More TV Memories – Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (Fox Kids, 1993-1996)

This is a show that is a perfect example of a rather brief cultural phenomenon. It’s hard to put this one into a genre, but it could be classed as superhero action with some fantasy adventure thrown in too. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a rather odd show, it definitely wasn’t played for laughs, but sometimes it came across as so ridiculous you had to wonder how seriously it was supposed to be taken.

Five rather fit Californian teenagers one day are transformed into the Power Rangers, all notable by their different-coloured helmets and costumes, such as red, blue, and so on. There were a huge amount of other characters in the show, and the ones that still stand out are Zordon (not “weird floaty head thing” as I always thought they were called) who would summon the Power Rangers and explain their next mission. vlcsnap-01131

One of the many enemies was Rita Repulsa who was memorable because nothing she said ever actually went with her mouth, some terrific dubbing there. It’s a show where it’s probably not worth analysing the plots too closely, but of course there was plenty of action. Can the Power Rangers save the world just by kicking a few robots? Well of course they could, and everyone was satisfied, at least until they had it do it all again in the next episode a week later. vlcsnap-01129

I’m fairly sure that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was never shown in this country on CITV, but it was a part of GMTV’s Saturday morning schedule in the mid-90s, and it really gave their children’s programming a boost as viewers loved it. What with this and the hiring of Mr Motivator (who would also introduce some of the episodes), GMTV had finally come across a winning formula that they had been trying to find in the two years since the launch. vlcsnap-01128

The show became popular enough for the opening theme to be released as a single in 1994, although it never really challenged for the Christmas Number One, it did make the Top Ten. And there was also the first of many films released in 1995. I must admit that I got a little swept up in all of the hype myself, and I’m fairly sure that I had some of the doll figurines, and even set the video for a few episodes. vlcsnap-01130

There has been a huge amount of merchandise, including some computer games and comics. After the original version came to an end in 1996, there have also been lots of spin-off series, featuring all kinds of variations on the format (but retaining the basic idea of the Power Rangers), which have run for many years, going past the 90s, and into the 2000s and beyond.

More TV Memories – Wake Up In The Wild Room.

Wake Up In The Wild Room (GMTV, 1996-1998)

As I have said before, at the start of 1997 (back in the old fuzzy analogue TV days) I set the video for GMTV on a Saturday to try and discover more about their children’s programming, and along with Bug Alert, this is another one that I was interested in seeing. Wake Up In The Wild Room was hosted by Dave Benson-Phillips, and it was a lively mix of games, features, and cartoons.

Every edition was about an hour long (including the advert breaks, usually featuring Sugar Puffs rather a lot). Dave was also accompanied by two floating puppet head things with big ears called Fluff and Scruff. The cartoons that were featured were from the Disney archive, and among those shown were Winnie The Pooh and Quack Pack. They were good, but they weren’t the highlight of the show for me. vlcsnap-00153

I did enjoy the game element. Two teams of two took part (who introduced themselves with a video diary) and they took part in games in various rooms around the house that could sometimes feature some gunge. I remember one game that was part of the New Year special was to make the year 1997 that had just started. I really can’t believe how long ago that is now. vlcsnap-00149

There was also a feature where Dave would go under his bed and come out of the other side at another place where he would meet some people who were doing an activity, such as playing football, or being in a steel band. This would almost always conclude with someone being encouraged to say the secret word which would result in them having a custard pie shoved in their face, which would make Dave laugh every single time. vlcsnap-00147

The show clearly had a loyal fanbase, because viewers were encouraged to send in their pictures, that were usually of Fluff and Scruff, and any that were shown would win the star prize of a pen, and there were a few competitions too. Well it was exciting in those days. There were also be some celebrity guests, and after a few games were played, the teams had won some prizes, and the ones that had won the most now had the chance to play for even more brilliant ones. vlcsnap-00156

In Sock The Star, the winning team had to go outside the house and throw socks at the open windows for one minute. The more pictures they knocked down, the better they did. But if they hit Gary The Ghost, he would randomly appear (dressed as a milkman), and give them each a custard pie (clearly a running theme in this show), and they would have to play out the remaining time all messy and still in shock, how strange. vlcsnap-00162

Wake Up In The Wild Room was good fun to watch on a Saturday Morning, and it ran for about two years, before being replaced by Diggit (although I never really watched that one), and Dave went back off to host Get Your Own Back for about another five years. I don’t know where Fluff and Scruff are now though. Maybe they still live in the house together.

More TV Memories – Super Mario Brothers.

