CBBC Memories – Fast Forward.

Fast Forward (BBC2, 1984-1986, CBBC, 1987)

This is yet another rather fast-moving comedy sketch show for children from the 80s, there really were a lot of them, weren’t there. The show’s title Fast Forward was rather fancy for the time, as it was when video recorders were starting to become commonplace. The animated opening sequence also featured a robot voice that actually wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on Transformers (that I reviewed recently).

Various comic talents took part in the sketches, after running on stage at the start of the show to much cheering of course. The cast changed a little over the years, and among them were Floella Benjamin, Nick Wilton, and Andrew Secombe, who’d already worked in children’s TV for a while and would go on to further success. One highlight was a parody of Blue Peter, featuring an unseen pet dog called Tiny, who had an enormous bowl, meaning that he probably wasn’t very tiny at all. vlcsnap-00848

There were also a few regular characters, including the silly spaceman Milton Keenze from the planet Zymatron who would often interrupt sketches whilst trying to find out more about Earth, and there was also the explorer India Rubber Jones. Also featuring was Late Late Laser Link-Up with the window on the world, clips of animals being played backwards for comic effect, The Jokers, where various children were encouraged to tell some of their favourite jokes and stories, and there was even a guest appearance from Phillip Schofield, how nice. vlcsnap-00707

All of this was rather corny, but it was usually accompanied by a lot of giggling from the studio audience, which is just as well, because there was a very long list of writers who probably stayed up all night to write these sketches. There were three series of Fast Forward, the first two were shown on BBC2 after CBBC had ended over on BBC1, the third was shown as part of the main CBBC afternoon strand, and it was repeated until 1988. I don’t think that there were ever any episodes released on VHS though. vlcsnap-00715

The show isn’t connected to the magazine Fast Forward which launched in the late-80s after this one had ended, and was the BBC’s second attempt to make an equivalent of Lookin. Before then, the best magazine coverage a CBBC show could hope for was a feature in John Craven’s Back Pages in Radio Times, which I’m sure was an honour.

CBBC Memories – Roland Rat The Series.

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. vlcsnap-01104

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. vlcsnap-01103

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. vlcsnap-01108

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. vlcsnap-01106

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.

CBBC Memories – Is That A Fact.

Is That A Fact (CBBC, 1989-1990)

This is yet another CBBC show where my memory is rather vague, but as there isn’t much online, it’s another one that is worth featuring, because as always, there will definitely be someone out there who also remembers this. Is That A Fact was a show that looked at old myths and stories, and tried to determine if they were actually true.

The show was hosted by Dave Benson-Phillips (who was also hosting Playdays on CBBC around this time, and this was before the long-running Get Your Own Back) as Sheerluck Holmes (what a terrific pun), and alongside him was Wanda Wonder (Alwyne Taylor, someone who I don’t remember seeing on any other CBBC shows), who were known as The Factfinders. They always wore shirts that had a big question mark on them. vlcsnap-01003

This wasn’t a game show as such, but there would still be plenty of interesting questions asked, so sit down and listen carefully because you might learn something. Every week a different school from across the country was featured, and various children (who were known as The Supersleuths) would try to solve the mysteries and be asked questions by Dave, who somehow magically beamed into their school. vlcsnap-00992

After Dave had beamed back into the studio, he and Alwyne would also be assisted by George the computer, who looked suspiciously to me like simply a box painted silver with a few flashing lights and buttons that had some arms waving out of it. I hope they remembered to let them out of the box at the end of the show. And there was also UK9, which is series two was renamed UK10, maybe they installed an upgrade between series. vlcsnap-00994

And in the second series there would also be a competition at the end of the show, where viewers were challenged to spot the deliberate mistake in the statements that were made, so everyone who wanted to enter had to get their pencils ready for the address. The hosts often burst into song too, and Dave also sang the closing theme, which really was too much. vlcsnap-01012

There were two series of Is That A Fact, and every edition was 15 minutes long, but there weren’t many repeat runs, and I don’t recall the show being featured in the CBBC On Choice strand. I also remember on Get Your Own Back in the mid-90s long after the show had ended when Dave would say something daft and the studio audience would reply with “is that a fact?” which was a nice in-joke.

CBBC Memories – Round The Twist.

Round The Twist (Seven, 1990, ABC, 1993, 2000-2001)

Following on from Just For The Record that I reviewed recently, this is another Australian show that was imported to this country and shown in a children’s TV slot, this time on CBBC. This was a sitcom, and it was a rather odd one that ended up running for over a decade. The early episodes of Round The Twist were based on the series of books by Paul Jennings. There was also a rather memorable opening theme song that was later used on an advert.

