Brain scientists say sound is the fastest shortcut to distant memories, but vision must push it close, because nothing takes you back to your childhood as quickly as catching a snatch of the TV you watched as a kid. Were you a Grange Hill boy? A Swap Shop girl? Did Clangers announce it was teatime? Or did Teletubbies make your morning?
Since television became a mass medium in the 1960s, children’s TV has been a key part of the schedules, fulfilling – on the BBC at least – a Reithian mission to inform, educate and entertain. Obviously it was the “entertain” bit that appealed to us as kids. But which show was best? Never mind playground debates.
Here at RT we have decided to mark the imminent anniversaries of Blue Peter – 60 this year – and Grange Hill, which launched 40 years ago next month, with a poll of 30 of our best-known children’s TV experts, in which we asked them to pick their top five kids’ TV shows.
Now, having crunched the numbers, the results are in – Britain’s 50 greatest kids’ TV programmes.
May the best show win…
50. Peppa Pig
2004–present, Channel 5, Nick Jr
Since her debut in 2004, the animated adventures of Peppa, family and friends have aired all the over the world, turning her into a global superstar and a merchandising phenomenon, worth around £740 million — with her own theme park.
1969–1974, 2015-now, BBC
Despite speaking only in whistles, feeding on just green soup and blue-string pudding on their faraway planet, this family of small pink knitted things have kept their curious and enduring hold on fans’ affections.
This surprisingly grown-up, unashamedly highbrow magazine show kept 1970s film fans informed of all the latest cinema trends. Host Chris Kelly never talked down to young viewers, even when he sneaked behind the scenes for The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek: the Motion Picture.
47. The Queen’s Nose
Adapted from the novel, this drama first came to screen in 1995 and followed the adventures of 10-year-old Harmony Parker after she received a present from her uncle — a magic coin granting her seven special wishes.
46. Mr Benn
Every morning, Mr Benn left his house at 52 Festive Road, walked into a fancy-dress shop, swapped his bowler hat for a costume, entered a magical world and secured his place as a children’s TV legend.
The show took its name from a giant pair of inflatable lips on set, but took its cue from many other magazine shows, offering up location reports, guest interviews, gungey games and cartoons.
44. The Saga of Noggin The Nog
1959–1965, 1979–1980, BBC
Considered a cult classic of children’s TV, Noggin was a kindly, Viking-esque King of the Northmen, constantly fending off his uncle, Nogbad the Bad, to protect his citizens, his wife, Nooka, and his son, Knut.
43. Here Come The Double Deckers!
The small screen love child of Summer Holiday and Bugsy Malone, this children’s sitcom starring Peter Firth revolved around the adventures of seven youngsters whose hangout was a disused double-decker London bus. Chaos ensued.
42. Take Hart
From the theme’s first vibraphone notes, this art show was a moment of Zen-like calm in a frantic teatime. Budding artists would hope to catch a glimpse of their crayon work in The Gallery, curated by the supernaturally calm Tony Hart and his Plasticine assistant Morph.
41. The Tomorrow People
1973-79, 1992-95, ITV
This 1970s sci-fi drama followed a group of teenagers who all looked perfectly normal but were, in fact, superior beings, blessed with paranormal abilities, including the ability to teleport at the touch of a belt buckle.