Super Mario Brothers (1989)

Over the years, I have enjoyed a lot of computer games that have featured the Super Mario characters, including ones on the Nintendo Game Boy, SNES, and beyond. By the late-80s, these games had become popular enough for there to be a cartoon version launched on TV. I do remember watching this series, but I’m fairly sure that it wasn’t shown on CITV’s afternoon strand (or if it was that’s not where I saw it).

In 1993 GMTV launched replacing TV-am. I was interested in what children’s programming they would offer, including what would replace the classic half-term show Wacaday. It turned out that the GMTV equivalent of this was It’s Not!, and among the regular features was the Super Mario Brothers cartoon, usually shown in two parts at around 9am. vlcsnap-00241

The idea of the cartoon is that one day Mario and his brother Luigi are transported into the Mushroom Kingdom where they meet some rather strange characters. Among them are Toad and Princess Toadstool, and the main enemy is King Koopa, who has had enough of those pesky plumbers. Each episode would begin with Mario explaining the story in his “Plumber’s Log”, and he could also change colour to transform in Super Mario. As always, they’ve got to save the day, and one of the things that I liked about the show was that it contained a lot of the sound effects from the games. And of course, they all had lotsa spaghetti. vlcsnap-00236

On GMTV, only the cartoon segment was shown. It wasn’t until I decided to a watch few episodes online recently that I realised that was only part of the show. As well as the cartoon, the actors who provided the voices of Mario and Luigi would also appear onscreen dressed as these characters (with their impressive moustaches), and they would take part in some rather corny sketches along with a few celebrity guests (and a good deal of canned laughter). vlcsnap-00228

Every edition would also end with us being encouraged to “Do The Mario”, a dance routine that wasn’t embarrassing at all. There were 52 episodes of The Super Mario Brothers Super Show (to give it its full title) made, and a few of these were released on VHS in the UK. This led to two sequel series, The Adventures Of Super Mario Brothers (1990), and Super Mario World (1991). Again, I’m not if any of these were shown in the UK. vlcsnap-00258

Some of the episodes from the show have also become a big success online in more recent years. There was also a Super Mario live-action film in the mid-90s, but let’s not think about that for now. Another popular computer game that was turned into a cartoon around the same time as this was Sonic The Hedgehog, and I plan to review that one soon too.

CITV Memories – The Disney Club.

The Disney Club (CITV, 1989-1992, GMTV, 1993-1998)

I’ve reviewed lots of children’s TV shows on this blog, but I’m fairly sure that I haven’t done this one yet. A while ago I shared some of my memories of Saturday morning shows on CBBC and CITV. But of course, there were also a few shows that were shown on Sunday Mornings. Some of these were spin-offs to compliment the main Saturday show including Motormouth, but this one was exclusive to Sundays.

The Disney Club was a format that was sold around the world including several countries in Europe, and the British version launched in 1989. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that the show was mainly based around showing cartoons that were made by Disney. I didn’t watch this show as regularly as the Saturday ones, but in the late-80s and early-90s when there were very little else happening on TV at that time of the week, it always came across as a fun piece of entertainment. disney0003

Although I was always more fond of the cartoons made by Warner Brothers, the Disney cartoons I did like that were shown on CITV and The Disney Club over the years include Chip ‘N’ Dale, Duck Tales, and Tale Spin (and I plan to review those all separately too), and along with the occasional Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoon, I enjoyed the Goofy ones too. vlcsnap-00611

Among the presenters of The Disney Club were Andrea Boardman, John Eccleston, Paul Hendy, Gordon Inglis, and Richard Orford. And after leaving the show, some of the hosts went on to present further shows including The Big Breakfast and Wheel Of Fortune. And despite the title, I don’t think that there actually was a club that people could join, well if there was, I never did. disney0001

And of course, another great thing about the show was that among the features was an opportunity for all the big pop stars to turn up and perform their latest singles. And having a look online at some various clips made me realise that a few acts I am fond of appeared (usually accompanied by a big crowd of shrieking children), and any chance to see the likes of Betty Boo and Fuzzbox appear on TV in those days was welcome. vlcsnap-00031

The Disney Club ran for almost a decade, and there were a few format changes in the later series, including moving to GMTV in 1993 as part of their Sunday morning schedule (there was also a show called Saturday Disney on GMTV at this time but I think it was unrelated). The show did turn up on Saturdays once or twice though, when the hosts introduced some Disney films as an alternative to The FA Cup Final that was being shown on BBC1 at the same time. Finally, I think the last series was renamed Disney Club TV, but I had stopped watching by then.

Game Show Memories – Teen Win, Lose Or Draw.

