CITV Memories – Rosie And Jim.

Rosie And Jim (CITV, 1990-2000)

This is another one of those CITV shows that was usually shown in the “for younger viewers” strand, along with the likes of Allsorts and Rainbow. I remember watching the earliest editions in the 90s that were 15-minutes long and shown after This Morning. It continued long after I stopped watching CITV though, eventually running for a decade and having three different hosts.

Rosie and Jim were two dolls. Rosie had a bag, and Jim had a book. They lived together on a narrowboat called The Ragdoll (which was also the name of the production company, was that a coincidence or not? Ragdoll later went on to produce Tots TV and the huge success of Teletubbies). Also featuring was a duck character who liked to quack a lot and sing along with the theme music (well it was very catchy). vlcsnap-00550

Another thing I remember from the opening sequence was that Rosie and Jim liked to play the concertina and kiss each other a lot. There was also one regular human character on the show. For the first two series this was John Cunliffe (who also co-created the show, along with that other popular children’s show Postman Pat that I plan to review soon) who travelled around the country on the Ragdoll. vlcsnap-00551

John would begin by getting out his sketchbook, and then he would take his two blue pens and draw the canal that The Ragdoll was visiting on that day. There would then be a sequence that featured John discovering more about an activity. But what he didn’t realise was that Rosie and Jim were watching too! They were both rather curious about the world. They would also be featured in some animated sequences, along with some songs. vlcsnap-00455

When John returned to The Ragdoll, Rosie and Jim had to get back into their position quickly so no-one would realise that they had come to life. They always managed to get back just in time. I can only wonder what would’ve happened if John saw them, it might be rather awkward. Neither of them seemed to know the name of John either, because they always called him “fizzog”. John would then conclude the show by finishing their sketch, and tell a story about what he had seen. vlcsnap-00593

For the third and fourth series (by which point the show had been shortened to 10-minute editions), the host was Pat Hutchins who was also a children’s illustrator. For the fifth to eighth series, the host was Neil Brewer who played various instruments. After Rosie and Jim came to an end after almost 175 editions in 2000, there was also a stage tour, although editions were repeated on CITV until 2004. There were also lots of episodes released on VHS, although I don’t remember having any of those.

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Game Show Memories – TV Scrabble.

TV Scrabble (Challenge, 2001-2003)

Recently I was thinking about various word games, and also board games. Some board games have been successful enough to have been converted into TV shows, one example of this is Cluedo which was on ITV in the 90s, but I was never really a fan of that one, and it was then that I remembered there was another game show based on a board game that I was much more fond of.

I have enjoyed playing Scrabble over the years, and in the 80s Channel 4 launched a TV version of the popular word game. I don’t remember that one, but I do remember that there was a second attempt to bring Scrabble to the screen, which was on Challenge in the early-2000s (this was long before that channel came to Freeview, but it was still being repeated about a decade later fairly late at night, so I did see it for myself eventually). vlcsnap-00412

Also, this was an original show that was made for Challenge (something that they haven’t done for about five years now), and I still have a review of the show from the time, as I do like to collect any game show-related articles from newspapers and magazines. The review wasn’t that positive, but I shall try to be a little kinder. TV Scrabble was originally hosted by Toby Anstis who used to be a presenter on CBBC in the 90s, and this was a trail by tile. vlcsnap-00437

Two contestants took part in an aim to show off their skills, and they would play on a computer-generated 11×11 board that it was claimed cost a fortune. The game would be played twice in the show, with the two winners playing each other in the daily final, who won that then went into the weekly final, with the star prize for the overall series winner being a trip to Las Vegas. But viewers at home were welcome to play along too. vlcsnap-00433

Round one is Duplicate Scrabble. Both contestants receive the same seven letters, and have 20 seconds to make the longest word they can. There’s a bonus for using all their tiles, and watch out for those triple word scores! The highest-scoring word is left on the board, and then this is done a few more times. All the words have to be in the dictionary of course. vlcsnap-00416

