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.

Cereal Freebies

The notion of little gifts in cereal packets predates my existence by decades and by the time I was exiting my childhood such things were becoming a rarity and I’m talking about the little toys and gifts actually in the cereal.

Obviously far from amazing but as a kid finding the freebie in your Coco-Pops livened your breakfast. Although I know there was plenty I don’t remember many of the items I got and there is a good reason for that…

Most of the gifts were just cheap and cheerful plastic tat. Junk that ended up mixed up with all my other little bits of plastic like happy meal toys.

There are a couple I remember. Firstly the Kellogg’s rooster reflectors. I’ll have you know his name is Cornealious. Bike reflectors were a thing in the 1980s apparently.

Nobody ever admitted to liking Rasin Splitz, nobody ever admitted to liking Telly Addicts either.

I didn’t get a bike until the mid nineties so mine just sat with the other tat until I finally got a bike and yes – attached them to the spokes, like the most out of date child there could be.

The other freebie that sticks in my mind was probably not given away inside boxes but rather by collecting tokens which became the main way to get free gifts as putting plastic toys in cereal became seen as either unsanitary or a choking hazard depending who you ask.

Rasin Splitz were giving away Telly Addicts game cards. They were quiz cards about television based on the Noel Edmonds show of the day.

There were four from memory and I think I had them all. I’m not sure why they came into my possession as I was too young to be able to really play them game, they would have been better being stored with the board games.

There was a junior pack (the red one) I could probably just about stumble around the answers but it was a bit above my head.

It was about ten years later when I rediscovered them hidden amongst some old toys – by now gathering far too much info about old TV programmes that I started to be able to answer them. A few decades on I reckon I’d probably know most of the answers, which is really really sad.

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.

Dennis

This is not the character from the Beano, although I think the original American title was also Dennis the Mennace. He also wore black and red, but favoured dungarees over a sweater.

This cartoon first appeared early mornings on Channel 4 in The Channel Four Daily and it carried over to the Big Breakfast. It’s animation style looked dated even then but the stories were solid enough for a kids show.

Dennis was a typical little rascal who was up to no good and usually terrorising his OAP neighbour Mr. Wilson with the help of his gang of friends.

In the early 90s the animation was adapted into a live action movie, which I went to see at the cinema. This was also the first time I saw the show credited as Dennis the Mennace.

Not as good as the animation

I didn’t go much on the big screen adaption, to me it felt a bit more cruel and a bit less juvenile which is something the animation had, a juvenile innocence.

Pop Tarts

I remember Pop-Tarts being the big new thing. A biscuit style base with a sweet filling, chocolate, jam and im pretty certain apple that go in the toaster.

Naturally through pester power I managed to get them added to the shopping list as a treat. They were different and I’m pretty certain always disappointed me.

Purely from memory the biscuit tasted like hot cardboard while the fillings were too sweet and sickly. Oh and extremely hot! Burn your mouth hot.

The cardboard biscuit layer.

I don’t think we often bought them but in my head I always really wanted them all the same. They are still avaliable, tucked away in the corner of the cereal aisle. There is only one or two varieties now.

I’ve not tried them out on my kids and I don’t think I ever will. For me they’re something sugary and burny and while I probably loved the idea of that as a kid I don’t so much now!

The Big Breakfast Part 1

The Early Years

The Big Breakfast replaced the Channel 4 Daily, which I watched only for the cartoons. Even though I was still in primary school the appeal of watching The Big Breakfast was much higher.

The programme was aimed at a younger audience overall and was unlike anything else that I had ever seen on television. The entire programme came from a big house that was brightly coloured, anarchic and just generally exciting.

Chris and Gaby hosting the show

The first hour catered more for the young end of the audience with cartoons like Dennis (which had previously featured on The Channel Four Daily) and The Banana Splits – which seemed odd as it was twenty years old plus and just looked odd to my eyes.

The biggest draw to a kid like me was Zig and Zag, two puppet aliens who lived in the bathroom and had a guest with them plus (usually) the main show host Chris Evans. They’d introduce a cartoon and sometimes music videos.

Zig and Zag from Zog

Their strand was The Crunch, because all of the segments had to have some sort of breakfast related pun, showbiz went under the name of Snap, Cackle and Pop.

They also had Down Your Doorstep. Every morning a presenter (they varied but I mostly remember Keith Chegwin) would be somewhere and knock on a random door to wake someone up and usually do some sort of crazy challenge.

Unlike modern shows, there didnt seem to be any sense of rehearsal to this. Genuinely the door seemed to be chosen at random – sometimes unsuccessfully – which added to the sense of chaos.

They never came to my street but they did come to a street not far from where I lived. I would have loved to have gone and seen TV being made up the road from me but sadly it wasn’t on my route to school.

And that was the great thing for me. The Big Breakfast, for the first time gave me as a kid something I could stick on and enjoy before school and after the 6.30am cartoon that Channel 4 used to show. Which kept me quiet before I would set off for school.

My biggest memory comes from when the show was knocked off air for about half an hour. They showed an episode of The Clangers and a ten minute long Big Breakfast news (which came from a proper TV studio rather than a house) – not bad going seeing as they wouldn’t have had much time to prepare for that.

Now you know what it was on 25 years ago..

For me it was the perfect start to my day and if there was any part of it I wasn’t interested in then I would usually put Teletext on and play Bamboozle…

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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