When Mark’s email first came through about the #TellYourStory campaign it instantly struck a chord with me. Especially the suggestion of revisiting my favourite childhood television shows! Unlike many of you, I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s.
Of course, everybody thinks that their own particular era of children’s telly was the best. But back when I was growing up we only had the four channels to choose from. Nobody really had satellite or cable back then unless your parents were particularly minted, and even if they did there wasn’t the vast array of dedicated children’s channels that there are now.
Anyway, that’s the history lesson over. Now onto the main event. Here are ten of the children’s television programmes that I remember most fondly. I’m sure that many of them will be familiar to you, but there might just be a couple of curveballs thrown in there for good measure.
I would love to hear what your favourite shows were growing up, so please do share them in the comments.
We kick off with arguably one of the best remembered shows of the era. Knightmare.
Knightmare involved a team of four kids taking on the pitfalls and perils of a computer generated dungeon. One of them took on the role of the ‘dungeoneer’ and the other three were his guides. The dungeoneer had to wear a helmet that prevented him or her from seeing anything around them and had to rely on their team to tell them where to go. They did this by shouting instructions from the warmth and comfort of a castle that was home to the dungeon master Treguard.
Much humour came from the fact that the dungeoneers would often fail to react quickly enough to the instructions, usually resulting in a swift but satisfying end to their adventure.
Round The Twist (CBBC)
An Australian import based on books by author Paul Jennings. Round The Twist told the story of the Twist family – hence the name – and their fantastical adventures. From cloning your own body in order to win a race, to a magic lipstick that causes anybody to want to kiss you or even winning a peeing contest with the aid of a water spirit. Each individual tale came with enough mystery and intrigue to keep you hooked until the end.
Worth a watch in 2020 if only to spot how many familiar faces from the likes of Neighbours and Home & Away show up in alternative roles.
The 1990’s was a great time to be a gamer. Not only was the technology evolving at an alarming rate, (It sometimes seemed like a new console was announced every other week) but you had three glorious gaming shows on TV to help keep you up to speed with all the latest developments. The kid friendly Bad Influence, late night ‘done on the cheap’ effort Cybernet and the mighty Gamesmaster. An absolute behemoth of challenges, reviews and features, all held together in a famously innuendo laden package by Dominic Diamond.
Gamesmaster is probably better remembered for the aforementioned innuendo and boundary pushing in an early evening time slot than it is for its gaming content. Much of which likely would have gone over the younger viewers heads at the time.
Sticking with gaming for a moment and we move on to Reactive. A daily 15 minute mixture of video games and studio based antics that was fronted by Nickelodeon veteran and future Big Breakfast host Rick Adams. Viewers or ‘Databasers’ as they were more commonly known could call up and take part in a number of different challenges. Then by using their telephone keypads they could control the on screen action and hopefully win a prize.
Bounty on offer included the likes of personal stereos, games consoles and rollerblades – oh, and absolutely everyone got a Reactive T-Shirt and pen.
Art Attack (CITV)
Neil Buchanan is probably more well known for being the subject of unfounded Twitter rumours surrounding his demise these days than art. But back in the 90s he was the undisputed king of the art shows.
Art Attack showcased a plethora of creative ideas in each episode, with genial host Neil inviting viewers to “Try it yourself” after each project. Central to the show was the ‘Big Art Attack’ in which Neil created an enormous picture out of everyday items. Salt, lentils, fabric, etc.. that was revealed in all it’s glory by an overhead camera once complete.
Byker Grove (CBBC)
Twice weekly drama set in and around the titular Byker Grove youth club in Newcastle. Typical of most similar teen dramas of the time it set out to both educate and entertain with stories centred around the key issues that its viewers might be facing. Teenage pregnancy, child abuse, homophobia and bullying were all covered in one way or another during the show’s 18 series’.
Famously responsible for unleashing Ant & Dec on the world, amongst others.
No Sweat (CBBC)
Largely forgotten comedy/drama based upon the mid-90s boyband North & South. The first series was set in Brighton and followed the adventures of Gregory Fuggle and Jimmy Osman (Really!) as they set about forming a pop group. Later joined by posh kids Miles and Giles from St. Ethelburgas school, the first series spawned a number of singles including ‘I’m a man not a boy’ and romantic slush-fest ‘Breathing.’
Series two threw the entire premise of the first one out of the window and the group reverted to using their actual names. Chief storyline for this series was the band travelling up and down the country touring in a clapped out camper van. Ratings were poor though, and the show was quietly put out of it’s misery as the series drew to a close.
Fun House (CITV)
Nothing signified the start of the weekend quite like an episode of Fun House in the 90s. Presented by Capital Radio legend and then mullet-man Pat Sharp, the action centred on a series of deliberately messy gunge-filled games that were tackled by two teams of kids. After three rounds they then took part in three laps of the ‘Fun Kart Grand Prix’ – featuring go-karts that were so slow you could probably have walked faster – and then the team with the most points would earn the chance to spend two glorious minutes wrecking havoc in the Fun House. A kind of multi-level soft play centre that was choc-full of prizes.
Notable in the early series for cheeky kids asking Pat when he was going to get his mullet cut off.
Grange Hill (CBBC)
You can’t compile a list of fondly remembered kids television shows without mentioning the almighty Grange Hill.
Set in a London comprehensive school, Grange Hill depicted both the lives of the kids themselves and to a certain extent the teachers that taught them. Commendable and sometimes controversial, the Hill covered all manner of important issues over the years. Drug addiction, bullying, smoking and gang culture all had their moments in the spotlight, and the show remained relevant to it’s audience right up until it was decided that the entire school should be ludicrously relocated from London to Liverpool overnight.
How 2 (CITV)
A glorious, non-preachy edutainment fest fronted by Fred Dinenage, Gareth ‘Gaz Top’ Jones and Carol Vorderman. Each episode posed a number of questions to the audience. For example, ‘How does a dog keep cool?’ ‘How can you make shoes out of paper?’ or ‘How can you have a thunderstorm indoors?’ The intrepid trio would then explain exactly how each of those things were possible, and demonstrate accordingly.
It was, essentially, the best science lesson you ever had.