Round two is Speed Scrabble, contestants have to simply make as many words as they can in 60 seconds. If they don’t like their tiles they can ask to change them, but only once. And watching people slowly make two-letter words is as exciting as you can imagine. Toby would also offer some terrific observations on their play including “there’s no law against that word”, and “hmm, that’s a nice word”. The two highest scorers then return for the final, with the losers receiving unspecified goodies. vlcsnap-00436

The tension is mounting, as it’s now a battle of the board. The scores from previous rounds are carried over. The finalists take it 30 second turns to play on the board for two minutes, using the same tiles. When time is up, the winner progresses. This was clearly an attempt to attract the Countdown audience, the third and final series was hosted by Eamonn Holmes, and there were some action-packed celebrity specials made too. Why Scrabble has never become an Olympic event is beyond me.

Game Show Memories – Countdown Masters.

Countdown Masters (Channel 4, 1989-1991)

This is another variation on the classic game show Countdown. In 1989, Channel 4 launched a breakfast schedule for the first time, with The Channel 4 Daily. This ran on weekdays from 6am-9:25am, and it was a fairly straightforward show, featuring news, sport, business, and so on, and presenters from ITN were around the world in various “bureaus” (not “studios”, definitely not) to fire at us the latest updates.

Among the features was Countdown Masters, which as ever was hosted by Richard Whiteley, alongside Carol Vorderman, who had just became the sole co-host. This was a five-minute show where former contestants who had done well returned to play each other in a game that ran throughout the week. It was originally shown at the rather specific time of 8:19am, before moving to 8:45am. vlcsnap-00286

It was designed to get the brain thinking at an early time in the day, and every day there were three rounds played, a letters round, a numbers round, and a conundrum. It was the contestant’s choice as to whether they wanted to choose the letters or numbers. The scoring system remained the same. Also, it seems that there was no celebrity in Dictionary Corner, and no studio audience present either. vlcsnap-00377

However, there was a lexicographer present to check on the words (back in the days when they used to rotate the lexicographers every week), and they used to sit alongside Richard, and he would do his usual amount of puns. The contestant who achieved the highest score at the end of the week after 15 rounds was declared the winner, and won a (much coveted I’m sure) Countdown Masters folder. vlcsnap-00397

Countdown Masters ran for two series and there were about 100 editions (although a few were not shown due to extra news coverage), and as well as there being a weekly winner, there was also a bonus prize on offer for the contestant who got the highest score in the entire series, and they won a set of dictionaries, which was what the overall regular series champion also won. The highest score in the series was 120 points.

CBBC Memories – Dennis The Menace.

Dennis The Menace (CBBC, 1996-1998)

This is a CBBC cartoon from the 90s that I was going to review a while ago, but I ended up doing something different when I discovered the show that preceded this one that was shown on The Children’s Channel (which featured puppetry instead of animation) in the early-90s on YouTube, so I decided to review that instead. But I feel that it’s now time to look back at this one.

Dennis The Menace first appeared in comic The Beano in 1951 (by a rather strange coincidence a character with the same name was launched in America at almost exactly the same time). He really was a troublesome ruffian, and along with his famous red and black jumper he had a punk hairstyle and attitude about 25 years before such things actually existed. In 1968 he was joined by his loyal pet dog Gnasher. In 1974 he replaced Biffo The Bear on the cover, where he remains to this day. Biffo was reported to be rather miffed. vlcsnap-00290

I started to read The Beano around the 1988/1989 mark, which was when I first met Dennis And Gnasher, along with all the other characters, including Dennis’s long-suffering parents, his friends including Pie-Face, and his enemies including Walter. I also enjoyed the spin-offs including the annuals and Comic Libraries, but I never joined the fan club though. The less said about his much-publicised 1991 redesign the better though. vlcsnap-00299