The show starred the Twist family (another convenient sitcom surname alert!), consisting of the three children Linda, Pete, and Brosnan, along with their widowed dad Tony (their mum had died four years earlier). They move into a lighthouse on the coast, and they then start to encounter a rather large amount of strange things, including ghosts in the toilet, scarecrows coming to life, dragons that breathe fire, and clones. These were often accompanied by some clever visual effects. vlcsnap-00898

Nobody else seems to believe them though, including nearby neighbour Nell, Mr Gribble, and the children’s teacher Mr Snapper, but they insist that these things are happening to them, is it possible that the lighthouse they have moved into is haunted? I also spotted in an episode that Linda had a poster of Bananarama on her wall, so of course she is terrific. vlcsnap-00901

There were 52 episodes of Round The Twist in four series. Rather curiously, there were some big gaps between series, including a three-year gap between series one and two (along with a channel switch), and a seven-year gap between series two and three. This meant that because of the children ageing, the main parts were frequently recast, meaning two actors played the dad, and three played the children. vlcsnap-00912

This was a show that definitely became popular on CBBC in the early-90s, and I remember watching the early episodes and quickly realising that this was one of the more unusual sitcoms that was around at the time, and there was a rather wide range of enjoyably strange moments. Some episodes were shown in the UK before Australia, there were rather a lot of repeat runs, including one in the mid-2000s on Five, and it has also been shown around the world where it retains a big fanbase. vlcsnap-00899

Rather pleasingly, unlike most other CBBC shows (imported or otherwise) from this era, all of the episodes of Round The Twist have been released on DVD in a boxset (and they are also on YouTube in full), and they are much recommended, if like me you enjoy strange comedy shows where you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

CBBC Memories – FLIP.

FLIP (CBBC, 1991)

This is another CBBC show that there is very little online about, it doesn’t have a Wikipedia (or even IMDB) entry, but I thought that I would review it because I do remember watching at the time, and as always I can’t be the only one. FLIP was a comedy show that was set around the world and beyond. There were 13 episodes that were 15 minutes long, and each one was written and performed by a different cast, so a lot of creative ideas were tried out by a range of comic talent.

Some of the cast did go on to further success, the show features two future cast members of The Day Today for example. FLIP (Federation of Lost International Property) has bureaus in various places, from London to Jamaica, and under the sea, and there is even one on Venus. The only regular cast members were FLIP (voiced by Brian Blessed, who unsurprisingly gets an awful lot of voiceover work), along with occasional appearances from the hideous villain Dr Emilius Slimebucket. The show also had some weird bleepy theme music. vlcsnap-00822

The cast had to deal with the lost property wherever they were, and some of the things that people would leave behind really were rather unusual. There were odd things everywhere including on a conveyor belt all waiting to be claimed. Among the highlights were the episodes set at British Rail with Doon Mackichan and Anne Rabbitt (who had also worked together on LWT’s Wake Up London that I reviewed a while back). vlcsnap-00825

And there were also episodes set in Jamaica with Ram John Holder (of Desmond’s and Porkpie fame), Docklands with Nick Wilton and Clive Mantle (who went on to appear in CITV’s comedy show WYSIWYG), Desert Island with Nick Hancock (long before They Think It’s All Over) and Neil Mullarkey, and Mobile with Trevor and Simon (of Going Live! fame) which also featured a guest appearance from Paul Whitehouse in character as Mike Smash which was just great. vlcsnap-00821

This was another enjoyable show full of fun, and it deserves greater acclaim. Unlike most CBBC shows from its era though, FLIP has barely been seen since its original run. There was a short repeat run as part of CBBC’s Sunday Morning strand in 1993, but that’s it, it didn’t even turn up in the CBBC On Choice strand, and there was no VHS release either, which was a missed opportunity. I’m fairly sure that all of this happened though.

CBBC Memories – Model Millie.

Model Millie (CBBC, 1994)

My memory of this one is a little vague, but because I do remember watching, I might as well feature it because it was another quirky but short-lived CBBC show from the 90s, and you should know how much I enjoyed those by now. This was just about a sitcom, it’s one that’s rather hard to define really. But I’m sure that someone else somewhere must’ve watched this at the time too, I don’t make any of these shows up, honest.

Firstly, the word “Model” in the title doesn’t refer to Millie being a fashion model or anything like that, it’s because Millie is someone who likes to make models of things, usually houses! Millie was played by Sarah Davison (no relation to Peter I imagine!) who was also among the cast of The Tent Stop which was Friday’s edition of Playdays where they made up a story. The theme music was some rather odd trumpet noises. vlcsnap-01095

Millie often travels around to get ideas about what models to make, such as maybe a farm and its various animals, or a department store, and her house seemed to be full of pieces of card that were all different colours as she began to create her model worlds. A few other characters appeared, including Trendy Wendy, played by Sue Devaney, who was also in CITV’s Spatz, but is best known for playing Debbie in Coronation Street. vlcsnap-01097

Also featuring was Clumsy Roger, and as for when Aunt Barking came round, well, would you believe it. There were would also be moments when Millie would randomly burst into a song and dance, a few fantasy sequences, and she would often talk to the camera too. The combination of all this was mildly ridiculous, but the fact I can still remember some of it 25 years on means it must’ve done something right.

