More TV Memories – Bagpuss.

Bagpuss (BBC2, 1974)

I don’t usually like to review children’s TV shows from the 60s and 70s, as they were from long before I came along, but this one featured in repeat runs for such a long time that this has ended up meaning a lot to generations of younger viewers, not just the ones who were lucky enough to watch this first time round. This was a stop-motion animated show, from the same team behind The Clangers and Ivor The Engine.

This is the series that featured Bagpuss, the saggy old pink-and-white cloth cat, who lives in a shop seemingly a rather long time ago alongside several other characters. There were also Madeleine the doll, Gabriel the toad, along with several mice, and Professor Yaffle, the rather old and clever woodpecker. Every edition would follow the same format.

Bagpuss would do a big yawn, and all of the characters would suddenly come to life. None of the toys that I had on my shelf when I was younger ever came to life, well as far as I know. There would be in item that was broken. Professor Yaffle would determine what it was, and the mice would fix it while the toad performed a song, and Bagpuss looked on with wonder.

All of this would usually be accompanied by an animated sequence featuring a story. And when this was done, everybody went back to sleep. It’s surprise to realise that there were only 13 episodes of Bagpuss, as they were repeated frequently on the BBC into the mid-80s, and I’m fairly sure that they’ve also been repeated on Channel 4 and several other channels since.

I think that Bagpuss also appeared in an exhibition at a museum not too far from where I live, well I presume that it was the real one, everyone would’ve been starstruck. It has faded a little, and the legs have started to come loose… and I can’t imagine what Bagpuss looks like now (applause). I have a little toy one myself which is rather adorable.

All of the episodes have been released on VHS and DVD, there have been several books, and apparently this was also once voted the best children’s TV show in the world ever. When trying to find out more, I saw the phrase “there is much banter between the characters”, so I presume that in more recent years they have all gone on to host the breakfast show on a local radio station.

CBBC Memories – Cartoon Critters.

Cartoon Critters (CBBC, 1996-1999)

A while ago I looked back at CBBC sitcom Space Vets, which seemed to do rather well. In that piece I did say about Cartoon Critters, which wasn’t really a spin-off, but it did feature one of the characters from that show. It was rather odd to see them turn up again in a totally different format, and I have decided that I might as well give this one a full review.

Cartoon Critters was a show about animations from the archive that starred animal characters. This did sort-of come across as a cross between Stay Tooned and The Really Wild Show. This was hosted by Dogsbody (I can only presume that the rest of his crew had long-since been lost in space), and he was accompanied by a female dog who was Fleur Pompidou.

Do I detect a touch of romance between them? Well, maybe not. I also couldn’t help but notice the contrast between his American accent, and her English accent. I also remember being amused by the opening sequence where an animated version of Dogsbody was surrounded by various animals causing chaos, including a rather strange penguin.

This was a show that promised “the truth behind the toons”, well we’ll see about that. Among those that were featured were Bugs Bunny and Tom And Jerry, some classics that were dusted off once again to be shown. And of course, the clever thing about cartoons is that animals can be made to talk, and have personalities created for them.

We’d also see archive clips of real animals, you would never believe that they could make so many squeaking noises. There was also a section where Dogsbody would put his beret on and get his big pen out, and draw some animals himself, which would be accompanied by the famous music from Vision On. Some of his pictures weren’t too bad, I wonder if he was a distant relative of Sebastian The Incredible Drawing Dog?

There were four series of Cartoon Critters, so there were plenty of amusing moments featured. This would also often be repeated as part of CBBC’s breakfast strand, but I don’t ever recall this turning up on the great CBBC On Choice strand. And any show that made us imagine what the world would be like if elephants could talk must have something going for it.

CBBC Memories – The Addams Family.

