Thursday, November 13, 2008

Top 10 TV shows from my eighties childhood

A while ago I did a post on my personal top ten books from my eighties childhood, and it's my most visited post. At the time it did cross my mind that a similar post on television would be interesting. Keep in mind that in Tasmania we had two channels for most of my childhood, ABCTV and TVT6. SBS existed when I was in primary school because I remember Five Times Dizzy by Nadia Wheatley (who I utterly shamed myself in front of when I said in a completely fannish moment whilst working on reception: 'You don't look ANYTHING like I imagined you!' because I sort of expected her to be yiayia from the books, though I didn't admit that much) was made into an SBS miniseries in about 1983. I couldn't watch it because our two televisions - a small black and white and a big coloured clunker - couldn't pick up SBS. Seriously, if you holidayed on the mainland you were obliged to come back and tell everyone what was going to happen in Country Practice in three years time. I remember how excited my sister was when Bethany finally appeared on Tasmanian TV and she could get the resolution to the storyline. When I was 19 and living in Adelaide they introduced a second commercial channel, so I hurried back home to watch it. Well, I had been planning on leaving Adelaide anyway.

Anyway, so my 80s tv watching was probably heavily 70s reruns. The links are mostly youtube videos, so there's a warning for you. Argh. (That's pirate). (I don't know why I'm being a pirate but it seemed appropriate with the whole warning thing, and I guess also goes nicely with the whole illegally uploaded video thing as well.)

1. The Butterfly Ball - this was an obscure little time filler on ABC Kids. I was simultaneously in love with it and terrified of it. One of the reasons I am in love with the Interwebz is being able to reclaim this curious little object and insert it back into my life. I was quite fond of the filler as a genre. I also remember a local filler of footage of old people walking aorund Hobart mall with either the popcorn theme or music box dancer as the music. I adored both these pieces of music as a child so they've kind of blurred together. Anyway, that funny little two minutes always filled me with an aura of intense peace. Hooray for fillers.

2. The Famous Five This music fills me with such a rush of nostalgia, I can feel Mrs Dillon's warm honey crumpets in my belly (I often went to the Dillon's house after school and they were the closest thing to the Famous Five I ever met in real life - English and quite proper to me, with a dog. My friend Joanna could have almost passed for Anne and her older brother Michael definitely had Julian qualities). I wanted to be George, mostly because I wanted to have her special affinity with Timmy, but I loved Anne's swishy hair and I remember trying to emulate her poodly girlish running style. And Julian in those muscle tees. He was so manly.

3. Chocky I blogged about the book before and my mate Zose sent me this opening. It was deliciously spooky and all the better because I loved the book so much. I have dim memories of other books being turned into ABC dramas, like perhaps Carrie's war by Nina Bawden, but they never overwrote the book - this one the book and the show are kind of enmeshed in my mind.

4. Metal Mickey An amazing insight into the role computers would play in our daily lives. Not. Actually (and I'm fairly sure my brother doesn't read my blog on a regular basis) there's something about Metal Mickey that reminds me of my brother. Can't quite put my finger on it. But there you go.

5. HR Puffinstuff This show was so lame. But I loved it. I have fond memories of The Banana Splits too - same puppeteers? I recall watching The Splits with an expression of bemusement on my face.

6. I'm going to cheat and roll Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock into one. If I had to pick a favourite now it would be Fraggle Rock, but that's a bit cheaty since I was in high school by the time that started. As a kid, it was Sesame Street, pre-elmo, way back when no one saw Snuffy and I almost wet my pants with frustration and disappointment every time he walked off set and Maria and co walked on. But then he was revealed (which I've just realised coincides with the appearance of elmo! which seems psychoanalytically portenteous), and Sesame Street kind of jumped the shark for me.

7. Young Talent Time Before there was Aussie Idol there was this. Remember back when Kylie was just Dannii's sister? I dreamed of being discovered on YTT, or even of a boy like Vince looking into my eyes and singing earnestly at me (gawd, socially awkward much?)

