science and technology. Not everything came true in the end, of course, but a lot of it did. It was just really cool to see how things worked and what things were in development.
This was a children’s show full of messy fun and silly games, hosted by Timmy Mallett, who always had lots of energy and ensured everyone had lots of fun. It was a spin off from the Wide Awake Club, which Timmy was also a presenter on, and it was always shown during school holidays, which gave you something fun to look forward to on TV.
This series for children, based on books by Allan Ahlberg, was about a boy that shapeshifts into a dog, and the adventures that resulted. It was really fun and the dogs used throughout all of the series were very cute.
This show, where people sent in their funny home movie clips, was originally hosted by Jeremy Beadle while I was growing up, and you could earn £250 if your clip was shown. Some of the clips were inevitably faked in an attempt to get the money promised by the show, but in any case it was always funny to watch when I was growing up. These days, of course, you can see home movie fails all over social media and Youtube, and people seem quite happy to get lots of views and likes instead of cash. But back then it was much more exciting to see a show like this.
This was a very unusual but fun sketch show for children, about a huge comic book in which the different characters came to life. Cleverly, the show was designed with deaf children in mind, so the audio consisted of music and sounds with barely any dialogue, and any words were displayed as text. But even if you could hear it you could still enjoy it. It would only be the visually impaired that might struggle, but thankfully my sight was good enough to watch it.
There were a variety of fun characters, including Cuthbert Lilly (who was “dead silly”), Smart Arty (a French painter played by Neil Buchanan from Art Attack), The Handymen (gloved hands who played to an audience made of hands), Tricky Dicky’s Mission Impossible and Daisy Dares You (where children were set challenges).
A lot of library music was used in the show, including Keystone Chaos by Ron Aspery as the main theme, while The Handymen normally used Memories Of The Music Hall by Roger Webb. Other tracks are listed on Wikipedia.
Finally, this series presented by Michael Buerk showed reconstructions of real-life emergencies, and was fascinating to watch. It gave a great insight into some of the more extreme situations the emergency services had to deal with, and you had to admire the victims who survived the emergencies too, as they were always very tough situations. It had a fantastic theme tune by Roger Bolton too, who has also published the original demo version which is worth a listen.
And there you have it, we made it to the end at last! Well, I say “we”… I could be the only person to have got this far. But well done if you did get through it all, I told you it would be random! It’s been wonderfully nostalgic and brought back many happy memories looking up information and clips for these last few posts.
It was a golden era of television back then for us youngsters and, at the risk of sounding old now, I don’t think the children of today can ever fully know or appreciate what they missed out on, even if some shows are revived for their generation. I don’t even know what children are watching these days, and whether they have many classics that they’ll remember for many years like we did. I certainly hope they do. But in any case, thanks to the internet, at least we’re able to relive our own childhoods and remember how things used to be. Happy days. 🙂