The Addams Family (ABC, 1992-1993)

It’s not another cartoon review, is it? Yes, it is! The Addams Family are “the ghoulish clan”, as they became known, who were created by Charles Addams to appear in a comic strip. This led to a successful sitcom in the mid-60s (and I plan to review that soon too). There have been various spin-offs since. And there was a revival of interest when a well-received film was released in the early-90s.

This led to there being a cartoon version that was aimed at younger viewers. and I’m fairly sure that this was where I encountered this family for the first time (there had been a previous attempt at a cartoon version in 1973). The family live in Happydale Heights and consist of several bizarre characters, including the married Gomez and Morticia (in a connection to the earlier TV sitcom, John Astin reprised his role to voice Gomez).

There’s no doubt that he was very fond of his “Tish”. Their children are Wednesday and Pugsley, who bicker with each other as much as any other sister and brother do. And there’s Granny Addams and Uncle Fester, who was rather fond of doing experiments, and constantly blowing himself up. And don’t forget Thing the hand, and the grumpy servant Lurch.

There was also a running gag with references to various rather bizarre-sounding uncles, this really was a rather large family. One difference in this version is that their neighbours were the Normanmeyer family, who were as ordinary as they come, and they were rather convinced that there was always something strange happening next door, with the parents constantly telling their son not to interact with them.

There were 21 episodes in two series, and there were a lot of rather silly and strange stories featured. I suppose that the only comparable cartoon that was around at the same time would be Beetlejuice that was on CITV. It seems that The Addams Family was first shown on CBBC as part of the first series of Saturday Morning fest Live & Kicking.

This then moved to the main CBBC afternoon strand, and for a short while the original 60s sitcom was repeated on BBC2. And then a few years later, this ended up being shown about 1,000 times (and that’s probably not that much of an exaggeration) on Cartoon Network, at all hours, imagine coming across this on the TV at about 2am.

And after this, there have been some more films, and revival of the sitcom as The New Addams Family (that I reviewed a while ago), that unfortunately was always going to come off second-best to the original. And within the past few years, there has been a stage show, and a new generation of viewers have been won over with some computer-generated films, which are as spooky as ever.

CBBC Memories – Paddington.

Paddington (CBBC, 1976)/The Adventures Of Paddington (CBBC, 1979-1980)

This is another show from the 70s that was repeated for several years afterwards, so I’m sure that many people ended up enjoying this. Paddington was based on the popular series of books by Michael Bond that launched in the 50s and ran for several years. I’m fairly sure that I actually hadn’t read any of these when I first show the TV version, but I did eventually.

One day, a bear from Peru is found at Paddington train station by the Brown family, who decided to adopt him, having no problem with a big bear in their house. I hope they never asked about what he got up to in the woods though. Every episode of the TV series, which launched almost two decades after the first book, was only about five minutes long, so plenty had to happen in a rather short time.

The narrator of the stories, who also voiced all of the characters, was Sir Michael Hordern, who later went on to become the host of Noel’s House Party. The character of Paddington is famous for a doing a few things. Firstly, he always wore a big coat and hat, along with a suitcase, and he had something of a fondness for marmalade sandwiches. But he soon discovers that London is rather different to Peru.

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But what is best remembered about this show is the distinctive animation style. Paddington was a 3D model who walked around using the stop-motion style, while the rest of the human cast were all 2D cut-outs who didn’t walk around, and their mouths didn’t even move when they spoke. All of the backgrounds were rather bright and sparse too.

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There were two series (which each had different titles), and these would be repeated on CBBC well into the 80s and even the 90s. Paddington would go on to appear in further series. In the late-80s there was a proper animated cartoon, and again it seems that Hanna-Barbera were the production company behind this, but I don’t remember that one, this will always be the definitive version for me.

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And there would be further animated series in 1991 and 2019. But there was proof of how popular Paddington still was all these years on with the two films, featuring a computer-animated version of our hero, that were very well received, and must’ve won over yet another generation of new fans all around the world. He really is almost as terrific as Bungle.

CBBC Memories – The All-New Popeye Show.

