Poddington Peas

CBBC 1989

Down at the bottom of the garden, amongst the birds and the bees, a little lot of little people, they call the Poddington Peas. What more can I say?

The Poddington Peas was another one of those short little animations that probably only ran for one series but was repeated ad-nauseum on CBBC, typically at lunchtime on BBC2. The theme tune (my opening paragraph is the first verse) though was brilliant.

Character wise it was one of those typical give a pun-based descriptive name and a personality to match. Black-eyed Pea, Creepy and Dumpy (those last two probably spelt Cree-pea Dumbpea – and yes those that remember it isn’t the correct order they were sung in!). You can already tell what kind of characters they were like.

Go on, bet you can’t guess his name…

Also in common with a lot of these smaller animations the characters didn’t speak for themselves. The show was narrated by Neil Pearson while the characters made elastic band-style noises in the background.

From what I recall the peas loved out a human-style life amongst human scale garden implements (like tools and plant pots). Cree-pea was the mischief maker but there wasn’t much peril because this was a cartoon aimed at a preschool audience.

In truth thats the most I remember despite the fact that I probably saw each episode at least five times, it’s the theme tune that sticks in the head and still is currently on a loop.

It turns out that the shows creators attempted to produce a second, expanded series in the early 1990s but the project fell through. Then again within the last decade an attempt at a remake in 3D cgi was made but it turns out the BBC still own the copyright, although as with most of these short cartoons it was produced independently.

Just included for completeness. No idea what his dog could be called…

Remember those days where TV stations would make a little announcement after the end of a programme to make you aware of what would be coming up after the adverts? Well this post is a bit like that. In other words, here are some things you can expect to see soon…

So last month all the posts were focused around breakfast. Because as I’ve gone along writing about my memories I have come to realise that one thing follows through to another. So you can expect a bit more of that.

In the next few weeks I have a collection of posts about classic kids gameshows and sticking with a kids show theme I’ve got a series of posts about Puppets of the past.

I’ve also begun writing posts on my memories of sitcoms. Something I’ve held off until now because there is a danger the blog might end up being about those and nothing else. To begin with I’m trying to stick with the lesser known series that I enjoyed at the time.

The focus will continue to be mainly on my memories of old TV because I’ve come to realise they are the memories we are all most likely to share but I will be writing posts about other things from time to time.

The Big Breakfast Part 4

A big deal was made of the relaunch following the departure of Johnny Vaughn. He went on to work at Capital Radio and BBC Three but would never reach the fame he had on The Big Breakfast.

I remember very well waking up to the first relaunched show. It was all change from start to finish. It was a modern show. The house had once again been drastically altered and there was a team of three presenters.

It was a shaddow of its former self and once again didnt prove enough of a draw to justify the changes. I certainly wasn’t fussed with it and by now would prefer to sleep in rather than wake up to watch a mediocre TV show.

The house looked nice enough but these three weren’t much cop.

I watched on and off as the programme began to metamorphosised back into a clone of the original. There seemed to be many more presenting partnerships at this point but the humour seemed a bit more vulgar and strained.

The final show was three hours long but I watched on VHS eventually. Getting up in the mornings was no longer something I liked doing. I was at the end of my school career and my whole routine had changed, yes I loved a lay-in.

The right setting but by this point the show was limping on.

But The Big Breakfast was something special, the kind of show that wouldn’t work thesedays and possibly will be forgotten about but it changed as I changed and for me will be remembered as entertainment in the days when I had time on my hands in the early mornings.

Wacaday

Timmy Mallet thought everything was Utterly Utterly Brilliant and that’s what sold Wacaday to the kids. That and the bright colours he wore, his wacky glasses and giant pink and yellow mallet, Mallet’s Mallet.

As well as Timmy Mallet as the host, I remember him being joined by Micheala Strachen during one run and Magic the budgie who flew around in a cage at the back of the studio – in later years a miniature camera was put in the cage for Timmy to throw to.

Literally Timmy would speak to the bird as if he was a full co-presenter, cutting to Magic-cam for reactions. In later years it got even more bonkers when Pinky Punky was introduced – a mini Mallet with a face but no moving parts (beyond being wiggled about the screen).

Timmy Mallet possibly the definition of an ovet-enthusiastic children’s TV presenter.

To top it Pinky was voiced by timmy so he was literally interacting with himself! Pinky’s favourite line was ‘Mr. Mallet, Mr. Mallet, can I go to the toilet…?’ at which point, well you can imagine.

It was bonkers and not the kind of TV show that you could pitch now, or then. Which makes sense as the entire show grew around Timmy’s zany personality.

Wacaday filled a bit of TV-am’s air time during school holidays. Filled with cheap import cartoons, film inserts and the word game Mallet’s Mallet at the end, more of that in a moment.

