Bouncing Back (CBBC, 1996)
This is a rather curious show from the summer of ’96. Johnny Ball is someone who was a popular host on CBBC in the 70s and 80s, when, thanks to his authoritative but cheery style, he managed to make subjects including science and maths fun and engaging to younger viewers in various shows including Think Of A Number. He sort-of came across as the ultimate maths teacher.
I only remember his CITV series Johnny Ball Reveals All, which seems to be less celebrated by comparison, but was still very enjoyable to watch. Bouncing Back was a rather odd idea for a show, because firstly, it had been about a decade since Johnny left CBBC, and also because there were no new contributions from the man himself.
Maybe it was decided to introduce his quirky style to a new generation of viewers, or maybe they were running out of ideas, as this was shown during the period when the main afternoon CBBC strand was shown on BBC2, while BBC1 concentrated on other things for the summer including live sport coverage, so this could be considered to be a rather creative repeat.
Subtitled The Best Bits Of Johnny Ball, in Bouncing Back the archive was raided to feature some of the highlights from his shows. The opening theme music was rather catchy too. And yes, just like Alan Partridge, he’s bounced back! The host was a weird computer-generated robot head thing called Cube, who was voiced by impressionist Lewis MacLeod.
This did remind a little of that fish thing from CITV’s game show Virtually Impossible. There would be various topics covered, and Cube would introduce and then comment on them with various silly voices. I can’t recall if Johnny’s famous “I’m a mystic… and here’s me stick!” joke was featured, but we were indeed introduced to “a very clever technique called Colour Separation Overlay”, although that seemed to feature in every other show that he did.
There was just the one series of Bouncing Back, which was repeated the next day in the CBBC summer holiday mornings strand. Johnny isn’t seen as much on TV nowadays, but he has toured the country, where he has remained as enthusiastic about maths as ever, performing to people who saw him on the TV as a child, who are now the teachers themselves.
UPDATE: I was recently informed on Twitter that the Cube character had originally appeared a year earlier in 1995 in a CBBC show called Total Reality, about computers and technology, although I don’t remember watching this at all. As this lasted for only one series, and because presumably this was rather expensive to animate and they didn’t want to let it all go to waste, Cube was pushed into action again to host a different show, how it ended up being old Johnny Ball clips though I’ve no idea, but it all makes a little more sense now.