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.


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.

Mad Lizzie

Preschool Ben has many happy memories of getting up and joining in with Mad Lizzie. That’s how she was always known. The fitness person on TV-am who wasn’t really massively mad beyond being eternally happy.

Her workouts were simple and fun and I think that is my overriding memory. Getting up off the sofa early in the morning with my Mum and joining in with this overly cheerful lad and some minor pop act that had been pushed on to join in.

She was fun and bright and never really stopped smiling. When TV-am went off air so did she, for a bit. Then she had a go a pre-school children’s fitness show which I never saw as by then I was an in-schooler.

She could certainly pose!

A couple of years ago she appeared on Loose Women. Not really looking any different and yep still smiling.

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.

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!

Kellogg’s Toppas

Shredded Wheet but with a frosted topping on top that was always bound to appeal to kids. I loved them and I also didn’t mind their sister product Rasin Splitz either.

Still avaliable if you look in the right shops.

Topas didn’t go away but they did change their name to Frosted Wheats and have been avaliable to this day, although they seem to be becoming more and more scarce which is a shame!

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