The film inserts were genuinely informative, although dont ask me to remember much of them – I was young so forgive me. I do remember Manneken Pis during a visit to Belgium and Pinky Punky, erm, joining in.

As zany and silly as the whole thing was Timmy took his job seriously, the film inserts were very serious. I saw a clip from South Africa (many years later) and geniunly one of the best explanations of Aparthied I’ve ever heard.

Timmy took his job seriously, but not too seriously. The end game Mallet’s Mallet involved two children playing a word association game. If they stumbled or hesitated they got booked on the head with the big mallet.

Finally, I was once hit on the head with Mallet’s Mallet, not on TV but at the stage door of a theatre where Timmy was on tour and meeting fans. I remember being surprised that had stubble on his face.

The Big Breakfast Part 3

Johnny and Denise

Although I’d migrated from watching The Big Breakfast over to watching Children’s BBC as I headed into my teens I started switching onto Channel 4 in the mornings again.

The programme had entered it’s second golden era with new hosts Johnny Vaughn and Denise Van Outen. The format was more or less back to where it started, they didn’t show cartoons and Zig and Zag had gone but there were now more phone-in games.

I still only was able to watch for the first hour or so the show was generally split into segments. There was a daily pundown which was a clever way of doing the newspaper review based on the puns in the headlines.

Johnny and Denise were the perfect TV duo

There were Vital Statistics which in truth weren’t really vital but interested me enough. I had a Vital statistics calendar around the same time which I probably only got because it was TV related at the time that was a big obsession for me.

Then Denise van Outen left. They replaced her with model Kelly Brook, making almost the same mistake as they had with Sharon Davies and going for looks over personality or talent. Fortunately Lisa Tarbuck came to the rescue and her humour style matched Johnny’s (and mine) perfectly.

The show had become my default breakfast viewing and for the Millennium they aired an all night episode, The Biggest Breakfast Ever, which I stayed with for almost all of the night (until the programme over-ran somehow).

Then Lisa left, Johnny planned to leave and Denise came back, it wasn’t quite as good but by no means dreadful. But when Johnny left what would the programme end up like?

It turns out the days of Chris and Gaby had been matched by Johnny and Denise but they would never again reach those heights.

The Smurfs

My memories of the Smurfs? It was terrible. An animated cartoon about a group of blue people who were tiny and lived in Smurfland of course. But I did watch it and that’s because it aired early mornings before school and there wasn’t a great deal else to choose from.

The show opened with a La La La theme tune which got stuck in your head. The premise was that the Smurfs would have a pretty normal existence in Smurfland, well normal when you are tiny and blue.

Some sort of incident would befall them and they’d have to deal with it. There were also enemies in the human (both in size and colour) who i want to say flew on a broomstick. He was Gargamel (yes I had to google) an evil wizard or so it says.

The smurfs were near enough always happy until something went wrong. Except for Grouchy Smurf. Oh yeah they stole the be named after your personality thing too.

There was Hefty Smurf who was the strong guy, Brainy Smurf who was the nerd, Papa Smurf who was the elder of the village and wore red instead of white. Then the female characters, well I only know of one and she was Smurfette. Good luck keeping the population going.

You can tell by my sarcastic tones that I wasn’t a fan but thats probably because I had the same distain for the show, it was too happy and cheery for before school and I always remember it having some sort of cheesy moral outcome at the end.

Tuba Smurf, Trumpet Smurf, Boring Smurf, Farty Smurf… I have no idea.

But by the time the series aired before school it was already ten years old, the Smurfs themselves remain successful characters in their native Belgium and in more recent years have had some CGI big screen adventures.

The Big Breakfast Part 2

The Rubbish Relaunch

The Big Breakfast had been going string for a couple of years but my interest in it was starting to fade. Mark Little who was previously in Neighbours and Keith Chegwin had been decent enough hosts but the BBC had started airing kids programmes early.

It wasn’t just me, the audience figures were fading and the programme (and the house) was due for a relaunch. I do remember tuning in and I do remember being really disappointed.

There were new hosts. Rik Adams I vaguely recalled from some not great CBBC science programme. He was a big shot at Nickleodeon and had been tipped to take over Live and Kicking but that didn’t work out.

Sharon Davies was a former Olympic swimmer and then she became one of the Gladiators, Amazon to be precise. As far as I know she had no real presenting experience (it showed) and was presumably there for sex appeal – which explains why the majority of clips from that era on YouTube are ‘Sharon Davies Sexy Tights’ etc.

New hosts Sharon Davies and Rik adams had no chemistry. But Sharon has at least dressed to match the clock.