8. Grange Hill or Degrassi? I can't pick. Maybe Degrassi because I followed it all the way through, even when they were the oddly melancholic Kids on Degrassi Street and Wheels was called Gryph and was being beat up by his brother which was weird because by Degrassi Junior High he was adopted with nary a brother in sight and his name was Derrick Wheeler. But my first vagely erotic dream was about Stu-pot from Grange Hill and I remember running home from swimming lessons (around the corner) every day one summer to watch it.

9. Well, of course The Goodies. And a quick nod to Bananaman, voiced by the threesome.

10. Dr Snuggles Ah, more crumpets. I had a music casette of the music from this show, and I remember one particular song that started 'we are the travelers and we're going somewhere, to the end of the rainbow...' and there my memory fails me. It is the best song ever by the way. This was another cartoon that vaguely unsettled me, despite the love it inspired. I am a many splendid thing.

Oh geez, that's ten already? But I haven't even mentioned The Magic Roundabout, Rentaghost, Worzel Gummidge, Catweazle (okay I admit I was a bit scared of Worzel Gummidge and utterly petrified of Catweazle), Little Blue (no link!), Morph, Danger Mouse (whole episodes await your viewing pleasure on the tube of you), Qua Qua (? a paper animation thing about a duck, kind of pointless but oddly soothing, ungooglable apparently), a cartoon called Ulysses, based on the Greek myth but set in the future with robots, Jem (truly outrageous), Astroboy, Happy Days (speaking of jumping the shark), The Wonderful World of Disney (best description ever of the sensation aroused in one whilst watching TWWoD at the beginning of The Secret History by Donna Tartt), not to mention all the American sitcomes, like the Brady Bunch and Different Strokes and some other one where the big sister was actually called Sissy. I bet I think of a million more (I didn't watch that much tv, promise!), but it's over to you now - what shows did you love as a kid?


Kirsty Murray said...

Sadly for Tasmania, some of your eighties shows weren't reruns from the seventies, but from the sixties. The show you couldn't remember the name of that featured a big sister called 'Sissy' was probably one of my sixties faves - 'Family Affair'.

The big sister was called 'Cissy' and there was a classic butler plus an uncle/father figure who lived in a New York penthouse. Mother, the inhibitor of all adventure, was conveniently disposed of/deceased.
Great post, Penni. As a sixties/early seventies TV addict, it inspired much nostalgia. Don't know if I'm game to revisit the addictions!

Maria said...

Oi! You sure watched a lot of tv!

My favourite shows were from my seventies Malaysian childhood where we didn't get a lot of shows in English, but when we did they were quite good ones. Blue Peter, The Electric Company, Sesame Street, Dougal and the Magic Roundabout, the Muppets, of course.

Then in NZ in the 80s tv started being heavily censored in my house due to the Corrupting Influence of The Box. But I did enjoy *cringe*: The Donny and Marie Show, Love Boat, The Dukes of Hazzard, Night Rider... think I'd better stop now, it's just too embarrassing.

Rachel said...

Ah, Metal Mickey! Reminds me of my brother too..those after school days..and we would sing the song together whilst eating mum's organic rock cakes...eek. : ) And H.R Puff n Stuff...with witchy poo!And of course that became my nickname from darling siblings ; )

Wonderwebby said...

I have the Butterfly's Ball book, you should pop in sometime and have a look ;) It's of my faves. The boys love it when I read it to them too

Penni said...

Kirsty Oh A Family Affair! That's right. I think I must have been very young when it was on because my memories are so vague, but I know I missed it later when they finally put it back into the vault.

*blush* Maria, most of these shows circled through the same timeslot on ABC over a period of many years and a lot of them were only 5 minutes long! I didn't watch that much television, honestly. Saturday morning, a bit in the evenings and on rainy days after school. I was a latchkey kid after all, had to keep myself out of trouble somehow.