1993 was a rather significant year for Dennis and The Beano itself, which went full colour. His appearance changed somewhat, and I felt that the Dennis that I had got to know for the past few years had gone. Despite all this, I still very much looked forward to the release of The Beano Video at the end this year, when for the first time, several characters would be animated in various sketches. It did well enough for there to be a sequel released the following year. vlcsnap-00297

By 1996 Dennis got his own cartoon show on CBBC (which was also frequently plugged in The Beano). Again, all the familiar characters from the strip featured, along with a few newcomers including The Colonel and Sergeant Slipper. Hugh Laurie was among the celebrities who voiced guest characters. I do remember really enjoying these shows, although by the second series in 1998 I was in my teens and I had left behind The Beano and CBBC behind somewhat for the next younger generation of viewers to enjoy. There was much change in this year too, as Dennis gained a younger sister called Bea. vlcsnap-00335

Some episodes of Dennis The Menace were released on VHS, and there were also several repeats of the TV show on CBBC and digital channel Fox Kids into the 2000s. The Beano is still going, and in more recent years, over 65 years on from his debut, Dennis remains the master of mischief, and returned to the CBBC Channel for a new series of cartoons including Dennis And Gnasher Unleashed which was computer-generated. dennis0001dennis0002

CBBC Memories – Simon And The Witch.

Simon And The Witch (CBBC, 1987-1988)

This is another CBBC series from the 80s that I remember watching, along with many others I’m sure. Simon And The Witch is a comedy-drama series that was based on a book by Margaret Stuart Barry. A one-off was shown as part of a series called Up Our Street in 1985 (with different people in the main roles), and it did well enough to be given a full series with 15-minute long episodes in 1987.

The show centred around Simon (Hugh Pollard), who had befriended an old witch (Elizabeth Spriggs). The opening sequence consisted of them holding up some tatty pieces of paper with the show’s title on them. Simon’s mum doesn’t believe that he is friends with a witch, who likes to go around on her broom, and her spells often fail to work. Her cat George is rather grumpy and prefers to eat the table-legs than her food. vlcsnap-00100

In the first series Simon attends school, he is in Mrs Phoeble’s class, and the headmaster Mr Bodley is rather officious. His classmates include the rather unlucky Jimmy, and Sally. Also featuring are the aristocratic Lady Fox-Custard, faithful butler Hopkins, and her nephew Cuthbert who joins Simon’s class. The Witch does eventually too, and no-one seems to think that this is rather odd. vlcsnap-00279

The second series has a slightly different format, as we now see Simon and his friends spending a lot of time at the cafe run by Mr Valdini, who likes to give away ice cream for free, and really did make lotsa spaghetti. Another new character is the next-door neighbour’s daughter Angelica, and the Witch’s sister turns up too. Also making guest appearances as themselves are Newsround host John Craven and Michael Fish. vlcsnap-00280

I also enjoyed the closing sequence that featured pictures of the cast with their name handwritten underneath, accompanied by the colour-changing credits. There were two series of Simon And The Witch, and they were repeated on CBBC until 1994. It was given another repeat run on the great CBBC On Choice strand in the early-2000s. It was then repeated yet again in the early days of the CBBC Channel in 2002, 15 years after it was first shown. s1

Recently all 25 episodes were released on DVD, but they don’t contain any extras, and it seems like a filmised look has been added. I was still pleased to be able to watch it again though, but I wonder why this CBBC show was chosen to be released, when there are so many more that deserve to be, hopefully more from this era will become available one day as it’s an area of classic TV that has barely been tapped into, I’m sure that there would be a big demand.

CITV Memories – Let’s Pretend.

Let’s Pretend (CITV, 1982-1988)

This is another CITV show from the 80s that always appeared in the strand that was described as “for younger viewers” (others included Allsorts and Rainbow that I both reviewed a while ago), and this one was usually shown on Mondays around midday. As I was one of those younger viewers at the time, this is possibly among the earliest TV shows that I ever watched.

