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.

CBBC Memories – Touché Turtle.

Touché Turtle (1962-1963)

About the only area of old TV I remember watching that I haven’t really tapped into yet is various cartoons from the 60s and 70s (mostly Hanna-Barbera ones) that I saw as a second generation viewer in the 80s and 90s, back in the days of the CBBC afternoon strand. I know that I have already reviewed one or two like Wacky Races, but I thought that I might as well now go all the way with this.

When cartoons are created, I do wonder sometimes where the ideas come from. Not only do you get talking animals which can be unusual enough, but they can also have a superpower or something like that. Touché Turtle was all about a sleepy turtle… who also happened to be a swashbuckler! Well of course. He could’ve shown Dogtanian a thing or two I’m sure.

This was originally shown in America as part of The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series in the early-60s. But Touché was actually part of a double-act, appearing alongside a rather dozy sheepdog called Dum Dum (they were voiced by the same people as Droopy and Fred Flintstone), I always remember this being referred to on CBBC and being listed in magazines simply as Touché Turtle.

All of the episodes were only five minutes long, and usually followed the same pattern. Touché would be with Dum Dum, when suddenly the phone would ring, but this was inside his shell oddly, so he would always have to pop his head inside to talk to them. He would then go wherever it was he was needed, whether it was somewhere rather far away in the world, or even back in time.

His aim was to avenge the wrongs, and protect the weak. He would then take his sword and say his catchphrase (yes, he did have a catchphrase) “touché away!”, and well look at that, whether it was a monster, a dragon, a big scary octopus thing, or anything else like that, he would never fail to save the day for everyone. Oh, and he always wore a terrific hat.

There were 52 episodes of Touché Turtle, and they were repeated on CBBC until as late as 1992 by which point they were rather mouldy-looking (and also shown in a strand called Doodle in the late-80s). I don’t think there has been much demand in recent years for a revival though. And there was also a random reference in an episode of sitcom Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps, which was nice.

CBBC Memories – Fit.

Fit (CBBC, 2013)

This is a show from about a decade ago that I don’t really remember watching at the time, as this was shown on the CBBC Channel after I was a regular viewer, but when I did eventually come across something that was featured, as you’ll discover, I just had to take a look for myself. Fit was a comedy sketch show that was in a similar style to Stupid and Sorry, I’ve Got No Head.

But the difference with this one was that this was all based around sport and fitness, being described as “a healthy dose of comedy”, and “contains no essential nutrients or vitamins”. Now I’ve never really been able to do fitness myself, and I get in a sweat just thinking about going for a run. There were indeed lots of sketches and regular characters, based around footballers, athletes and so on.

And there was plenty of comedy talent among the cast, one of them being “sad-faced actor Tony Way” as I remember he was once called by one critic, who I had seen in a few other similar things. But the real reason that I was attracted to Fit was because rather bizarrely this was the final resting place of the terrific Brian Butterfield character from BBC2’s The Peter Serafinowicz Show.

That was an enjoyably odd sketch show, and one of my favourites from that era, which turned out to be a one-series wonder, so it was rather a surprise when he finally resurfaced on this show about five years later, with even more of his bizarre business ideas. Well when you’ve got a good idea, you might as well make the most of it, and this was like discovering a bonus second series of his antics.

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Butterfield was back, and he had lots of creative ways to try and help people to get fit, whether it was clothes, DVDs, or games, there was something for everyone, including lots of healthy food like Sportsman’s Crunchy Discs. So if your favourite basketball player is “Famous Basketball Man”, then there was good news for you too. He was very eager for you to call right now and bag a bargain.

It was so great to see this character again, the sketches were definitely up to standard, bring as strange as they always were, but I never expected him to turn up here. There was only one series of Fit with 13 episodes, and there hasn’t been a DVD release or anything like that as far as I know, but the repeat runs continued on the CBBC Channel until 2018, and this was another very good effort.

More TV Memories – Transmission Impossible.

Transmission Impossible (BBC2, 1996-1997)

The comedy double-act Trevor And Simon first found fame when they appeared on the first series of CBBC Saturday Morning show Going Live! in 1987, where they created and played a rather bizarre group of characters that earned plenty of laughs. Among their most popular characters were the folk musicians The Singing Corner, who in 1990 even got as far as releasing a single that was a minor hit, and appearing on the cover of NME (yes, really).

They left Going Live! after the fourth series in 1991, to be replaced by another double-act. It was around this point that they went on tour across the country, and some tapes were released that featured highlights of their silliest sketches. I never had these myself, but those that did seemed to be really fond of them, watching them so frequently, that they could practically recite them word for word (and probably still can to this day).

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They returned for the sixth and final series of Going Live! in 1992, and stayed on for the launch of the successor Live & Kicking in 1993. This gave them an opportunity to introduce even more characters. In 1995, they were given their own summer special on BBC1. And a year after this, Transmission Impossible was launched, in an evening slot on BBC2.

This was essentially all of their sketches from the previous week’s Live & Kicking put into one 15-minute show (the features Electric Circus and Hit, Miss Or Maybe were also shown as standalone shows on BBC2 around this time). The characters who featured included the art critics, Picklin’ Jeff who would try to pickle anything, a look at various things in How It Works, and an investigation into the paranormal.

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And any celebrities who happened to be around in the studio would be encouraged to take part in a sketch with them, and it was always good seeing who would be game enough to be mildly embarrassed by their antics. After the second series of Transmission Impossible ended in 1997, Trevor And Simon left Live & Kicking (having done this for almost a decade by this point).

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In the years since, although they haven’t appeared on TV a huge amount, they have contributed to a few other CBBC shows as writers, along with working on various other comedy projects (and they seem to be rather good at Pointless too which is terrific). A lot of people who are around my age still think fondly of them, and it’s rather clear to see why.

CBBC Memories – Bouncing Back.

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.

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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.