CBBC Memories – Henry’s Cat.

Henry’s Cat (CBBC, 1983-1993)

This is a look back at yet another cartoon that I enjoyed watching on CBBC in the afternoon. Henry’s Cat was a show with a rather scruffy but distinctive style which looked like it had been drawn with a few felt-tip pens, and featured some animals that were rather unusual colours in a similar style to Roobarb And Custard (indeed, it was made by the same production company).

All of the voices of the characters were provided Bob Godfrey who was also the director, and the opening sequence (that changed a few times over the series) included a parody of the MGM lion and Henry’s Cat up a ladder with some paint. There were also a few different opening themes, but they all usually featured a rather eerie “meeow” sound, and the closing sequence also changed a few times. vlcsnap-00279

Henry’s Cat (we never actually get to meet Henry in any of the episodes) was a yellow cat who was something of a daydreamer, and he liked to watch television in his favourite chair. He had a rather laid-back attitude to life, and he often liked to imagine himself in various unusual situations such as appearing on the TV shows or adverts that he watched. He was also rather fond of his food, and would eat anything that he could get hold of. It was always enjoyable to enter his rather wonky animated world. vlcsnap-00272

One of his friends was Chris Rabbit (what a great name), a blue rabbit who was much more lively and excitable than Henry’s Cat and he often got caught up in the adventures. We also occasionally met a few other characters including Mosey Mouse and Pansy Pig. There would be five series of Henry’s Cat, the first two had episodes that were five minutes long, and the final three were extended to 15 minutes, for even more feline fun that entered ever more bizarre areas, including travelling back in time, and trying to make lots of money. vlcsnap-00280

There were over 50 episodes made of Henry’s Cat and they were shown on CBBC in various timeslots until 1994, and after that it went on to be repeated on The Children’s Channel and Nick Jr. Unsurprisingly, just like almost all of the other children’s cartoons that I’ve reviewed, some episodes were released on VHS, along with some on DVD in more recent years. There have also been plenty of books and annuals, although I don’t have any of those.

More TV Memories – Super Mario Brothers.

Super Mario Brothers (1989)

Over the years, I have enjoyed a lot of computer games that have featured the Super Mario characters, including ones on the Nintendo Game Boy, SNES, and beyond. By the late-80s, these games had become popular enough for there to be a cartoon version launched on TV. I do remember watching this series, but I’m fairly sure that it wasn’t shown on CITV’s afternoon strand (or if it was that’s not where I saw it).

In 1993 GMTV launched replacing TV-am. I was interested in what children’s programming they would offer, including what would replace the classic half-term show Wacaday. It turned out that the GMTV equivalent of this was It’s Not!, and among the regular features was the Super Mario Brothers cartoon, usually shown in two parts at around 9am. vlcsnap-00241

The idea of the cartoon is that one day Mario and his brother Luigi are transported into the Mushroom Kingdom where they meet some rather strange characters. Among them are Toad and Princess Toadstool, and the main enemy is King Koopa, who has had enough of those pesky plumbers. Each episode would begin with Mario explaining the story in his “Plumber’s Log”, and he could also change colour to transform in Super Mario. As always, they’ve got to save the day, and one of the things that I liked about the show was that it contained a lot of the sound effects from the games. And of course, they all had lotsa spaghetti. vlcsnap-00236

On GMTV, only the cartoon segment was shown. It wasn’t until I decided to a watch few episodes online recently that I realised that was only part of the show. As well as the cartoon, the actors who provided the voices of Mario and Luigi would also appear onscreen dressed as these characters (with their impressive moustaches), and they would take part in some rather corny sketches along with a few celebrity guests (and a good deal of canned laughter). vlcsnap-00228

Every edition would also end with us being encouraged to “Do The Mario”, a dance routine that wasn’t embarrassing at all. There were 52 episodes of The Super Mario Brothers Super Show (to give it its full title) made, and a few of these were released on VHS in the UK. This led to two sequel series, The Adventures Of Super Mario Brothers (1990), and Super Mario World (1991). Again, I’m not if any of these were shown in the UK. vlcsnap-00258

Some of the episodes from the show have also become a big success online in more recent years. There was also a Super Mario live-action film in the mid-90s, but let’s not think about that for now. Another popular computer game that was turned into a cartoon around the same time as this was Sonic The Hedgehog, and I plan to review that one soon too.