Of course, the first thing that has to be referenced about Let’s Pretend is the rather bizarre opening sequence. This consisted of a puppet thing (probably a caterpillar) that made some strange noises and wiggled up and down rather unconvincingly while a picture of a house appeared, presumably the one that the show took place in (the show’s title doesn’t appear on screen, but it is referenced in the opening song). vlcsnap-00908

Let’s Pretend would feature a cast of three (that changed for every edition and were credited as “pretenders”) who with the minimum of props and set design would put on a play and act out a story. I’m not sure if this was because the budget of the show was about £5, or if it was because the show really wanted to prove that simply having a good idea can really set off the imagination. vlcsnap-00905

The cast would be sat around a table, when an item appeared, and they had to get thinking and put on a show based around it. They looked at pictures in books and also put together a song on the piano, and by this point the edition’s theme had been established. When it was time for the performance, the curtain went up and the cast played a wide variety of characters, including people in nursery rhymes, and also various jobs. vlcsnap-00690

Having watched a few editions of Let’s Pretend again recently, I did notice that the people making a show and trying create something out of nothing in a completely bare studio element was rather similar to the The Tent Stop on Playdays that launched in the late-80s. Again, it does remind me of how the earliest TV shows that you watched do stay with you, it brought the memories back all these years on. vlcsnap-00949

There were over 200 editions made of Let’s Pretend, and I’m fairly sure that none of them have been released on VHS or DVD (but there was a repeat run on local channel Big Centre TV a few years ago). It also reminded me of when in 1990 The Beano launched a new character called Les Pretend who had a rather wild imagination and liked to dress as various things and act out a few fantasies every week, but it could be just a coincidence though. It’s fun to pretend.

Game Show Memories – Treasure Hunt.

Treasure Hunt (Channel 4, 1982-1989)

As I have now just about reviewed all of the game shows that I remember of the general knowledge variety, it’s time to look back at something that contains a little more action. Treasure Hunt made its debut shortly after the launch of Channel 4 in 1982, and this was one of their earliest shows to gain popularity with viewers, as it showed off their commitment to making shows that were a little more adventurous.

Treasure Hunt was an hour-long show that was hosted by Kenneth Kendall, and every week a team of two had to decipher five cryptic clues to find the hidden treasure, there were 45 minutes to complete the challenge. The more clues they solved, the more prizes they won. The teams had to aid someone called the “skyrunner”, who went around in a helicopter based on the advice that they were given. Running around trying to find a piece of paper has rarely been more exciting. vlcsnap-00674

In all except the final series this was Anneka Rice, who was then replaced by the tennis player Annabel Croft. To help the team solve the clues, they had access to various books including encyclopedias, and there were also other innovations including a little plane being moved around on a map to show the latest progress, this was what counted as modern technology in those days. vlcsnap-00676

Most of the editions of Treasure Hunt took place somewhere in the UK, but there was also the occasional one made abroad, along with a few specials. The show came to an end in 1989, but it was frequently repeated well into the 90s (including on Challenge), and it remained rather popular throughout its run. After this ended, there was the similar Challenge Anneka series that ran on BBC1 for many years. vlcsnap-00677

In the late-80s/early-90s there was a wave of similarly popular action-packed shows, including Channel 4’s The Crystal Maze and ITV’s Interceptor (that I plan to review soon), and about a decade after that there was Channel 5’s Fort Boyard (although I must admit I have never really watched that one). There was also a show on ITV in 1991 called Skyrunners that was essentially Treasure Hunt with a team format, as celebrity teams guided around two helicopters, but this was a one-off. vlcsnap-00681

There was also lots of merchandise including a board game and a computer game, along with a few parodies in comedy shows and adverts of the tension when time was beginning to run out. There was also a somewhat inevitable revival in the early-2000s on BBC2, technology had now advanced to the point where things much more ambitious could be achieved, but this just didn’t compare to the original and ran for only two series.