Rach (I just typed in Holly then), well you would have been watching the same channels. remember Rupert Bunny coming to say goodnight? And TV Pow? With Jim Shoes?

Jazz - would love to have a look at it! wow!

Kate C said...

1) Dr Who (goes without saying; Tom Baker and then Peter Davison (sigh)

2) Blake's 7 (Avon the bastard - grr! I'm sure this had a detrimental effect on my love life in later years)

3) All Creatures Great and Small (for Tristan and Siegfried - James was just wet; the first in a long line of period drama obessions; Peter Davison again)

4) Remington Steele (I almost didn't admit that one)

5) Minder (almost didn't admit this one either; please tell me I didn't have a thing for Dennis Waterman. Oh DEAR)

6) A Very Peculiar Practice (initially watched this for (ahem) Peter Davison (hey at least I'm faithful) but it was a fantastic, surreal little show with brilliant characters)(just discovered this was the first success for Andrew Davies! well there you go)

7) Degrassi/Days of Our Lives (both watched obsessively, in large groups, at college)

8)The Goodies (ooh they were naughty boys)

9) The Young Ones (again, this was a college experience; not much in it for the ladies, now I think back)

10) Love in a Cold Climate (the start of my unhealthy love for the Mitford family)

traceyleigh said...

1. Countdown. Huge huge part of my young/teenage life. Loved it, although wouldn't always get to watch it.
2. Wonderful World of Disney. Loved that it had cartoons as well as real-life movies (the Herbie series!!).
3. Playschool, Romper Room and Humphrey B. Bear. I'll put them together because they're all Australian and loved at the same time (4 - 6years). I wanted Miss Helena to say MY name in the magic mirror and she never did. Tragic)
4. Mum and Dad's British shows like On The Buses and Are You Being Served. They're on Foxtel now and so crass. Can't believe I laughed my way through years of it!
5. Brady Bunch. I always wanted to be Cindy or Bobby :-D
6. Mr Squiggle!!
7. Little House on the Prairie
8. Hanna Barbara cartoons, in particular The Flinstones
9. The Partridge Family - loved the clothes!!
10. Mr. Ed - totally fascinated by horses particularly a talking one and wondered how they managed to make it's lips move like that.

I watched too much television probably as a child. My parents didn't mind. Funnily though, whilst I remember watching all of these shows religiously my biggest memories are of being outside and playing or reading.

Susannah said...

Penni! I had an audio tape of Doctor Snuggles too! I loved it. So the voices are much clearer in my head than the actual cartoon.

There was a story about space pirates and a pillow fight. And another one about butterflies - which I can't remember the plot of but I can vividly hear someone saying 'All turned into butterflys'

*goes immediately to dig up a clip of the theme song, humming 'Dr Snuggles, friends of the animal world. something something something. Dr Snuggles, build us a clever machine.'*

Ariane said...

Ah, what a wonderful post. I loved Butterfly Ball, and also have the book and the album.

I was Grange Hill fan, Degrassi was just a bit after my time.

I watched an episode of HR PuffinStuff a while ago - how did I ever watch that? But I loved it, and had the jigsaw puzzle to prove it! :)

Dani said...

I'm probably going to blur the 70's and 80's cos I'm older than you and I've never been hugely into TV.
1/ Dr Who
2/ The Goodies
3/ Thunderbirds
4/ Countdown
5/ The Young Ones
6/ Little House on the Prarie
7/ The Muppets

That's probably about it for me.

Penthe said...

I adored Degrassi - and yes, the earliest series was oddly melancholic now you mention it.

But I loved Grange Hill as well. I actually wrote to James Valentine (Afternoon Show host at the very end of the 1980s) when it was taken off the air. He sent back a postcard of himself, and ruined my love for him and Grange Hill simultaneously. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Punky Brewster!

21 Jump St!

What's more, you can find most of these shows on

my that made me happy!

Janet said...

