Dear Mr Barker (CBBC, 1995-1998)
Over the years, there have been several children’s TV shows where viewers have been able to write in and hope to have their questions about various things answered. Lots of fascinating facts were featured in this one. Dear Mr Barker featured a dog puppet (Barker = dog, you see), who looked a little like the one that was in Space Vets and Cartoon Critters, but was probably no relation, who dealt with the questions, and he sounded rather similar to Otis The Aardvark. Miss Chicken would sometimes help out too.
Viewers would ask things like why animals around the world did various things, or how technology was made. As this was the days before the answer to everything would be “go on Wikipedia, you fool”, they would have to explain. If your question was used, you would win a fancy T-shirt! There were also features including Bang The Gong, where quick questions were answered to try and beat Mr Barker, and Weird Or What, taking a look at some more unusual things.
Mr Barker would be accompanied by various hosts, including John Eccleston and Sally Gray, and also Vince Henderson. He is known for two other things, being one of the hundreds of people who hosted game show Chain Letters, and for being married to Sophie “Ace” Aldred (who was also on children’s TV around this time). Later series were hosted by Paul Hendy, who has had a rather curious career, taking in lots of children’s TV and game shows.
As well as this show, he also hosted CITV’s The Disney Club. And he hosted the final series of Wheel Of Fortune, Stash (where he kept smiling through even though it was awful and only ever shown at about 3am), and I’m sure I read once that Denis Norden said that he featured in his favourite ever “cock-up” on It’ll Be Alright On The Right, when he had an embarrassing moment on Don’t Try This At Home! What an honour.
I also read an unusual story about this show once, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it was rather amusing. In the early series, questions had to be sent in by post. But some viewers were only putting “Dear Mr Barker” on the envelope instead of the full address, and with puzzled postmen not being sure who they were intended for, they were all sent to Ronnie Barker, who by this point had retired from TV and ran an antiques shop.
By the final series, an email address had been introduced, which solved all of that hassle. And there was even a competition to enter which had a ridiculously easy question for a nice prize. There were four series of Dear Mr Barker, and repeat runs in a morning slot continued until 2000. Curiously, this show is another one that doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry itself.