CITV Memories – Danger Mouse.

Danger Mouse (CITV, 1981-1992)

London. Home of the Cockney, the winkle stall, the Thames Gas Board, and the world’s greatest… vlcsnap-00139

…detective of course, it’s Danger Mouse! This was the cartoon with a distinctive animation style produced by Cosgrove Hall that featured the adventures of the super secret agent Danger Mouse (voiced by David Jason, who deserves to celebrated as much for his cartoon voice work as he is for his sitcom work), and his hapless hamster sidekick Penfold (voiced by Terry Scott). They both lived in a secret postbox somewhere in Mayfair. vlcsnap-00144

Whenever there was a problem anywhere in the world (or beyond) they would be contacted by the rather bumbling boss Colonel K who gives them their instructions and then they would be on their way in the Mousemobile because seemingly they were the only ones who could come to the rescue for all of us because we were reassured that wherever there is danger he’ll be there. Crumbs! vlcsnap-00147

The baddie in the show was the hoarse-voiced Baron Greenback who was always planning something. He was accompanied by an odd little furry caterpillar-type thing that sat on his desk (once again, it’s strange how things like that stay in your mind) which it seems was called Nero, and his useless henchman Stiletto. Also occasionally appearing in the show was Count Duckula who would get his own spin-off cartoon on CITV which was equally enjoyable and I’ll review that soon. vlcsnap-00145

Danger Mouse eventually ran for ten series over a decade and it became one of the most popular shows in the history of CITV, and it was also shown across the world. Throughout the 80s there was also lots of merchandise released featuring the characters including comics, games and books, and DM even appeared on the cover of Lookin, what an honour that is. vlcsnap-00146

I only really remember watching the later episodes but I found them to be very enjoyable and still fondly remember them. I recently got the DVD boxset of Danger Mouse which is great because not only does it contain every episode over ten discs, but there are also a few interesting extras, including behind-the-scenes looks on how the show was put together on CITV shows CBTV and Splash, and also the unaired pilot where the characters are voiced by different actors! In more recent years our hero donned the old eyepatch again for a revival, this time on CBBC, with DM now being voiced by Alexander Armstrong. Although I haven’t watched this version myself, it’s good to know that our hero has won over a new generation of viewers.

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CITV Memories – Terror Towers.

Terror Towers (CITV, 1994-1996)

This was a game show that was set in a haunted house which sort-of came across as a spookier version of The Crystal Maze, maybe like a warped version of the Medieval zone. Terror Towers was co-created by none other than Neil Buchanan and it was hosted by his old Motormouth mate Steve Johnson. Also assisting Steve was Boris The Spider (not to be confused with Bruce The Spider from the terrific The Winjin’ Pom of course). vlcsnap-00046

Two teams of three would play various games (just like in CITV’s other game show Crazy Cottage they wore the secondary colours green and orange. Why do I notice these things?). Before every main game there was a round where Steve would read a strange story, and then he would ask various observation questions about what happened. The teams would press their skull-shaped buzzer to answer and the first team to light all of their skull won a eyeball. It might sound horrible but collecting these was very important to the game. vlcsnap-00043

There were also various challenges in different rooms of the house against the clock such as trying to do something as the walls moved in around them, being blindfolded and having to be guided through a maze, and a game where everything seemed to be upside down. There were a various amount of eyeballs on offer for winning each game, these challenges were made more difficult because there seemed to be cobwebs and ghosts everywhere too, and the team that had collected the most eyeballs at the end went through to the final, with the losing team having the consolation of being eaten by werewolves. vlcsnap-00048

The final was called the stinky sink and it involved a lot of gunge, how amusing. The contestants had to get in the sink and they had one minute to find as many bones as they could, and Steve would always be very keen to encourage them to get stuck in at this point because the more bones they found, the more prizes they won. However, they were also told however well they did that they could never leave the house. Now that really is creepy. vlcsnap-00051

Terror Towers was another quirky show which ran for three series, and while it didn’t become as fondly remembered by viewers as Finders Keepers or Fun House, it was still definitely very good, watching an edition again recently brought back a lot of memories of watching CITV in the mid-90s, and somewhat surprisingly the show doesn’t seem to have a Wikipedia entry. However, as enjoyable as he was, I don’t remember seeing Steve hosting on TV again after the show ended, maybe he’s still in the house too…

CITV Memories – Mousetrap.

Mousetrap (CITV, 1990-1991)

CITV’s Saturday morning show Motormouth used to feature a game show segment. Originally these were the rather crazy games It’s Torture! and Gunge ‘Em In The Dungeon, which were essentially their equivalent of CBBC’s classic Double Dare on Going Live! Around the launch of the third series, they decided to do something different, and created a game based around a classic board game. All three of these games were hosted by the rather excitable Steve Johnsonvlcsnap-00026

The new game was based around Mousetrap, with a lifesize version of the board and the trap recreated in the studio. Two contestants took part and they had about seven minutes to complete obstacles and play various games depending on what square they were on. If they succeeded in these challenges and managed to get round the board in time, they would win various prizes and could play for a good quality prize in the final, maybe even a fancy TV if they were lucky. vlcsnap-00029

There was a twist though. At a random point a couple of times in the game, a hooter would go off which would start the trap, featuring everything including the ball going down a slide, and that green man that flipped over. They then had to run round to a tap to stop the trap, but this could be more difficult based on where they were on the board. Failure to stop the trap in time making the cage hit the ground would lose them the prize on offer, and they would then have to play for a smaller value one instead. Their prize value would also decrease if they ran out of time before completing all the challenges. vlcsnap-00031

When the game was over, the star prize that they were playing for was placed under the trap. The trap was then started, and if they could answer three general knowledge questions correctly before the cage hit the floor, they would win the prize on offer, and there were some rather close finishes. While not as wacky as Double Dare, Mousetrap was still good fun, and also there were a few celebrity specials, and it’s rather odd to think that Celebrity Mousetrap was a real thing on the TV. Unfortunately, we still await Celebrity Hungry Hippos on ITV. trap0001

I am a fan of board games, and around the time Mousetrap was shown I remember that I had a lot of them, including the classics such as Monopoly and Scrabble, along with many others. I do remember also at some point buying Mousetrap, I’m not sure if I was influenced by the TV version and wanted to have a go myself, but I remember how fiddly the whole thing was to set up, and how fun it was to play once everything was ready. After Motormouth came to an end in 1992, Johnson would return to host another quirky CITV game show called Terror Towers and I’ll review that soon.

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.