More TV Memories – SpongeBob SquarePants.

SpongeBob SquarePants (Nickelodeon, 1999-present)

Back in the On/ITV Digital days in the early-2000s, one of the channels that we could get was Nickelodeon. One of the cartoons that they showed was SpongeBob SquarePants. I must admit that I didn’t watch it that much so I didn’t realise at the time that a cartoon that would go on to be one of my favourites from that era was passing me by, and the way that I finally did get into the show was a little unusual.

I know that SpongeBob was also shown on CITV and various other channels but I never saw it there either. The way that I first really discovered SpongeBob was when it was shown rather late at night on Freeview music channel TMF in about 2004. I thought that it was a little odd that it would turn up on there, but because I vaguely remembered the name from the Nickelodeon days and there did seem to be something of a buzz around the show, I thought that I might as well have a watch, and after watching only one or two episodes I became hooked. vlcsnap-01095

It was a little odd to discover a great cartoon at an age when I’d stopped watching children’s TV, but SpongeBob contained just about everything that I like in a TV show, especially a cartoon, it was just so odd and silly, I wish that I had got into it earlier, and it definitely passed my “would I have liked this show if it had been around when I was eight years old” test, and soon I wanted to catch up on all the episodes that I could. vlcsnap-01092

The character of SpongeBob is rather odd, and, as the opening theme goes, he really does live in a pineapple under the sea. When I first saw the show one thing that struck me was that SpongeBob had a rather silly voice (including a bizarre laugh) and he was able to make a variety of rather unusual facial expressions. That was merely the start of it though, as I discovered all of the other characters and the roles that they play in the show. vlcsnap-01093

First of all, SpongeBob has a pet snail called Gary who can only say “meow”, and again, in this show this is seen as very straightforward. SpongeBob works at the hamburger restaurant the Krusty Krab, and his boss is Mr Krabs. His best friend is Patrick Star, and his neighbour is Squidward Tentacles, who is rather irritable and likes to play the clarinet. There were lots of other amusingly odd characters who turned up including Sandy Cheeks the squirrel, Plankton, and the superhero duo Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy. vlcsnap-01100

I remember watching one episode on TMF at some late time which concluded with SpongeBob saying “meow” just like Gary does which even I thought was really odd and was the moment when I realised that there was something a little unusual but rather funny about this show, and it is now been a success for a long time, with a big fanbase and new episodes still being shown on Nickelodeon 18 years later. vlcsnap-01096

Since I became a fan of the show I have tried to collect some SpongeBob merchandise, and this includes little figurines, the comic, some books, computer games and plenty of other things. The show is also popular enough for there to have been two successful films, and there have also been several episodes released on DVD. I do enjoy the show, and I still find it terrifically silly after all these years.

CITV Memories – The Real Ghostbusters.

The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991)

One of the biggest films and cultural crazes of the mid-80s was Ghostbusters, where an awesome foursome took care of things that go bump in the night. I’m not so sure when I first saw the film myself, maybe when it was shown on TV a long time ago, and I might have even rented it on VHS. It was popular enough for there to be a sequel released about five years later, and the themes from the first and second films were also Top Ten hit singles in the UK. ghost0001

There was a huge amount of merchandise too, I remember playing the Commodore 64 game and having some of the action figures. There was also a fortnightly comic and some annuals released, and I still have the 1989 and 1990 ones. As great as the film was I must admit that most of my fondest memories of Ghostbusters are based around the cartoon version though which was called The Real Ghostbusters. Yes, they are the real Ghostbusters, accept no imitations! vlcsnap-00724

The Real Ghostbusters was shown very regularly on CITV throughout the late-80s/early-90s, and it featured animated versions of the quartet Peter, Egon, Ray and Winston who were always available to get in their Ectomobile to go across New York and beyond to eliminate any ghost that they faced such as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man using their Proton Pack. There were a couple of other main characters in the show, the receptionist Janine who was always waiting to take people’s calls, and of course there was their mascot Slimer who was popular enough with viewers to get his own spin-off cartoon. vlcsnap-00714