Witchypoo used to scare the pants off me as a nine year year old, much to the amusement of my sister who was six. And we had to run home (quite a long way) to be in time to watch it (we were latch key kids too - could we really have been that young?). Anyway, we also loved the goodies, the brady bunch, adventure island and little house on the prairie. And Mr Squiggle, which we are currently watching with Grace on video. It's hilarious as an adult. Seasame street was before my time, but we've noticed how gritty early sesame street is compared to the modern one. Grace seems to like it too.

meli said...

hmmm, i had an eighties childhood as well (albiet five years behind yours) and i know hardly any of those!

i did love that ulysses cartoon.

i was also midly hooked on inspector gadget. (the main character has your name!)

but my favourite favourite show ever, and my brother and all my cousins will agree, was the mysterious cities of gold. this was fabulous. a journey through the andes, two children who each carried half of an amulet, a golden condor you could fly like a plane. ah...

Anna said...

Re the little origami duck (who was awesome) - it was Quaq Quao:

Suse said...

Late the party, but I have to add my 2cents. HR Puffinstuff too! (Jimmy! Jimmy!) Witchypoo scared the crap out of me too, but I was obsessed with the opening music and song. My best friend's husband can still sing all.the.words. I am so impressed.

Also Magic Roundabout, and I once wrote a letter to Sue McIntosh (who is Jason Donovan's mum) who used to host Adventure Island and received a lovely b&w photograph postcard back with all the cast on it and a note from Sue. Also I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Mr Ed (I still regularly sing that song much to my boys' amusement) and Lost in Space. Danger Will Robinson. I never watched Dr Who - when it started to come on I had to race to to the tv to turn it off because the music gave me nightmares.

Anonymous said...

The Ulysses one set in the future was a French-Japanese co-productionn called Ulysses 31. It remains a classic to this day. :)

Anonymous said...

Jim Shoes reinvented himself as a country music performer. He now goes by the name Twyce Daily!

Here are his sites:

He's actually not too bad at it.

I used to love all of those shows mentioned above and a few more are Transformers, He-Man and MASK. Also, don't forget all those wildlife shows they'd sometimes intersperse with the cartoons, like Lorne Greene's New Wilderness and the Jacques Cousteau underwater shows.

Also, another fondly remembered one was the 1960s Batman, much repeated on Tassie Saturday morning kids' TV in the 1980s.

KTV was another popular show. The brother of the co-host, Danny Milos, was my music teacher at Glenorchy Primary School.

Blake's 7 was the best sci fi show of all time (Star Wars, eat your heart out) and, as the poster above note, who can ever forget Avon?

Ulysses 31 and Mysterious Cities of Gold were made by the same French/Japanese team.

Anonymous said...

I had forgotten about Dr Snuggles. Wow, the memories kust caame flooding back!

Jim Shoes/Twyce Daily was awesome. Didn't realise he was Welsh until I looked him up.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to add that I ADORED the wooden rocketship in Dr Snuggles. Might well be my favourite fictional rocket.

On a related note, Peter Davison was definitely the greatest old series Dr Who. Such a dish.

Thanks for your post and everyone's comments. It brings back so many memories of Hobart Saturday mornings in the early 1980s.

Anonymous said...

One more thing I should say
is that, even as a 5 year old, I always thought the combination of Jim Shoes and Spot his puppet dog had far more talent than Daryl Somers and Ozzie Ostrich. Having just watched some clips of Jim Shoes on YouTube, I can safely say my opinion hasn't changed!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of things Welsh, don't forget Super Ted! He was the greatest superhero of them all.

By the way, who replaced Jim Shoes as the Saturday morning cartoons host? I remember his name was Cameron something or another. Jim Shoes was always the best though.

Taswegian said...

Thanks for pointing me to this thread, "Anonymous". ;)

Speaking of all things Welsh, let's not forget Super Ted! Can't believe Bananaman would be mentioned but not him! :P

LOL - Jim Shoes took over kids' television from Cooke and Moore. In later years, I actually knew the Moore family for a while. Richard Moore was okay-ish but his wife Sylvia Moore was a very nasty piece of work indeed.

