Smart (CBBC, 1994-2009)
I have enjoyed a lot of children’s TV shows about art over the years, one of my favourites being CITV’s long-running Art Attack. On CBBC, there was the Tony Hart trilogy with Vision On, Take Hart, and Hart Beat (although I only remember the last of those three). I also really enjoyed Bitsa in the early-90s. Around the time that ended, a new show was launched with the aim to give viewers some artistic ideas.
Smart (or was it actually written SMart?) launched in 1994, and although I only watched the early series regularly, I do remember enjoying them, including the opening sequence that featured some strange goings on with some Plasticine and paint tubes. The original presenting line-up was Mark Speight (who was also a presenter on CITV at the same time), Jay Burridge, and Zoe Ball.
Also among the presenters were Josie D’Arby and Kirsten O’Brien, and to add a link to the Tony Hart era, the animated character Morph occasionally appeared too. There were a lot of great ideas, such as how to draw pictures with pens, or paint, or how to do creative things using a wide variety of materials. There would also be a look at pictures sent in by viewers in the gallery. If a viewer’s work was shown, they would also win a prize.
Another regular feature was a big picture being made, and viewers could also phone in for some advice on how to improve their artwork. Smart was another one of those shows that made myself, and I’m sure many others, say “I’d like to have a go at doing that”. There were also competitions to enter, along with lots of merchandise including books, and don’t forget the trusty old factsheets too.
One sign that Smart was popular with viewers was there were not one or two but three spin-off series. There was Smart On The Road, where the presenting team made designs on location instead of in the studio which ran for several series. There was also Smarteenies that was shown on the CBeebies channel, to help the young viewers learn all about colours and shapes.
And, it seems that you can’t keep the man away, there was also Smart Hart, where Tony Hart returned alongside Kirsten O’Brien for even more creative ideas. I didn’t realise that Smart ran for 15 years, that’s almost as along as Art Attack. There were almost 200 editions made, and the editions in the later series (that were shown on the CBBC Channel) were extended to an hour.