The All-New Popeye Show (CBS, 1978-1983)

This is a cartoon character who has been around for a very long time. Indeed, I do remember seeing some cartoons of Popeye that were made in black-and-white, which was a rather strange experience, and seemed to defeat the point of them to me really, as I always presumed that they were designed to be rather colourful. But I was most fond of the series that were made in the 70s and 80s.

Although I thought that I had reviewed them all by now, it does seem that The All-New Popeye Show was yet another Hanna-Barbera production (although this mostly featured human characters rather than talking animals or anything like that, and they were rather unusual-looking ones). Popeye is of course the sailor man, and a can of spinach can do some rather unusual things to him, like giving him super strength.

Although I remember reading that in his very earliest stories, he actually gained his strength from rubbing a magic hen, which I thought was nonsense, but it does seem that this is actually the case. Well people had to be entertained somehow about 100 years ago. I’ve never had much spinach myself, I can’t imagine what would happen if I did. But this always manages to get him and everyone else out of a situation that could be best described as sticky.

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The other main characters include Popeye’s friends Olive Oyl, hamburger enthusiast Wimpy, and his quadruplet nephews, along with Bluto, who most certainly can’t be considered to be a friend. After saving the day, he would also often end episodes with a song. There were also a few extra segments, such as Popeye’s Treasure Hunt, and Private Olive Oyl, featuring her bizarre adventures in the army.

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Also, during the original run of the show, there was a live-action film made, starring Robin Williams, and nobody seems to know why. I can’t recall ever seeing this myself, although it would appear that I haven’t missed that much. The All-New Popeye Show was shown on CBBC for many years. And then going into the late-80s, there was another cartoon series, called Popeye And Son.

Well it seemed that after years of speculation, he has finally got together with Olive and now they have a son, we’d see their adventures together, and I’m sure that Junior was a right old chip off the old block that he called sonny boy. And there have been many spin-offs beyond this. I was surprised to discover that both these series were being repeated on CBBC as late as 2004.

CBBC Memories – Captain Caveman.

Captain Caveman (ABC, 1977-1980)

This is yet another Hanna-Barbera cartoon that I remember watching as a second generation viewer (there really were a lot of them), and once again, I saw this as part of The CBBC Breakfast Show strand in 1997, almost worth getting up too early for. What did this one have to offer? Captain Caveman is someone who is discovered in a block of ice, and he is then brought back to life.

He has been in that block for thousands of years, maybe even millions. Of course, he is rather hairy, and he does have some trouble adapting to the modern world. He is joined by a female trio called The Teen Angels, who it seems bear every resemblance to the cast of Charlie’s Angels, the action TV show that was popular around the time that this launched.

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It turns out that he is some kind of superhero, but after putting up with talking bears, squirrel spies, and the like, nothing appears to be that far-fetched now, if viewers liked those ideas, they might like this one. He also had a club, that he banged everywhere, and seemed to be magic too! And of course, he goes and saves the day to everybody’s delight, and somehow it conveniently takes him exactly seven minutes every time.

Another notable thing is that Captain Caveman was voiced by Mel Blanc, the man behind a thousand cartoon characters (or thereabouts). And he would often shout “Captain Caveman!!” as loud as he could, and as often as he could, you don’t really forget that. I thought that this was the only thing that he was able to say, but he did manage to grasp a few other phrases.

There were 40 episodes, which were sometimes credited as Captain Caveman And The Teen Angels, and this has to be the nosiest (and maybe silliest) Hanna-Barbera cartoon from this era. This was shown in CBBC in this country for about two decades, well into the 90s. But I don’t recall there being too many revivals, although all four main cast members competed on Scooby-Doo’s team in Laff-A-Lympics.

CBBC Memories – Yogi Bear.