There was a huge variety of ghosts, poltergeists, and so on that were eliminated by our heroes. It’s also been noted that Peter was voiced for the first couple of series by Lorenzo Music who would become better known as the voice of Garfield in his animated TV series. I also remember that at the end of every edition the credits ran over a sequence where the Ghostbusters did a dance whilst crowds cheered, presumably after they had just saved the world from creepy things once again. vlcsnap-00727

The Real Ghostbusters ran for over 100 episodes, and in the late-90s there was a spin-off cartoon called Extreme Ghostbusters. There was a brief revival of interest after a third film was released about a year ago but it was poorly received. I was disappointed to find out that it seems that only the first series has been released on DVD in this country, but thinking about the show again made me realise just how much I enjoyed it when I was younger, and if a boxset of the compete series was ever released I would definitely buy it.

CITV Memories – Taz-Mania.

Taz-Mania (1991-1995)

This is yet another Warner Brothers cartoon which was a hit in the 90s. Many years before that though one of the characters in the long-running Looney Tunes series was the Tasmanian Devil, a rather odd character who was able to spin round very quickly and he was always very hungry, and it was never really made clear whether he was able to speak or not. Either way, it seemed that his character was popular enough for the potential of a spin-off series which came along in 1991.

Taz-Mania is set in a fictional place that is very similar to Tasmania, a state of Australia. As well as Taz, we meet a whole bunch of new characters, including his family. He has a younger brother called Jake and a teenage sister called Molly. His mother was called Jean, but his father Hugh was one of the real stars of the show. He was rather easy-going and he was very fond of playing golf, and he had the memorable catchphrase “blah blah blah, yackity-shmackity”, which really was a classic that seemed to amuse a lot of people. vlcsnap-00244

There were loads of other great characters though who were all introduced in the song in the memorable opening sequence, indeed there were so many that there was a chance that they might have missed some of them out. These included Taz’s boss the somewhat grumpy Bushwhacker Bob and his mum, Wendal T Wolf, and Francis X Bashlad, plus various dingoes, alligators, and the like, and Taz, who worked at a hotel, would interact (as best as he could) with all of these characters too. A few veteran Looney Tunes characters also appeared occasionally including Bugs Bunny. vlcsnap-00245

I remember first seeing Taz-Mania during the first edition of CITV’s Saturday morning show What’s Up Doc? in 1992, and I thought it was great, and it eventually moved to the afternoon slot where it was shown very regularly, and I do feel that it was as good as other 90s Warner Brothers cartoons including Tiny Toon Adventures, and in more recent years the show has been repeated on the CBBC Channel, with 65 episodes being made. vlcsnap-00249There was a lot of Taz-Mania merchandise released, and I do remember in the mid-90s buying the Nintendo Game Boy game based on the TV series, which I played regularly for a while, but it seems that there hasn’t been a DVD release in this country. I have also remembered that around the mid-90s there was also a short-lived craze for Pogs, the game where you tried to win all the little discs, and for a while Walkers crisps released their own version which if you were lucky could be found in various bags, and these featured pictures of various Warner Brothers characters on them and were renamed Tazos, presumably after Taz, what a great honour that is.

CITV Memories – Pinky And The Brain.

Pinky And The Brain (1995-1999)

Warner Brothers really did have a lot of success with their great cartoons in the 90s. Recently I wrote about Animaniacs which launched in 1993. One of the segments in that show was so popular that a couple of years later it got its own spin-off show. Pinky and The Brain were two laboratory mice who wore seemingly intent on trying to take over the world however they could, and thought of increasingly outrageous plans to try and do so. vlcsnap-00198

“They’re Pinky and The Brain, one is a genius, the other’s insane”, began the opening theme. But which one was which? This was a cartoon that stood out firstly because it had a few memorable catchphrases. Pinky, the dafter one, had something of a verbal tic, and he would often shout “narf!” or some such unusual thing at the end of his sentences. He also apparently had a Cockney accent, although I’m not so sure about that myself. vlcsnap-00189