CBBC Memories – Superted.

Superted (CBBC, 1983-1986)

This is yet another show that was a hit with many viewers including myself in the 80s and beyond. Superted began as a series of books (although I don’t remember having any of these). In the early-80s it transferred to TV as a cartoon, and just like Fireman Sam, as well as the CBBC show, there was also a version that was in Welsh and shown on S4C.

As the opening sequence explained, at a toy factory one day where teddy bears are manufactured, one reject is thrown away as it is considered to be rubbish. While he is lying there, a rocket spaceship lands, and an alien takes pity upon the poor bear, who takes him away. He is then given some cosmic dust which transforms him. Now this might sound a rather ridiculous idea for a show, but it’s really no more far-fetched than the similar superhero cartoon Bananaman that was shown on CBBC around the same time. vlcsnap-00210

Superted’s rescuer Spotty (not to be confused with the one in the Bash Street Kids) was a yellow alien who came from the planet Spot, and he would also become his good friend. We also got to meet Spotty’s family on his home planet. Whenever he says the magical secret word, he transforms in Superted, and then along with Spotty (with his jetpack) he often flies around the world and beyond to help out people in need because they had usually ran into a group of enemies. vlcsnap-00211

The main one of these was Texas Pete, along with his team that also included a rather dozy skeleton, and the even dozier Bulk, but they would always be defeated, whatever it took. Superted also had the great catchphrase “pulsating prunes!”. There was a lot of talent providing the voices, including Derek Griffiths, Jon Pertwee, and Roy Kinnear. There were 36 episodes made of Superted, and most of them ran for about eight minutes. The closing theme song was also very memorable. vlcsnap-00212

Superted was another success, and following on from the books, many episodes were released on VHS, along with a computer game. There was also for a short while a comic strip on the children’s page in Radio Times (just like there was for the CBBC cartoon Jimbo And The Jet Set). In 1986, Superted appeared in a public information film that taught youngsters about road safety. This has also been shown on TV and he briefly became a mascot for the Green Cross Code. vlcsnap-00220

Now when I recorded some shows during a Saturday morning on GMTV in 1997, I remember that this PIF turned up during one of the advert breaks. I thought that it was a little odd that it was still being shown as the show had ended for over a decade by this point, and I’m not sure how many viewers would’ve remembered Superted. Having said that though, the show was still being repeated on BBC2 as late as 1996, so maybe they did. But either way, it was nice to know that he cared about us.

CBBC Memories – Fireman Sam.

Fireman Sam (CBBC, 1987-1994)

This is yet another children’s TV show I remember watching that started in the late-80s. Fireman Sam was a stop-frame animation, similar to a few other shows that I have reviewed recently, including Bertha, and I released that the cast’s mouths don’t move in this one either. The show is set in the sleepy Welsh village of Pontypandy, which stars Sam as “the hero next door” (as the opening theme goes). All of the characters were voiced by John Alderton.