Yogi Bear (1961-1962)

This is yet another Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and it is also one of the most famous and enduring, having been around since the early-60s, even if the original run wasn’t that long. This one was all about the adventures of Yogi Bear in Jellystone Park, accompanied by his friend Boo-Boo. And in the rather packed world of fictional bears (Bungle, Paddington, Pudsey, Rupert, etc.) they still managed to stand out.

Yogi was notable for wearing a hat and tie but no other clothes, an observation made by comedians for many years. He thought he was smart, and he would do anything to get some food, often going to look in people’s “pic-a-nic baskets” (as he would call them). The other main character was Ranger Smith, who once again seemed to have some difficultly with controlling what was happening in the park.

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He was just like Top Cat‘s Officer Dibble, and Help! It’s The Hair Bear Bunch‘s Mr Peevly, and there really does seem to be an alarming amount of cackhandedness by authority figures in these cartoons it seems. Yogi Bear was shown in this country as long ago as the early-70s, but once again, I saw some of the various repeats on CBBC going into the 90s as a second-generation viewer.

Unlike some of the other Hanna-Barbera characters, Yogi Bear did well enough to appear in several spin-off series, comics, computer games, and so on. One of the other cartoons that he featured in was Laff-A-Lympics in the late-70s. This was where several characters alongside Yogi Bear, including Scooby-Doo and Captain Caveman, took part in competitive sporting events around the world.

His team was Yogi Yahooeys, and they would do anything that they could to succeed. It was a right menagerie of madness! I don’t think that I ever saw this myself (this was shown in this country briefly in the late-70s), but when I was going through some old things recently, I found a Laff-A-Lympics annual, and I had never preciously made the connection that this was based on a TV show.

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Going on into more recent years, there was also a film made, that was a mixture of live-action and computer-generated animation, that did rather well, and must’ve won over yet another generation of younger viewers, and there was also a parody in a episode of Family Guy, and you really haven’t made it until that happens. That’s why you shouldn’t leave your food lying around if you visit the park.

CBBC Memories – Secret Squirrel.

Secret Squirrel (NBC, 1965-1966)

This is yet another memorable Hanna-Barbera cartoon that I first saw many years after being originally shown in this country (and there are a few more to come after this). And it’s another one that I saw for the first time during The CBBC Breakfast Show strand back in 1997, seemingly when they had run out of episodes of Help! It’s The Hair Bear Bunch.

This is another “putting a talking animal into an unusual situation” cartoon. In more recent years, a lot of squirrels have turned up near where I live, they are always running around, or climbing up walls or over fences, and it does always amuse me to see them. But did you know that squirrels can also be spies? Well, yes they can it seems.

Secret Squirrel was always ready to take part in some “bushy-tailed espionage” (as it was memorably described). And this was another one that had a great opening theme (watching a few bits again recently must’ve been the first time that I had seen this when it wasn’t around 7:30am and I was half-asleep), and they also made the most of the silly sound effects that were available.

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This was essentially a parody of spy films, as our hero Agent 000 (who seemed to wear his hat over his eyes somehow) would be given his latest mission by the International Sneaky Service. But even he couldn’t do it all by himself, and he would often be assisted by his sidekick Morocco Mole. He would take on several villains, using the gadgets that he had been provided with, just like, er, Inspector Gadget.

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There’s no doubt that he was the furriest secret agent around. Another notable thing is that Secret Squirrel was voiced by Mel Blanc, who was famous for voicing some of the most popular cartoon characters of this era (including most of the Looney Tunes), and this explains why he does sound a little like Sylvester The Cat. There were 26 episodes in two series in the mid-60s.

And unlike some of the other cartoons that I have reviewed recently, there eventually was a revival of this in 1993 for one series, which was renamed Super Secret Secret Squirrel, although I haven’t seen that. The repeats on CBBC continued until as late as 1999 (so they clearly got their money’s worth), along with later turning up on other channels including Boomerang.

CBBC Memories – Help! It’s The Hair Bear Bunch.

