Tuesday 13 December 2011

Those Were The Days…

I had a blog post all ready for today. A serious one, about serious things. Then I saw a tweet from someone about a website that sells 80s TV-themed clothing and accessories, and of course, having grown up in the 80s and 90s, I just had to go and check it out. I also read a post by the lovely Rebecca Brown on her blog My Little Notepad about her forthcoming Happiness Project, where she talks about the things that used to make her happy as a kid. And after that, I didn’t really feel like being serious any more.

Instead, in a fit of internet-induced nostalgia, I’ve decided to share with you my top five favourite TV programmes from when I was a kid. The programmes that used to cheer me up after a long, frustrating day at school, or on a dark winter’s evening. That inspired the games me and my sister used to play when we were young and even, without me really knowing it, helped set me on the path that led to me becoming a writer.

So without further ado, here they are…

The Moondial
This was originally a novel written by Helen Creswell, who then adapted it for a BBC TV series. It told the story of Minty, a girl sent to stay with her aunt after her mother is injured in a car accident. She discovers a moondial that allows her to travel back in time, and ends up trying to help two children from the past. Deliciously spooky and at times, downright terrifying!

Children’s Ward
Children’s Ward was written by Paul Abbot and Kay Mellor. It ran for (I think) 12 series, but the first is the one I remember most clearly. Gritty and fast-paced, it dealt with many difficult issues, and although I watched it long before I realised I wanted to be a writer, I used to make up new storylines in my head that were even more dramatic than the existing ones. Plus, in one episode, a character played by a young Tim Vincent called someone a dickhead. You’d never get away with that now…

 I’m not even slightly ashamed to admit I own the entire box set of this. I was dog-mad as a kid (and still am), so this swashbuckling adventure, a cartoon adaptation of the Three Musketeers with canine and feline characters, was right up my street. It was jointly created by Spanish and Japanese animation studios and first broadcast in Japan, which meant the cartoon had a distinct anime flavour. And the theme tune was awesome (at least, until you got it stuck in your head…).

The Mysterious Cities of Gold
I was even more excited when I found the box set of this a couple of years ago. Another Japanese co-production, this time with a French studio, this was a truly epic series about a boy called Esteban who accompanies his father on a dangerous voyage to the New World in the 1500s to search for the lost Cities of Gold.

Hosted by the fabulously sinister Treguard of Dunshelm (Hugo Myatt), Knightmare was a fantasy-adventure game show where a team of kids guided one of their friends, known as a dungeoneer, through a virtual-reality dungeon that used CromaKey (bluescreen) technology. The dungeoneer would be ‘blinded from reality’ by a gigantic helmet that completely covered their eyes, meaning they had only the directions given by the others to help him or her overcome a series of puzzles and traps. They also had to pick up items of food to sustain their life-force, represented by an animation of a head, which would lose pieces as the force diminished. Hardly anyone ever completed their quest, so you were always wondering what sort of horrible end the dungeoneer would come to this time.

And then there's Thundercats… and Maid Marian and her Merry Men… and Count Duckula… and Trapdoor…

What TV did you love when you were a kid? Tell me in the comments below!


  1. 'All for one and one for all, muskehounds are always ready'. Loved it. I still can't meet someone called Juliet and not imagine Dogtanian shouting her name. Knightmare, though? I always thought that was a bit rubbish. What about Battle of The Planets, though? G-Force! Oh, and what about this? - I think this goes back a little further but how about Rentaghost? Remember Mr. Claypole?

  2. Oh my goodness! I watched and loved all of these except Children's Ward which somehow passed me by. Btw, Thundercats has had a revival along with Transformers, my 4yo is getting into Transforners and stares with horrified fascination at the Thundercats trailers that come on!

    I also loved a few shows that hardly anyone I ask seems to have heard of. T-Bag was a big one, and a show which I think was American about a girl whose dad was an alien? It had "Swinging on a star" as the theme... And a cartoon when I was about 5 or 6 about a bunch of roller skating animals that called themselves go-go-getters or similar.

    And of course puppets. Rod & Emu ("There's somebody at the door!" Grotbags!), and the UNBEATABLE Muppets & Sesame Street! (which I'm going to get hold of for my daughter).

    Wow, fab post. Got me reminiscing now! Love it Mrs :D

    Oh, and ps thanks for the shout-out!

  3. I remember Children's Ward! And Captain Planet, how prophetic was that?

    My Little Pony, James Bond Junior, Byker Grove...sigh. Good times, good times.