Sam is a firefighter who clearly enjoys his job, and the moment his alarm goes off, he slides down the stairs and is ready for action, which is good news for any cats stuck up a tree. Even if he has to leave behind his cup of tea, he always remained cheery. Among the other characters were Sam’s work colleagues, who included the bumbling Elvis (who definitely had a resemblance to the rock’n’roll star with the same name), and the grumpy station officer Basil with his terrific moustache. vlcsnap-00194

Also in the village were Dilys and her rather hapless son (and Curly from Coronation Street lookalike) Norman, Trevor the bus driver (and occasional fireman), Sam’s niece and nephew Sarah and James, and Bella, who ran an Italian cafe that Sam often visited for a sandwich. Whenever there was an emergency, Sam and his crew would think nothing of jumping in their big red fire engine called Jupiter and saving the day in a style that I’m sure would’ve put many an episode of London’s Burning to shame. vlcsnap-00199

There was a more serious side to the show though as it aimed to teach young viewers (and indeed adults) about fire safety. Fireman Sam originally ran for four series on CBBC (along with S4C) with ten minute episodes (that were also repeated on BBC2 in the See-Saw strand which is where I saw most of them), in the 80s and 90s. As usual, there were plenty of tapes released, and there was also an annual that I remember having (and I think that I actually do still have it somewhere). The original run ended in 1994. vlcsnap-00208

But this was another one of those shows where there were several revivals, and in the 2000s Sam and the cast returned to the screen for more adventures, although this time it was computer generated, and a variety of people provided the voices. Most of the episodes from this era have been shown on CBeebies and released on DVD, but the original version will always be the one that I am most fond of. There have been over 200 episodes, and it’s now been a hit with viewers for over 30 years.

CITV Memories – Button Moon.

Button Moon (CITV, 1980-1988)

Whilst I’ve been thinking again about some children’s TV shows that I remember watching in my earliest days, here’s another one that comes under the “for younger viewers” strand that I’m sure many other people enjoyed too. Button Moon was a show that featured some puppetry, and showed just how creative you could be with a few old bottles and spoons, although this only added to the show’s charm.

Button Moon was a Thames Production for ITV, along with Rainbow. The theme music was provided by Peter Davison and Sandra Dickinson, and Davison would of course go on to star in another TV show that was very popular in the 80s… Sink Or Swim, yes. In every episode the Spoon family, consisting of the parents and their daughter Tina, would get into their homemade rocket ship, and leave their own planet to fly through the sparkly air and visit the rather yellow Button Moon. vlcsnap-00181

When they were about to arrive, Mr Spoon always made sure to press the round button to make sure that they landed safely, and then they would meet a wide range of unusual characters, including teddy bears, dolls, robots, and many more. The Spoon family themselves really did look like they were made out of kitchen utensils. It also seems that all of the voices were provided by only one or two people, although the Spoons never actually spoke themselves. vlcsnap-00188

One regular feature would be when Mr Spoon got out his telescope and would take a look at something happening on another planet, and then a story (usually a fairytale) would be told. Then at the end, they would all get back in their rocket to return home. It was another one of those shows that blurred the line between being rather cute and rather weird. Button Moon ran for longer than most CITV shows did, with eight years altogether, and there were over 90 editions made that were all ten minutes long and repeated fairly often. vlcsnap-00187

After the original run ended, Button Moon was then repeated on various channels including UK Gold, The Children’s Channel, and Nick Jr., meaning that it had definitely earned its cult status with viewers. There was also a stage show that toured the country. And as ever, there was some merchandise released, including some tapes, and I actually think that I did have one or two of these, so the show clearly did meaning something to me. And a few (but not all) editions have been released on DVD in more recent years too. vlcsnap-00189

CBBC Memories – Bertha.

Bertha (CBBC, 1985-1986)

This is a show that was originally part of the CBBC afternoon strand in the mid-80s, but I don’t actually remember watching for the first time until it appeared in the BBC2 “See-Saw” lunchtime slot for younger viewers in the late-80s, where for a while it was frequently repeated. And watching it again recently to put this piece together really was one of those moments, lots of memories came back, and for a brief moment it felt like the last 30 years hadn’t happened.

