Play School (BBC1/BBC2, 1964-1988)
This is another long-running show that was aimed at the youngest viewers. Play School is as old as BBC2 itself. It was unintentionally their first show after they finally got on air following a powercut the previous night meaning that the launch had to be abandoned, and for many years it seemed to be the only show on that channel in the morning before they closed down for about seven hours. It’s time to get ready to play.
I don’t remember really watching this one much myself, but it is a rather significant children’s show, which was usually shown in a morning slot. Play School had a few regular features that would become well known. Firstly, you’d never be in any doubt as to what day of the week it was because it was always made very clear. Honestly, making five shows a week, however did they do it.
There was also a house with a door and various shaped windows, and you had to guess what one would be looked through. And of course there were also the toys that appeared regularly, including Jemima, Humpty, and the double-act of Big Ted and Little Ted. And there were plenty of other features including how to make things (so get those toilet rolls ready), people doing various activities, songs and stories, and presenters were also encouraged to randomly do a wiggly dance. They’d always find a way to fill the time, go on, improvise something!
Play School also featured a huge amount of presenters who would go on to further success, it was a very good training ground. Among those were Johnny Ball, Brian Cant, Derek Griffiths and Fred Harris, they all learned their trade here, it must’ve been a very valuable experience. Around the same there were also the rather similar shows Play Away and Hokey Cokey, along with spin-off versions in Australia and New Zealand.
Play School would eventually run for almost 25 years, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that there were thousands of editions made, although it seems that not so many still exist in the archive. In 1988, it was replaced by Playbus, which I do remember watching more when I was younger. Its influence could also be seen in later shows including Teletubbies. Around the time the show did finally come to an end, there was a VHS released featuring some of the highlights. Few children’s TV shows in the UK mean a lot to so many generations of viewers.