The good old days

BBC test card 'F', featuring Carole Hersee and Bubbles the clown.

Do entertainers get better with age or does our fading memory attribute them with a gloss they never had? Comparing yesterday’s shows with those of today is as unfair as pitting Bjorn Borg against Andy Murray – fun, but ultimately flawed. The past is another country and only Dr Who and Blue Peter can survive the trip.

I ask partly because the news that Monty Python are getting together for “one last job” makes me a little unsettled. I loved Monty Python at the time, partly because my mum did, and as a kid it was fun to be allowed to watch what was, for me, a very sophisticated show. We were living in a caravan at the time, so anything seemed sophisticated to me.

Monty Python mixed cartoons with sketches and all sorts of nonsense. I didn’t get all the jokes, but I wanted to, and that kept me watching. It shone out because, frankly, there was nothing else like it. So I’m intrigued to see what the reformed Pythons come up with and just hope they have managed to stay ahead of the curve – I don’t want to be sitting there wishing the Pythons hadn’t bothered.

The reality is that entertainment, like most things, has improved out of all recognition over the last 30 years or so – particularly children’s television. There are those with selective memories who pretend they thought The Clangers and Tiswas were superior to today’s shows, but I don’t believe them. Today’s kids’ shows are sharper, wittier and way more fun. If you were forced to watch a children’s show which would you choose: a vintage episode of The Mister Men or Phineus and Ferb? Little House on the Prairie or The Dumping Ground? Byker Grove or Good Luck Charlie?

Which is why I am catching youngest daughter Katy’s excitement about voting for this year’s British Academy Children Awards, the kids BAFTAs. The results of the kids BAFTAs will be announced on Sunday night, complete with interviews from the red carpet and green room. Katy will be glued to the news to see who has won. At nine, she loves a red carpet and is well-versed in the public and private lives of the stars of her favourite television shows. She can identify most by their tattoos alone. Children’s shows have such higher production values now than when I was growing up. They have to I suppose as they are on 24 hours a day and have to compete with “grown-up” shows like Friends and American Dad, which probably attract as many children as they do adults.

We had a few “crossover” shows like Bewitched, The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie, but mostly grown-ups stuck to their shows and we shuffled off to bed when the news came on.

There were some jewels among the dross. Beacons of wit and irreverence, like The Magic Roundabout, shone out like diamonds in the mud but most, like their child stars, faded away quietly. The exception being Blue Peter, which I remember for its advent crown, hibernating tortoises and Lesley Judd disconcertingly crying, “Grab me. Grab me,” as she zipwired on to some boat or other in a hideous storm. The show’s legendary producer Biddy Baxter is to receive a well-deserved lifetime achievement award from BAFTA on Sunday – and quite right too. That and Dr Who are the only kids’ shows that Katy’s generation shares with mine. She loves them both, and so do I, but to be honest I’d rather watch iCarly.

So, let’s give today’s children’s TV shows a hand and join in with the public vote. You have until tonight to cast your online vote – find out more at

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn


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