Jim Shoes was definitely - and forever shall be - the king of kids' television in Hobart. At one stage as a youngster, my desire was to be a television studio cameraman when I grew up, just so I could watch Jim and Spot's antics and help them make the show.

Every time I went past the Channel 6 studio at Main Road in New Town on the bus with my Mum, I was hoping I'd see Jim coming out of the building. I never did end up seeing him in person though.

Yes, the mainland had Daryl and Ozzie and Tasmania had Jim Shoes and Spot. Tassie definitely got the better deal.

Glad to hear Jim is still doing well. He did more or less vanish off the face of the earth sometime around 1986 when that Cameron guy took over. I sometimes did wonder what happened to him. A mystery has been solved after all these years!

LOL - according to Jim Shoes' bio on the ReverbNation link above, he "settled in Adelaide South Australia before buying a Bedford van and hitting the road to explore the entire country, [becoming] a News reader at ITQ Channel 8 in Mt Isa, and host of a television show for kids at Tas TV in Hobart Tasmania."

It sounds like he went on a road trip and just walked into the job at the Mount Isa studio. No media background, no training, nothing. I guess there aren't that many clean-cut young men in a rough ol' mining town like Mount Isa so they grabbed him as soon as he offered himself up.

It would never happen in this day and age though: he'd need a media studies degree, some years' experience and some drama training for his voice before they'd let him anywhere near the newsreader's seat. Gives a good insight into how times have changed.

Still I admire Jim from working his way up from poverty in Wales to becoming the king of kids' tele in Tassie. The fact that he is still surviving and making a living in an industry as fickle and as cut-throat as showbusiness shows to me that the bloke has quite a lot of character.

Anonymous said...

Jim Shoes' resume:

My word, he is a clever bloke: multilingual, can sing everything from country to opera, good at photography and video and so on... Why does he waste his time with cheesey bogan junk like Funniest Home Videos? :( Looks like he did Red Faces, too. He should have been hosting Hey Hey, not competing in that trash on it!

I suppose,with showbiz, like everything, it is who you know that counts. I suppose Jim Shoes wouldn't have been able to buildup the good contacts working on regional tele down in Tassie that Daryl Somers would have made in Melbourne.

Jim Shoes could go back to Wales and be a star now that country is starting to regain its confidence and is producing strong shows like modern Doctor Who.

I have never heard the slightest bit of scandal about Jim Shoes either unlike certain other clean cut young Tasmanian television presenters like *cough*Andy Muirhead*cough*...

Anyway it is good to see we have solved the mystery of "Whatever happened to Jim Shoes?" here. :)

By the way, some of those kids' shows we loved at 5 to 7 years really don't stand up with age. I tried watching Transformers a few years ago when the original series came out on DVD and couldn't even it make it through one episode. A lot of the othershows are just as bad. Ulysses 31 is by far the most bearable cartoon and, of live action stuff, 1960s Batman remains great campy fun for when you want something light. Blake's 7 has aged better than Star Wars (Han and Leia are just so wooden and have zero chemistry) if you can get past the terrible costumes and special effects.

Taswegian said...

After reading through Jim Shoes' online CV you posted, I can see we were wrong to compare him to Daryl Somers. He is way above that league. He is more like a child-friendly version of Paul McDermott!

Yes, it beats me why someone so talented would bother with commercialised junk television like Funniest Home Videos and Red Faces/Hey Hey. He could be doing something classier. For that matter, if he wanted to stay on commercial television, it just occurred to me that, given his obvious talent for languages and personable nature, he'd be an ideal host for Getaway. If I were a Channel 9 talent scout, I'd be flagging him as a possibility for that.

By the way, I just remembered one more favourite Saturday morning cartoon from that era that I loved: it was an animated series based on the Pac-Man video game! I used to love that. I'd be way too cynical for it now (half-hour long game commercial, indeed!) but as a 7 year old, it was one of my favourites. :)