Help! It’s The Hair Bear Bunch (CBS, 1971-1972)

This is another Hanna-Barbera cartoon that I saw in a repeat run as a second generation viewer. This is one is from the 70s, and is one of the more bizarre ideas. Before I go further into what it’s about, here’s how I first saw Help! It’s The Hair Bear Bunch. Before I went to secondary school in the mid-90s, I would put the TV on, usually at this time of day there wasn’t much to watch beyond The Big Breakfast and the like.

But for a while on BBC2, there was a strand called something like The CBBC Breakfast Show, featuring various things, including this, which helped to keep my mind off what things the day might bring for a short while at least. I thought that this was in about 1994, but it was actually in 1997, I don’t know why but I thought it was earlier than that. And this was 25 years old even then!

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Help! It’s The Hair Bear Bunch began with a rather unusual but catchy theme song that sounded like it contained some milk bottles being banged. Three bears starred, but there was no porridge here though. Episodes in Radio Times were often simply described as “zany ursine antics” (I’m sure that Zany Ursine Antics made the first round of the UEFA Cup once in the 80s).

They were Hair Bear (who had a great hairstyle), Square Bear (who wore a hat over his eyes), and Bubi Bear, who all lived in The Wonderland Zoo, Again, like Top Cat, Hair Bear seemed to be channelling Phil Silvers/Sergeant Bilko with his voice, while Bubi Bear would often talk nonsense, maybe he was a distant relative of Boomhauer off King Of The Hill.

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They would often escape from their zoo on an invisible motorbike rather strangely. They are always thinking of taking part in bizarre schemes whilst trying to stay one step ahead, the other zoo animals could only look on at them in admiration. Then it was up to Mr Peevly to capture them, although he often had no idea that they had gone. And Botch was his appropriately-named assistant, as he was often of no use.

I suppose you could say that they were smarter than the average bear, oh no, that’s the wrong cartoon. I was surprised to discover that there were only 16 episodes in one series, which did seem like a recycling of Top Cat a decade on to some extent. And this was also often featured in Cartoon Network’s Cult Toons, which as I have said before, is a show that was worth the OnDigital subscription price alone.

CBBC Memories – Top Cat.

Top Cat (ABC, 1961-1962)

This is another one of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons (of which there were many), and would you believe that this is over six decades old now, but once again I first saw this many years later. I should start by pointing out that I never remember this one being called Boss Cat, as it was credited for many years to avoid confusion with a cat food brand.

For me it was always Top Cat, even though this title actually wasn’t officially used by CBBC until the late-80s. Top Cat is a cartoon where the main characters are to some extent a feline equivalent of the cast on the sitcom The Phil Silvers Show, which just like this one seemed to be repeated in the afternoon for a very long time after the original run.

I never saw this one too much myself, but I do know that it’s considered to be one of the greatest sitcoms of its era. Top Cat starred a wise-talking cat who is the leader, and that’s beyond dispute apparently. He was probably the sassiest animated cat around after grumpy Garfield, and he always wore a big hat. But he had plenty of companions, including Benny The Ball, Brain, and Choo-Choo.

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They are all alley cats who live in a row of bins in Hoagy’s Alley in Manhattan. Now I can’t help but feel that’s not very nice, this is better to watch if you don’t think about that part of it really. They are always getting caught up in various schemes, and trying to get one over Officer Dibble, who often seemed to have no idea what was happening.

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I was surprised to discover that the original run of Top Cat was shown in America on ABC in a primetime slot, but it turned out that this was more of a success when moved to an earlier slot which attracted more younger viewers. And it’s also a surprise to discover that there were only 30 episodes in one series, but beyond that there were a few comics and VHS releases.

There were frequent repeat runs well into the 2000s decade, it’s rather odd to think that this was still shown in the afternoon as late as that. But in more recent years there have been a couple of films (which have been computer-generated). And not so long ago the main characters appeared in an advert for Halifax, which seemed a rather unlikely place.