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I don’t think that’s a real horse.

There was only one series of Model Millie, featuring 13 episodes that were all 15 minutes long. Unsurprisingly it hasn’t been released on VHS or DVD, but it has been rather well served by repeats. After the original run ended in the CBBC main afternoon strand in 1994, it was then repeated fairly often on BBC1 and BBC2 in various slots until 1998. vlcsnap-01093

There was then a repeat run as part of the CBBC On Choice strand in the early-2000s, which as I have said several times now was a terrific chance to see lots of great shows from the 90s again. And then there was yet another repeat run on CBeebies as late as 2007, well over a decade after Model Millie was first shown. I can only imagine what the toddlers made of it.

CBBC Memories – Maid Marian And Her Merry Men.

Maid Marian And Her Merry Men (CBBC, 1989-1994)

This is a children’s sitcom with an historical twist, which is not surprising as it was based on a story that happened rather a long time ago, and it became one of the most popular CBBC shows of its era, and rather deservedly so. Maid Marian And Her Merry Men was written by Tony Robinson, who learned a thing or two about how to make a classy historical sitcom following his memorable contribution to Blackadder (and that’s planned to be reviewed soon too).

The show was set in Sherwood Forest back in the olden and rather smelly days, but it was a spin on the usual Robin Hood story, as Maid Marian was the one who was in charge of everything, meaning that Robin wasn’t the hero here. There were lots of other various good and bad characters including Barrington, Rabies, Little Ron, King John, and The Sheriff Of Nottingham who was played by Robinson himself. vlcsnap-00994

There were lots of memorable moments, including plenty of great songs, and many people consider the episode that was rather similar to The Crystal Maze to be among the highlights. Maid Marian And Her Merry Men is a rare example of a children’s sitcom that was sharp and witty enough to have been shown in a later primetime and be enjoyed by older viewers, and there was eventually a repeat run on Gold. vlcsnap-00987

There were some very amusing outtakes, including the one where Barrington walked into a tree. The show also went on to win several awards and has definitely deserved its status as a cult classic. But it didn’t end with the TV version, there were also some books released, along with a stage version starring Robinson that was taken around theatres across the country where everyone was suitably entertained and had a right old knees-up. vlcsnap-00991

Another way in which Maid Marian And Her Merry Men is a little different to most children’s shows is that it has been well served by its DVD release. All 26 episodes in four series (including a Christmas special) have feature in an eight disc boxset, and there are plenty of extras too, including some of the cast getting back together to reminisce about working on the show, along with a 32-page comic book. vlcsnap-01003

The show was repeated for a long time after it ended, still being shown on the CBBC Channel as late as 2007, and around this time some of the cast members appeared in the studio to be interviewed about their experience, seemingly hoping that viewers wouldn’t realise that the show had finished over a decade earlier by this point and they now all looked much older.

CBBC Memories – Bailey Kipper’s POV.

Bailey Kipper’s POV (CBS, 1996)

This will probably be the final imported children’s sitcom that I’ll review. This one was shown around the same time as Fudge (that I reviewed recently), but most of the others from the 90s are simply too sickly or inane for my liking, so sorry if you were expecting a review of Saved By The Bell, or even Cousin Skeeter. This one attracted me because it had a rather interesting idea.

Before I go any further though, I would just like to say that I think the name Bailey Kipper is terrific. The show was in a Saturday Morning slot on American TV, before coming to CBBC’s main afternoon strand in 1998. The opening sequence where Bailey rapped about the scenario while all of the cast did a dance was rather embarrassing, but the rest of the show was definitely very enjoyable. vlcsnap-01112

Bailey Kipper is an 11-year-old boy who is rather smart and likes to let his imagination run wild. His dad works at a local TV station and sometimes brings home pieces of technical kit. Bailey then uses this equipment to create his own TV channel where he can keep a close check on his family and friends, because of small cameras hidden around the house (and even on people) in the shape of eyeballs. vlcsnap-01110

Bailey then edits all of this footage together in a special secret room and enhances it with various visual and sound effects to create a video diary of what people have been up to, including his dad Don, mum Vickie, older sister Robin, younger brother Eric, and even the dog, as if he was directing their lives, and they were totally oblivious. Episodes centred around various things such as a day at school or relatives visiting. It is rather weird watching this show back now knowing that I’m closer to the ages of the parents than the children! vlcsnap-01113

