Kids’ TV: The Surprising Story – BBC 1

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I nearly turned this off after five minutes.  Need the BBC turn *everything* into a culture war?  Fair enough, the Wombles were into recycling long before most other people were, but saying that Bagpuss introduced kids to the world of industrial disputes sounded preposterous even by the BBC’s standards.  In case anyone’s wondering, the mice once went on strike!

And I would not, TBH, compare the Teletubbies’ arrival in America with Beatlemania.  But I kept watching and, to be fair, it got better!   When you think about it, children’s TV over the years has been at the forefront of a lot of things.

There was a lot of talk about the role of women and ethnic minorities on children’s TV, but, fair enough, children’s TV did play an important role in that.  I honestly can’t remember whether or not I ever thought it was a big deal that a black lady (Floella Benjamin) was on Play School, or that female presenters on Going Live (I never really watched Blue Peter) took part in daredevil stunts.  I don’t think I did, and that’s probably a really positive thing.  It just seemed normal, and that’s important.  They also talked about the involvement of disabled presenters, in more recent times.

There was a fair bit of nostalgic indulgence, which was what I was really after.   We used to watch You and Me at primary school.  A group of annoying boys used to sing “Poo and wee, wee and poo” to the theme tune.  And my sister and I watched Why Don’t You … although I can’t say I even remembered there being a Belfast gang, never mind having my views on Northern Ireland influenced by it!  We often watched ITV’s Saturday morning programmes, though, not the BBC’s.  Number 73 was our favourite.  But, yes, it was quite a big deal that Margaret Thatcher went on the kids’ TV phone-in, and the problems write-in did tackle some very distressing issues and help people to cope with them.

And, yes, Grange Hill, Children’s Ward and other programmes tackled some of the biggest social issues of the day.  “Just Say No” is the one everyone remembers, but there were others too.  I do think that there was a bit too much pushing of culture wars in this programme, but it was genuinely interesting, and all the points it made were valid.   I’m out of touch with kids’ TV these days, but I really enjoyed the reminiscing about the programmes of the ’80s.‏

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