Bertha was a show that had a stop-motion animated style similar to Postman Pat (another one of my favourites from around this time that I plan to review soon). It’s a show that had a rather odd premise, but the basic idea was that it featured people who worked in a factory alongside a big machine called Bertha which had worked without fail for 50 years (just about). “We can depend upon you” went the memorable opening theme, let’s see if that’s the case. vlcsnap-00130

Bertha (which was designed to look like it had a big face along with lots of flashing lights and beeping noises) was a sort-of glamorised conveyor belt at a place called Spottiswood And Company. Lots of buttons were pressed, and then it would manufacture an extraordinary variety of items (boxes, clocks, gnomes, springs, and so on), the workers all had to keep up with the fast-moving pace as they all whizzed off the production line. vlcsnap-00147

It also amused me that the opening sequence seemed to consist of the staff putting labels on the boxes that featured the names of the cast. Most of the voices were provided by Roy Kinnear, who had a lot of TV work around this time, including several sitcoms like the ill-fated Hardwicke House. Most of the staff tried their best to deal with Bertha, but sometimes it was rather difficult. vlcsnap-00149

Most of the staff seemed to walk around with pieces of paper making sure everything worked properly. These included Ted who is the main operator of Bertha along with his assistant Roy, Mr Sprott the designer, and Mr Willmake the manager who had a very impressive moustache. I also realised that none of the cast ever moved their mouths when they spoke, which was a little odd. vlcsnap-00153

It was decided that the team needed a little help with all of this work, so in the first episode, Mr Sprott and his assistant Tracy built a robot called TOM (Talk Operated Machine) which ended up being more smart than most of the team put together, and the way the little thing used to run around the factory and make noises was always one of the highlights for me. vlcsnap-00156

Bertha was shown a lot, which makes it a surprise to realise that only 13 episodes were ever made. They were repeated on BBC1 until 1988, and on BBC2 until as late as 1998. The show was successful enough for there to be merchandise that extended beyond the usual area of just books and tapes. There was also an album released that featured the songs from the show, an annual, and even a board game that now seems to be something of a collectors’ item.

More TV Memories – Sesame Street.

Sesame Street (1969-present)

This is a show that this month has its 50th anniversary, which I felt was enough of an excuse to finally feature it here. Sesame Street is a very popular and long-running show for children, although I’m fairly sure that it’s never been shown as part of CBBC and CITV in this country. The place that I remember watching the show was on Channel 4 in the afternoon.

This was in the early-90s, by which point I had long since grasped a lot of what the show was trying to communicate to viewers, but as I enjoyed it, I continued to watch as it had a great range of bizarre puppet characters. Sesame Street is a show that has always aimed to make things like learning the alphabet entertaining and fun, and it was definitely the best use of letters and numbers on Channel 4 beyond Countdownvlcsnap-00024

Every hour-long edition (all thanks to the hardworking Children’s Television Workshop) would be based around a couple of letters and a number, and would also begin by revealing what number edition it was, and by the time I watched this was well into four figures. Among the most famous characters is Big Bird, but there are many others, including Elmo, Grover, Oscar The Grouch, and Telly. And as for Mr Snuffleupagus! vlcsnap-00148

Also among the highlights were Ernie And Bert who often liked to bicker with each other (and Ernie was also rather fond of his rubber duck), Kermit The Frog (who would also go on to star in The Muppet Show) with the important newsflashes, and The Count, who was very eager to help us out with numbers. And there was also Cookie Monster, who would eat cookies and anything else, who one day did a rather spectacular song about why it is good to eat healthy food that is rather hard to forget. vlcsnap-00042

Along with all of this, there were also lots of animated features that were repeated rather frequently. I know that people will have their personal favourites, but among mine was the typewriter that had the magic ability to press its own buttons. There have been lots of variations of Sesame Street around the world, and there was even a song based on the theme that was a big hit single in the UK in 1992! vlcsnap-00003

After leaving Channel 4, the show moved to various children’s channels including Nick Jr. There has also been some merchandise, including tapes and a comic, featuring all the usual characters, but I don’t remember having any of those myself. There is no doubt that half a century on, Sesame Street has been much enjoyed by many generations of children, even if it has probably left most of them thinking that typewriters can talk.