Teen Win, Lose Or Draw (GMTV, 1993)

Win, Lose Or Draw was a very enjoyable game show that was based on an American format and shown in a daytime slot on ITV for most of the 90s. It became popular enough for there to be not one but two spin-offs. When GMTV launched in 1993 they decided to include a revised version of the show as part of their schedule for children on Saturday Mornings.

Teen Win, Lose Or Draw was the quick draw game hosted by Darren Day (known as “the man with the markers”) who had previously hosted CBBC’s Clockwise, and would go on to host ITV’s You Bet! The set design was rather unusual as the show seemed to be taking place on a basketball court, and the opening sequence consisted of the young studio audience running around as if they were having a PE lesson. vlcsnap-00928

Two teams of three took part, usually consisting of two teens and one celebrity (and while in the American version you might have played alongside the girl off Out Of This World, in this version contestants were usually paired alongside someone off a CITV show). There were also editions featuring celebrity teams, such as Coronation Street versus Press Gang. There was no money on offer, but plenty of prizes were available. vlcsnap-00961

The idea was the same as in the original version, teams have to guess things that are drawn on a board which can lead to some amusing results. Remember, only a doodle will do. There were four rounds, and the pen is the passport to points. In the first round, one team member has to draw ten clues in two minutes, every correct answer scores five points. All the clues have a link as well so there’s a bonus if that is found. vlcsnap-00952

The second round had three clues that were in two parts. There were 90 seconds, and 15 points for every correct answer. In the third round, an envelope had to be chosen containing a category. There were four clues that had to be drawn about something, the earlier it is guessed, the more points are scored. In the first three rounds every player has one go each. vlcsnap-00973

The final round was quickfire. One of the players was nominated, and they had 90 seconds to draw as many things as they could. There were ten points for every correct answer. There were some very close finishes, leading to the usual overexcited jumping around from everybody, and the winning team could pick something nice from the pallet of prizes. vlcsnap-00962

Teen Win, Lose Or Draw rather vaguely qualified as educational programming in GMTV’s schedule for younger viewers, although it was dropped after a short while and replaced by a dusty old cartoon which was rather disappointing. It was also later repeated on Challenge. Even if some thought it wasn’t a patch on the original version, it was still much better than the second spin-off (that came six years after the original run ended) Win, Lose Or Draw Late.

More TV Memories – Bug Alert.

Bug Alert (GMTV, 1996-1997, Channel 4, 2000)

You might remember when I said that I used to enjoy the programming for younger viewers at the weekend during TV-am. Well in the mid-90s, even though I was a little older and almost past the point where I would watch children’s TV regularly, I wondered what the equivalent was that was offered by TV-am’s successor GMTV. So for a while I set the video for Saturday mornings, to determine what would be my favourites from their mixture of puppets, cartoons, and so on.

One that I did enjoy was Bug Alert. This was a show that was set in a kitchen and featured puppets who were various types of creepy crawlies, and we would see what they would get up to while there were no humans around. There was a rather enjoyable mix of odd characters and among those providing the voices was Francis Wright who also voiced The Head on CITV’s Art Attack for many years. vlcsnap-01166

These included Grub Bug, who liked his food and was rather moody, Mystic Mug, a green creature with a crystal ball, Doodle Bug, who looked like they had been made out of a dirty old cloth, Plug Bug, who was silver and had a rather large nose, Buggin the worm, Grunge and Slopp, who were both green, seemed to have old mops on their head and spoke in that American “totally bogus, dude”-type voice, and Gorgon and Zola, who often told terrible jokes. vlcsnap-01167

There were also some features on Bug Alert, including creative ideas in Raid The Fridge where Grub Bug would make a meal, In The Bin, where Doodle Bug would make things out of pieces of paper, and Through The Cat Flap, where something would be observed from a cat’s point of view. There would also be a Teletubbies-style interlude showing people doing everyday activities. vlcsnap-01169

As far as I know, Bug Alert was never known on CITV, and after a gap of a few years the third and final series was shown on Channel 4 in their early-morning weekend children’s slot. There was also a slight format change, as the show was now set in a restaurant called Bug Bites which only ever seemed to have one customer. There was the usual amount of chaos though along with the regular characters and features. vlcsnap-01172

A lot of the 78 of episodes of Bug Alert have been released on VHS and DVD, and it seems that it was repeated for a few years after it ended. I must admit that I did enjoy it, although I’m not sure how many people ever saw it as it only ever seemed to be shown on the TV at around 7am. I can’t be the only one who remembers this show though I’m sure.

Round The Regions – GMTV.