There was no chemistry between the two. Even I could tell that and I was still in primary school. Rik felt like a hyper kid trying way to hard to be zany and Sharon was definitely not a morning person.

But worse than that the entire house had changed. It no longer really looked like a house I’d recognise. The lounge had a sunken floor with a huge orange sofa and there was a balcony above. The kitchen was much larger and everything was open plan.

They’d got rid of the the very thing that made the Big Breakfast unique and left it looking like an imitation wannabe show. They quickly realised as very quickly things transitioned back to being how they had been before.

The house changed on the outside and the inside too.

It was too late for me though as I had lost interest and begun watching the new Children’s BBC Breakfast Show in the mornings. The weird mix of repeats and Hana-Barbara cartoons was more appealing to me.

The one thing I did like about this era of the show and it was just a very small detail. The titles, graphics, cushions, clipboards even the news background and the on screen clock changed colour everyday.

But such a small novelty wasn’t enough to get anyone to watch. The show rapidly reverted to being what it had been, the floor got filled in and the chairs by the patio doors returned. Soon the show would have a second golden era too.

The Beano

I think I probably missed out on the golden age of comic books for kids. But as a child in the 1990s there were still two big names to choose from. The Dandy with Desperate Dan as a lead character or The Beano.

I was a Beano reader. I’m not sure I had a massive input in that, I think it was just one of those things that happened I was asked if I wanted a comic and ended up with the Beano.

The hero of the Beano was of course Dennis the Mennance who was meant to be a bad boy although by the time I came to the Beano I was aware that his antics were more like old-timey schoolboy japes than what the real Dennis’ of my generation would be up to.

Dennis being the cover star always got read by me, the same applied for Minnie the Minx, who was essentially a female Dennis and she was on the back cover.

Only 40p what a bargain.

But here is a confession, I don’t really remember a lot of the inside comic strips. I like to write this blog using only my memory, of course I can do a search and find something that would jog my memory but I honestly don’t remember the inside pages.

I think i would like to be someone who now pour passionately over my childhood comic collections, but I never really got into it. I always admired the art of comics but never really got into the stories.

I know back then as a kid I thought it would be cool to collect comic books, who knew aspiring to be comic book guy would be a thing. Of course the Beano wasn’t really Marvel or DC but as a kid I didn’t appreciate that.

But the reality is I have collected memories, many of which are cartoons from the TV. Dennis did make it to TV, for that matter I am convinced that Desperate Dan from the Dandy may have done similarly too.

The Animals of Farthing Wood

This animation told the tale of a group of woodland creatures led by a fox with input from a wise old and grumpy badger and their mission to relocate from the titular wood to a new home.

The background was that farthing wood was about to be destroyed by mankind who would be soon chopping down trees and building houses on the animals homes.

There was a plan though, the animals had heard of White Deer Park, a nature reserve where they would be safe but to get there they would need to go on a big journey.

Fox, Vixen and Adder – very imaginative names indeed.

All of the animals had to work together, even if that meant natural prey would be left unharmed. Each animal had its own personality but all were named after their species.

There was genuine peril for a children’s animation too. Spoiler alert – not all of the animals made it to White Deer Park. I particularly remember Pheseant not making it due to his general stupidity and self obsession.

Naturally the majority of the animals did complete the journey and some other animals also joined in along the journey. As far as I was concerned the story was complete but a follow up series was made set in the park although the title was not changed it had no real purpose.

I did have one or two of the books by Colin Dan on which the series had been based but I didnt really get into them that much and I suspect the books (and the animation) would have been more geared towards girls than boys.

This kind of animation was fairly unique at the time, English voices and lasting 25 minutes, in my head there were easily 30 odd episodes in a series but that could be how it appeared to me at that young age.

The other unique thing, it was co-produced by all of the members of the EBU – European Broadcasting Union (think of Eurovision). Which if nothing else, made the credits fairly lengthy.

It was well produced

Golden Wonder Crisps

What would lunch boxes be like without packets of crisps. Ready Salted, Cheese and Onion or Salt and Vinegar whatever your flavour there was only one brand I remember growing up – Golden Wonder.

Long forgotten now as just an also-brand but Golden Wonder were top of the snack food game in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

I remembr the packets, complete with the transparent window so you could actually see how many crisps you were getting and back then you actually got a decent amount per bag.

There was also the distinct colouring of the flavours. Ready Salted (Plain as it was always known to me) was in purple/dark blue and Cheese and Onion was in green. Walkers decision to use green for Salt and Vinegar was wrong, it was even referenced in a Harry Enfield sketch.

Zig loved his Golden Wonder in the 90s.

Golden Wonder had the bulk of the market, they also owned other market leading products like Wotsits and Wheat Crunchies but eventually these were sold off and Golden Wonder almost entirely disappeared.

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