The Kids Are Alright

The best of British children’s television from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Programmes made specifically for young audiences date back to 1946 and for the BBC in particular children’s TV was always considered a vital part of public service broadcasting. It is a programming strand under siege in these more commercial times but this collection looks back to happier days when UK television really could claim to provide a ‘service in miniature’.

All mainstream adult genres and formats were once appropriated for younger viewers – drama, comedy, factual, documentary and entertainment. Generations of British children grew up with a host of puppet friends, avuncular storytellers and colourful animated characters. Factual magazines such as the perennial Blue Peter – on air since 1958 – and Newsround opened up the world to inquiring minds. Comedy ranged from energetic slapstick to controversial sketch shows. Dramatic serials provided honest adventure before maturing to deal with contentious social issues, most famously in Grange Hill and Byker Grove.

Proving that children’s TV could produce shows as vibrant and innovative as those found anywhere else on British television, this collection also highlights the earliest work of many now-famous names from Ronnie Corbett to Russell T Davies, Kate Winslet to Ant and Dec.

Ten to try

Crackerjack (1958)

This edition of the staple variety show features comic sketches from Ronnie Corbett, piggy puppets Pinky and Perky, and Winifred Atwell introducing British kids to rock’n’roll.

Play School (1968)

Innovative ‘education through play’ in a programme which also helped BBC2 trial early colour broadcasts.

John Craven’s Newsround (1975)

A day’s world news from October 1975.

Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (1976)

Noel Edmonds presents the earliest surviving edition of the trailblazing live Saturday morning magazine show.

Break in the Sun (1981)

The climax of a six-part serial adapted from Bernard Ashley’s novel about a young girl who flees her abusive stepfather.

Grange Hill (1981)

A Christmas special with the school soap’s iconic rebel Tucker Jenkins up to his old tricks at the school disco.

Educating Marmalade (1982)

The late Charlotte Coleman stars as the world’s naughtiest schoolgirl in Cringe Hill, an episode of Andrew Davies’ anarchic post-punk comedy.

Take Two (1988)

Phillip Schofield presents a behind-the-scenes look at his own Saturday morning show Going Live!

Knightmare (1988)

This sword-and-sorcery game show was at the cutting edge of computer graphics, though video games were later blamed for a decline in traditional children’s TV in the 90s.

Byker Grove (1992)

The infamous ‘paintball’ episode of the long-running Geordie soap, which introduced the world to Ant and Dec.

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