GMTV

This isn’t a region as such of course but because it was an individual franchise I thought that it was still worth reviewing. In October 1991 it was announced that the breakfast time franchise had been won by a company called Sunrise. However, because that was the name of the Sky News breakfast programme before their launch they were renamed GMTV. gmtv4

When the time came for TV-am to close in December 1992 after almost ten years of ups and downs, GMTV started running promotions from the which insisted that they were going to be something different. GMTV was going to be bigger and bolder than anything that had gone before and be a brighter way to start your day. They launched at 6am on New Year’s Day 1993 and there were indeed a few changes from TV-am. gmtv5

First of all, their main symbol featured the “GM” on a yellow sun shape with “TV” next to it. Another thing that was new was that there would now be regional news featured, along with the regular mix of news, sport, travel and all of that kind of thing. The launch presenters included Fiona Armstrong and Michael Wilson, but after a while there would be changes. gmtv8

One area where I liked to watch GMTV was their children’s programmes, which used to take up most of the weekend and included various shows such as Wake Up In The Wild Room which I always thought was a lot of fun and good use was made of showing Disney cartoons. Also in the early days they had a weekday half-term show hosted by Simon Parkin which was enjoyable but it was no Wacadaygmtv3

Viewers didn’t really take to the early version of GMTV and ratings soon fell, so probably not that surprisingly TV-am style features returned after a short while such as the old sofa, they also brought in the fitness expert Mr Motivator, and there were various presenter changes with the likes of Eamonn Holmes, Lorraine Kelly and Fiona Phillips all taking their turns in hosting. On Sundays there was also a lot of political news coverage. gmtv10

Through out the years the news coverage was also increased and the GMTV symbol was tweaked a lot over the years, maintaining the sun shape until January 2009 when a new symbol was introduced. I didn’t watch GMTV much in its later years but it continued until September 2010 when it was brought to an end after almost 18 years by which point there had been another new wave of presenters including Andrew Castle and Ben Shephard. gmtv11

GMTV was actually a separate franchise from the rest of ITV, so it could be argued that ITV didn’t technically become a 24-hour channel until they took over the slot and launched their new breakfast programme Daybreak. One of the main hosts was Adrian Chiles who joined from the BBC but the show received a lot of negative press coverage and once again there were several changes to the programme until it ended in April 2014 and ITV tried all over again to create a successful breakfast show with Good Morning Britain which continues to this day.

More TV Memories – It’s Not!

It’s Not! (GMTV, 1993)

When TV-am lost their Breakfast TV licence they were replaced at the start of 1993 by GMTV. One of the things that I liked the most about TV-am was their terrific children’s show Wacaday which was hosted by Timmy Mallett and shown in half-term, so when GMTV came along I wondered what children’s programming they would have to offer.

GMTV showed a lot of children’s programmes at the weekend including Saturday Disney, but in the early days they also had a half-term show. It was called It’s Not! and was hosted by Simon Parkin, who had been a presenter on Children’s BBC for about four years before joining the launch line-up of GMTV. vlcsnap-00384

I’m not really sure why it was called It’s Not!, but there was some play on the title including going into advert breaks with the caption “It’s Not… over yet” and ending the show with “It’s Not… back until tomorrow”. It also had a bizarre title sequence featuring clips of GMTV presenters mixed with old cartoons and bits of Teletext. vlcsnap-00378

Simon hosted the show live from the GMTV studio every weekday during half-term so you would see crew members in shot and everything, it was chaos! There was the usual mix of cartoons and features, including the cartoon version of Super Mario Brothers. There were also competitions to win things including a Sega Mega Drive! vlcsnap-00381

The features on the show included a look at the latest video games with someone called Byte Man and a review of film releases. Also if they had enough time they would show a fancy music video at the end. vlcsnap-00380

There were a lot of celebrity guests on the show and Simon would interview them including the guy off Home and Away, Geoffrey off Rainbow and Take That seemed to turn up all the time too. There was also a lot of use of bluescreen technology on the show so the picture and colour of the background would constantly change while Simon hosted the show. vlcsnap-00382

The mix of all this was rather good, but about a year later the show returned with a different title and slightly different format. It was now called Parkin’s In… and it was still hosted by Simon, and what he was “in” seemingly changed every day and cleverly when going to the advert break they changed it to “Parkin’s In… terval”. vlcsnap-00379

I also remember they used bluescreen technology again by getting a guy and making him wear a blue thing all over his body so he would disappear against the background so when Simon hosted the show it just seemed that there was a pair of eyes, a nose and a mouth floating around next to him, how peculiar. vlcsnap-00383

Although GMTV did continue to show lots more children’s shows at the weekend until the end of their run I don’t remember them doing anything for half-term after Simon left but it was a good try at providing something lively to start the day with.