I’m sure I can’t be the only child of the 1960s and 70s who feels a very specific annoyance at those ads featuring my cartoon heroes Scooby-Doo, the Flintstones and, particularly, Top Cat, being used to advertise a bank.
I feel personally affronted that my treasured childhood memories are being stamped on and used to make money for, I repeat, a bank. This is daft as they are cartoons, but still, I loved Top Cat because of his insistence on living outside the mainstream, for being cool, funny and wise. He would never advertise, again, a bank.
Top Cat taught little Alison that wit was wonderful (though no one likes a smartarse, something I also learnt at an early age).
The Flintstones, too, had a rough charm and was incredibly clever, adult-clever (I remember my mum and dad laughing out loud), with smart wordplay and funny visual gags. It was a childhood staple in our house, we all enjoyed it, as we all enjoyed Top Cat, as a family.
But those happy times are now traduced whenever I see those wretched adverts. I’m sick of the 21st century wiping its feet on my memories. That’s the power of television, though. As a little square-eyes I’d watch anything, right from being a stroppy highchair-bound monster hurling my drinking cup across the kitchen in pure temper. Telly shut me up. It still does, though I haven’t needed a highchair, for, oh, at least ten years. Though I still hurl cups around, occasionally.
Children’s shows taught me to love telly – The Woodentops, Trumpton, The Flowerpot Men, even creepy Andy Pandy, memorably described later by another childhood hero, Marty Feldman, as “smarmy”.
I adored Blue Peter so was very reluctant to watch anything of John Noakes: TV Hero (Saturday BBC2) because I wanted to remember him as the John Noakes I knew as a kid on Blue Peter, I didn’t want to see behind the magic or be a witness to the overhauling of his reputation. Noakes, who died in May, remains an abiding and such a fond television memory. He was a joy on Blue Peter, the kind of daft uncle kids always gravitate towards at family dos.
Luckily John Noakes: TV Hero is the fondest of tributes, even though his fellow Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves tells us that Blue Peter John Noakes was a construct “invented by John Noakes”. I don’t care.
In their safe, insular and antiseptic world, kids now will never know any television star like John Noakes. Neither would the Blue Peter I knew even be allowed on air in the 21st century.
To this day I hyperventilate with horror whenever I watch Noakes scaling Nelson’s Column in 1977 on just a ladder, with no hard hat or safety harness. It’s an epic, terrifying sequence, one that’s become a staple of TV moment clip shows. But it’s a measure of the power of kids’ TV that I can still feel vicarious fear for Noakes in scenes that take me right back to my childhood. A childhood that wouldn’t have been the same without him.