The idea of constantly keeping track of someone predated all of the Big Brother-style shows, and watching things from various people’s perspectives was also fairly similar to the idea of Channel 4’s sitcom Peep Show (which at the early development stage was also planned to be called POV). The situation the family were in was rather similar to the later more famous sitcom Malcolm In The Middle. vlcsnap-01114

Bailey Kipper’s POV was a quirky idea that was put together very well, it’s a shame that there were only 13 episodes in one series, they definitely could’ve expanded on the idea, and it deserves more credit. The show was repeated on CBBC until as late as 2002, but there has been no DVD release. Don’t expect a revival of the show any time soon though, because Michael Galeota, who starred as Bailey, died in 2016 aged only 31.

CBBC Memories – Record Breakers.

Record Breakers (CBBC, 1972-2001)

This is another long-running CBBC show, I didn’t watch it a huge amount over the years, but because so many people will be familiar with this one I do feel that it is worthy of a review. I do have a few of the Guinness World Records books, which are full of all kinds of facts and figures that are interesting to know, along with plenty of trivia, that aims to document the biggest and the smallest and just about everything else inbetween. To get yourself referenced in the book is considered by many to be something of an honour.

Record Breakers launched in the early-70s, and by the time I watched in the 90s, the hosts were Roy Castle (who also found fame as an actor and trumpeter) and Cheryl Baker (who was in the chart-topping Bucks Fizz!). Every edition featured meeting people who had achieved weird and wonderful things all over the world, and there were also interviews with Olympic athletes, just anybody who had excelled in their chosen area really. vlcsnap-00659

The show also featured plenty of attempts at breaking a record, some of the rather extreme challenges sometimes against the clock could be compared a little to You Bet!, and most editions seemed to conclude with about a thousand people in the studio all trying to attempt something, they could barely fit them all in. I also remember one year that there was a competition to design the cover of the latest edition of Guinness World Records. vlcsnap-00672

Roy even managed to set some records himself, and for a while there would be some celebrity specials at Christmas. Following Roy’s death in 1994, and a tribute special looking back at his career where everyone acknowledged that he knew that to be successful, dedication’s what you need (and some of his highlights were also released on VHS), the show did carry on for a while with some new hosts, including Kriss Akabusi, although it was never really the same. vlcsnap-00662

In 1997 there was the spin-off Record Breakers Gold, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the show by taking a look back at some of the most spectacular stunts to have featured over the years, which ran for two series. Record Breakers eventually ran for 30 series, before it finally came to an end in 2001, by which point it had been firmly established as one of the best-known CBBC shows.

CBBC Memories – Fudge.

Fudge (ABC, 1995, CBS, 1995)

This is another American sitcom that was shown on CBBC in the late-90s. Fudge is a show that was based on a series of books by Judy Blume that in 1995 were turned into a TV series. The first episode was a 90 minute feature-length special called Fudge-A-Mania. It was supposed to introduce us to the characters, but rather curiously it was shown out of sequence about a month after the regular series launched in this country.

Peter Hatcher is a boy who lives with his family in New York City. When he is at school, he often spends time with the girl next door Sheila, and his best friend Jimmy, and his favourite sport is baseball. However, he is constantly upstaged by his immensely irritating younger brother Farley, who is known to everyone by his nickname “Fudge” (don’t ever actually attempt to call him Farley!). vlcsnap-00423

Fudge was about four or five years old, and everywhere he went with Peter he would carry on as if he was on a permanent sugar rush, constantly jumping around and squealing. Nobody knew what he would do next. What a pain! Also featuring are their parents Anne and Warren who often get caught up in Fudge’s antics too. Most of the stories are told from Peter’s perspective, and he even sometimes addresses the camera to tell us his feelings. vlcsnap-00420

It could be considered that some of the stories in the episodes were a little too sickly sweet for the average young British viewer who might be more used to shows with a harder edge, as things that happened included Fudge auditioning for a TV advert, losing his favourite cuddly toy, or having a birthday party, and that was about it really, how exciting. vlcsnap-00504

Also, occasionally this would be accompanied by some cartoon-style sound effects which was a little odd. It seems that there was also a younger sister in the books, but they weren’t included in the TV series. How Peter managed to put up with Fudge constantly causing chaos wherever he went whilst also trying to get along at school really was a mystery. vlcsnap-00486

There were 25 episodes of Fudge in two series (including a channel switch in America), and it was shown fairly often on CBBC until 1999, a few years after it had actually ended. Although there were some books, as far as I know the TV series has not had a DVD release in this country. It was yet another one of those shows that I remember watching for a while when I was about 12, I’m sure that many others watched it as well.