Roland Rat The Series (BBC1, 1986, CBBC, 1988)
I know that I have written a lot about the history of TV-am, but I really do find it rather interesting. They very quickly discovered that having to produce almost 3½ hours of TV a day at a time when there weren’t going to be a huge amount of people watching was not that easy. Incredibly, the rather highbrow agenda just wasn’t attracting people.
Then, about two months after the launch when TV-am was in real trouble, a puppet character was introduced, and suddenly their fortunes began to turn around thanks to an unexpected source. Roland Rat was famously described as “the only rat to join a sinking ship”, and suddenly he was everywhere, not just in the children’s programming, but it’s almost a surprise that he wasn’t conducting the political interviews too.
After a short while this self-styled “Superstar” was a big name on TV, to the point that he even had some hit singles and appeared on Top Of The Pops, and TV-am’s ratings were soon returning to something decent. He had achieved a huge amount of “ratfans”, and was the highest-paid rat on TV. In 1985, he caused a stir when he defected to the BBC, and starred in a few more shows, and this is the one that I have picked out to review.
Roland Rat The Series was a Saturday evening show that was supposed to be shown on BBC3, many years before that channel actually existed, and Roland arrived at the Ratcave studio in his Ratmobile. Roland starred in various sketches, including a parody of EastEnders, and he always showed off his attitude. Roland would also be joined by a few of his good furry friends including Kevin The Gerbil and Errol The Hamster.
There were also some celebrity guests who didn’t mind taking second place to Roland, including Colin Baker in character as Doctor Who, and Chris Tarrant. Some pop groups also appeared to perform their latest single, including The Communards and Curiosity Killed The Cat. There were two series (the second was on CBBC as Roland Rat The Series II), and the highlights were released on an hour-long VHS.
Along with the TV shows and hit singles, there was also plenty of other merchandise including computer games. Roland do go on to feature on a few other shows including the CBBC game show Roland’s Rat Race, but by the early-90s he was starting to fall out of favour a little, and he wasn’t seen much on TV for a while, until he made a comeback about a decade later with a new series on Channel 5 called LA Rat, and he now lives in a solid gold mansion in Hollywood.