Anyone who is of a certain age will have shed a little tear when they found out Peter Firmin died yesterday. Maybe not an instantly recognisable name but when I say the name Bagpuss, we all go misty eyed.
In honour of Firmin and all those brilliant if slightly crazy creatives in the 70s and 80s, I give you my top 10 retro kids TV shows which moulded my generation.
He was the daddy of daytime TV, a saggy old cloth cat who brought to life a host of friends when he decided to wake up. It’s crazy to think that only 13 episodes were made but the adventures of Charlie Mouse and Madeline and of course, Professor Yaffle are etched onto our memory. I’m welling up just typing this.
Did you know: Bagpuss’ owner in the show, Emily, was played by Peter Firmin’s real-life daughter?
2. The Flumps
Bagpuss might have been cute, but he didn’t hold a torch to The Flumps for cuteness. Pootle, Perkin, Posie, Mother, Father and Grandpa were ratings titans. They only had 13 episodes too, what is it with these divas? Burning out after 13 episodes.
Did you know: Narrator Gay Soper’s other claim to fame is starring in the dubious “Ups and Downs of a Handy Man” with her husband at the time. What would Grandpa Flump say?
This was a strange one but totally compelling as a kid. It ran for, yes you guessed it, 13 episodes. The characters were just as iconic as the other shows with Bod, Aunt Flo, PC Copper, Frank the Postman and Farmer Barleymow who had various different adventures. But don’t forget the show within the show, Alberto Frog and his Amazing Animal Band where we would guess what flavour milkshake he would have that day.
Did you know: Only 5 Alberto Frog clips survive after some bright spark destroyed them. Cheers for walking all over my childhood.
4. Chorlton and the Wheelies
I watched an episode of this recently as a fully grown adult, it drove me crazy. It is intense colour and noise and I had to turn it off. Strangely I couldn’t get enough of this when I was a kid. I even named my first car after the witch that lived in a kettle, Fenella. The action takes place in Wheelie World who try to defeat evil Fenella who hates happiness and is determined to finish her nemesis, the happiness dragon, Chorlton.
Did you know: Cosgrove Hall which produced Chorlton and the Wheelies and later Dangermouse, was based in the South Manchester suburb of….Chorlton. You don’t have to go far for inspiration.
As if by magic, here he appears with his trusty sidekick, Penfold, ready to take on the evil Baron Greenback. This is where kids TV hit the big time with stars David Jason and Terry Scott doing voice duties and even spawned a spin-off show, Count Duckula. Dangermouse was one of the biggest hits of the generation and enjoyed ratings up to 21 million, can you imagine any show getting that now?
Did you know: Everyone’s favourite rodent spy is back. Alexander Armstrong has taken the reins ensuring the mouse is ready to save a whole new generation of kids.
6. Jamie and the Magic Torch
Another bonkers premise about a young boy and his dog Wordsworth, who would shoot off to Cuckoo Land after dark by using a magic torch. The theme tune was as famous as the cartoon and most people my age can probably still blast the odd line out.
Did you know: There are rumours abound that a live action movie is in the pipeline, that would be ace. Count me in.
I don’t care where you grew up or when, everyone knows the cast of Rainbow. George the hippo, Bungle the bear and Zippy the….what actually was Zippy? Does it matter? Not really because we all whooped with delight when he got his mouth zipped up by Bungle. Don’t forget the dance break with Rod, Jane and Freddie. It might have been silly but it was fun nonetheless.
Did you know: After Rainbow finished in 1997, Geoffrey had to resort to taxi driving. Could you imagine being picked up, a little worse for wear, and freaking that you could see Geoffrey driving the car. I hope he had a Zippy air freshener.
Another random story of a man who rents out ghosts, the clue is in the name. It ran for a massive 58 episodes with cast changes all over the place but all we wanted to see was people grab their nose and disappear off to different places. Hands up who tried desperately to do this as a child. What? Just me then?
Did you know: We know that Mrs Popov was played by Sue Nicholls who we all know and love as Audrey Roberts on Corrie, but Rentaghost also starred Christopher Biggins, Lynda La Plante and Carry On favourite, Kenneth Connor
9. Captain Caveman
What I’m chuffed with is that this is the first entry for an American show. That’s not to say we weren’t force fed Americana as kids but when I brainstormed this list, the top ones that meant something to me were all British. That is until now. It might have been a rip off of Charlies Angels and Scooby Doo as three young ladies (The Teen Angels) thaw a caveman and set about taking on hoodlums and criminals but it was ace. We all bombed it around the playground with sticks shouting “Captain Caveman”. Yes you did, don’t pretend.
Did you know: Captain Caveman was voiced by Mel Blanc. Recognise the name? He also voiced Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester the Cat and Foghorn Leghorn. Impressive credentials.
10. Battle of the Planets
Thanks to a certain Mr Lucas, kids my age hoovered up science fiction like a possessed Dyson so this animated Star Wars for kids was huge. Five kids protecting the earth from evil Voltare, in a cool gang called G Force was irresistible. They could fly, they had wrist walkie talkies and there were robots. It was so cool. In fact, I’m off to order the DVD.
Did you know: The series is adapted from a Japanese 1972 show called Science Ninja Team Gatchaman but had to have graphic violence, profanity, nudity and transgenderism taken out to make it palatable for the delicate kids of the USA.
There you have it, they don’t make ’em like they used to. Let me know if I’ve missed out any of your favourites in the comments below.