  4. Oh Em, I loved this, I have the Dogtanian clip playing as I'm typing - so funny! I love the Moondial clip - I would have really enjoyed that as a kid. However *whsipers - I'm a bit older than you*... so, Dogtanian is the only one of these I know, although I do remember Children's Ward too. I was a late 60s / 70s kid, so it was all about the wonderful Oliver Postgate and Richard Furmin for me. My absolute fave was Noggin the Nog. I also loved Pogles Wood and The Clangers. Then there was Belle and Sebastian and Black Beauty because anything with animals in was a must. A lovely FUN post!

  5. I still love Moondial! I read it recently and my friend managed to get hold of a copy of the series and we both watched it again. A bit dated now but still good.

  6. I loved The Moondial too (never saw the film though, probably wasn't available in Germany). And, of course, everything by Dianna Wynne Jones, and Michael Ende, and Edith Nesbit (except for the Railway Children), and Astrid Lindgren (Ronja being my favorite character of all times)

  7. Cartoons have always freaked me out a little! Dogtanian looks terrifying. To put that into perspective,I can't watch Disney's Sleeping Beauty; Maleficent plus eerie green light plus creepy music, or Pinocchio; the boys turn into donkeys! Ahh! Then the donkeys go and freak out entirely. Double Ahh! Alice in Wonderland makes the list too, so I was delighted when Tim Burton made a real-people version :D

    I loved Power Rangers, teehee. But it wasn't until I found Buffy when I was eleven that I was really at home in front of the tv!

  8. Dan, I don't remember ANY of those - sorry! We didn't have a TV till I was 6, though, so I probably missed quite a few things.

    Rebecca - I'm really glad you liked this post! I'm afraid I haven't heard of T-Bag either (although the Go-Go-Getters rings a bell). But ah - Rod, Emu and Grotbags, how could I have forgotten them?!

    Christine - Byker Grove! Of course!! I was almost as addicted to that as I was to Children's Ward.

    Abi - I love Oliver Postgate too, although I only started watching his stuff recently. It's magical!

    Vivienne and Cat - great to meet some fellow Moondial fans! Can you believe I have yet to read the book? I must get hold of it one of these days.

    Roisin Anna - sorry to have scared you! Lol! I promise Dogtanian isn't terrifying… just cute!

  9. Of those I've only watched Nightmare, just thinking about it now brings back memories lol.

    I think though I am going to have to go for a cartoon - Captain Caveman :D

    But then The Crystal Maze springs to mind and Noels House Party!

  10. Of course! I used to LOVE that programme!

  11. Oh heck, mine are much older. Earliest favourite was um, Andy Pandy with Looby Lou and Teddy - bet no-one dares to admit they've even heard of it. Then the wonderful Muffin the Mule; I still sing "We want Muffin, Muffin the Mule, Dear Old Muffin ..." etc. Watched The Grove Family, too, TV's first soap - my dad had a TV shop so we were quick off the mark.

  12. I think Dan and I must be a tiny bit older than you (Sorry Dan)! I remember all those you've mentioned, but more from my little sister, who was a huge 'Dogtanian' fan, watching them.
    I'm with Dan for 'Battle of the Planets' loved that! I loved Tony Hart in 'Take Hart' and 'Hart Beat', I wanted to be an artist as a little girl (before writing stole my soul). Tony Hart paved the way for 'Art Attack' which my kids loved. 'Rentaghost' made me laugh...

  13. Hello, Emma, you've got me thinking - I only seem to know one of your "dogtanian".

    Space 1999; The Banana Splits (if it was called that); Doctor Who; Tom & Jerry; The Champions and now my brains gone black and white :-)

  14. Thank you, Jacqueline and Lisa. I'm really enjoying reading about everyone's TV memories! I used to watch Tony Hart as well - I can't remember if it was Hart Beat or something else. But I loved Morph.

  15. Ooh, Tom and Jerry - that was one of my faves too. Thank you, Martin!

  16. O_O I can't believe it.
    We grew up with almost the exact same shows. Dogtanian is still one of my all-time favorites. I even have the mp3 on my mp3 player and then all the opening songs in video as well.
    I remember singing the opening song to The Mysterious Cities of Gold with my brother all the time. And lastly Knightmare was ALWAYS on TV every sunday afternoon. I wouldn't miss it for a thing.
    Thank you for bringing all those memories back even though my versions were in FRENCH it's still just as great :)

  17. Hi Akossket - glad this post has brought back some happy memories for you! They are great shows, aren't they? I was over the moon when I got hold of the Dogtanian and Cities of Gold DVDs. :)