There would also be memorable exchanges between the two, when The Brain was working on another plan he would say “are you pondering what I’m pondering?”, to which Pinky would reply something like, “maybe, but if they called them Sad Meals people wouldn’t buy them”, so maybe not. Their plans always failed but they were never downtrodden though. Every episode ended with Pinky saying “what are we going to do tomorrow?”, and The Brain replying “same thing we do every night, Pinky, try to take over the world!”. You have to credit his commitment I suppose. vlcsnap-00190

Pinky and The Brain was more witty and satirical than your average children’s cartoon. A lot of TV personalities and even a few politicians of the time were parodied, and there were also a few digs at the structure of TV itself. This led to a lot of memorable moments, one of my favourites was when The Brain performed a song which told us all of the names of the parts of the brain to the tune of “Camptown Races”, and it’s odd how you still remember things like that years later. vlcsnap-00192

Pinky and The Brain was a very enjoyable spin-off which was shown as frequently on CITV as Animaniacs was for a while, it ran for 78 episodes and it was also shown on Cartoon Network, although I don’t think that it has been released on DVD in this country. However, some changes were made for the final series in 1998 when another regular character was introduced. Elmyra from Tiny Toon Adventures joined the show which was renamed Pinky, Elmyra and The Brain. I don’t remember this series myself, but a lot of viewers said that the show had lost its edge by this point which was a shame, but at its best it was great fun.

CITV Memories – Where’s Wally?

Where’s Wally? (1991)

When I was at school one of the things that I remember me and my classmates enjoyed were the Where’s Wally? series of books. This was of course where you were challenged to find our hero Wally in a double-page spread of a very detailed cartoon. It was such a success that several books were produced, and in the early-90s the whole idea was turned into a TV cartoon.

Wally had a very distinctive look that does make him stand out though, he wore a red bobblehat and glasses, plus a red and white striped shirt  Also, in the original American version of the books he is called “Waldo” so when the cartoon was shown in Britain all the episodes had to be re-voiced by the cast, and every episode was loosely based on an adventure that had appeared in the books. vlcsnap-00182

Wally also had a magical walking stick, and at the beginning of every episode he would twirl it around and then he would be able to enter various lands or periods of time such as the jungle or the Stone Age alongside his trusty dog Woof to help people out. There were a few other characters that appeared in the show. Firstly, there was Wizard Whitebeard who has various important scrolls but he often lost them. vlcsnap-00176

The villain in Where’s Wally? was called Odlaw. He was essentially the anti-Wally, being dressed in a black and yellow-striped hat and shirt and having a moustache. His aim was always to thwart Wally and try and steal his stick, but of course, he would always fail. Also occasionally a female character called Wenda who was a friend of Wally and similarly dressed appeared, and every episode began with an introduction by a rather enthusiastic announcer. vlcsnap-00179

There were always a couple of sections in every episode that were similar to the books where a clock would appear on screen for about a minute and you would have to find where Wally was in the picture before time ran out, and then the story would continue, and there was a puzzle-solving element through the show. I do remember trying to find Wally while watching the show and sometimes it could be as tough as the books. vlcsnap-00177

Where’s Wally? was shown on CITV in the mid-90s and I remember watching the show on Thursday afternoons, and I was a big enough fan to the point that I even recorded one episode in 1993 which I watched back a lot at the time. I was rather surprised to discover that only 13 episodes were made because it seemed to be shown rather regularly. As far as I can tell it hasn’t been released on DVD, but the books continue to be a success.

CITV Memories – Ox Tales.

Ox Tales (1987-1988)

First, some background about how I first discovered this show. In the early-90s during the summer holidays Children’s ITV used to have a morning strand to go along with the regular afternoon shows, usually a couple of hours every weekday for six weeks in the slot where This Morning usually is. However, in 1992 the children’s summer morning shows continued, but without the CITV branding, leaving the regular regional ITV announcers to introduce the cartoons and the like, and there was one that I really got into.

Ox Tales is a cartoon that is based on a mostly dialogue free comic strip called The Tales Of Boes’ Gang that first appeared in a Dutch newspaper in 1980. Seven years later, a Japanese TV production company turned this into an animated cartoon, and then this was dubbed into English and shown in the UK in the early-90s with its new title. Every episode opened and closed with the memorable theme song “Hey Big Guy”. vlcsnap-00084

The main character in Ox Tales was Ollie the clog-wearing Ox and he tries to run a farm, but there were a huge amount of other characters. One of them was Ollie’s best friend Jack the turtle, who by this point was very old and he was always forgetting where he had left his shell. Other memorable characters included Lenny the lion who was going bald, Edward the elephant who was always squirting water everywhere, and Gaylord the gorilla who seemingly didn’t know his own strength, but just about every other animal was represented, from cats to crocodiles. vlcsnap-00088

There were also a couple of unusual elements to the show. Firstly, every episode was narrated by Towilla the toucan, who would begin by describing what the story would be, and he would then later on turn up in-vision sat on a perch to usually make a sarcastic comment about the current situation. Also, whenever there was a funny moment in the show, a mole called Moe would laugh at what had just happened in a similar style to Woody Woodpecker, which was rather odd. vlcsnap-00087

Ox Tales ran for over 50 episodes, but I’m fairly sure that it was never shown in the CITV afternoon slot, and after the summer morning slot ended in 1992, I don’t recall seeing it on TV again on any channel, although it seems that the original strip continues in Dutch newspapers to this day. I really got into Ox Tales to the point that I recorded a lot of episodes because there were a lot of amusing moments and memorable characters. It seems to be fairly forgotten now, and there has been no DVD release, but I still remember the show being a big part of my summer 25 years ago. vlcsnap-00086

CITV Memories – Animaniacs.

Animaniacs (1993-1998)

Another great cartoon from Warner Brothers in the 90s was Animaniacs. It featured the Warner brothers (and Warner sister) Wakko, Yakko and Dot. They insisted that they were zany to the max, and indeed they were. The premise is that many years ago these three had been cartoon characters, but they caused too much chaos and were locked in the WB tower. In the 90s they finally escaped to have more animated adventures. vlcsnap-00078

Beyond the main cast, there was a huge bunch of other characters who got their own stories in the show. These included the cat and dog Rita and Runt, the veteran cartoon character Slappy the Squirrel who was “the crankiest of creatures in the whole wide world”, and three pigeons who were always bickering with one another in the style of gangster films that were popular at the time. vlcsnap-00080

There were also Flavio and Martia the hippos, Buttons and Mindy, a dog who has to babysit a carefree toddler, Katie Kaboom, a somewhat short-tempered girl, and possibly most memorably of all, Pinky and the Brain, who are two laboratory mice. The Brain was rather intent on taking over the world and had always composed a very clever plan, but the useless Pinky always hindered him in various amusing ways. vlcsnap-00079

Pinky and the Brain were so popular that they got their own spin-off show, and I’ll review that separately soon. One character that I must admit I didn’t like was a human-sized chicken who tried to get jobs and never said anything which I found rather creepy, but apart from that I thought the show was great. There were a few other extra bits too, including “good idea/bad idea”, a short sketch explaining what you should and shouldn’t do, a rather attractive nurse occasionally turned up too, and most episodes ended with them spinning a wheel to determine what the moral of the story was. There were also a lot of parodies on the show, one of the most famous ones being when Wakko appeared on a Jeopardy!-style game show. vlcsnap-00082

Animaniacs was another cartoon that I really enjoyed watching on CITV in the mid-90s alongside Tiny Toon Adventures and Freakazoid! and it brightened up many an afternoon for me, I even remember recording a few episodes which I watched back a lot. It was another show where the opening and closing sequences were altered every week, and these were always funny too. In more recent years some episodes were repeated on Cartoon Network. vlcsnap-00083

Animaniacs eventually ran for 99 episodes, and a lot of them were great fun. It seems that once again there have been no episodes released on DVD in this country, which is disappointing as I really do feel that there is a market for this, although there I do remember there being some merchandise at the time including some computer games. And to think that they did it all despite having baloney in their slacks.