Monday, 28 January 2013

Mysterious Tapping Noise

Terribly sorry if you were looking for the "other" Mysterious Tapping Noise. You can view that one here...

Sunday, 13 January 2013

An Open Letter to CITV

Dear CITV,

We (that is everyone who grew up throughout the 80's and 90's) would like to share our united thanks for your fantastic Old Skool weekend on the 6th and 7th of January. It was without doubt the best way to celebrate your 30th anniversary by broadcasting the best of the best - a perfect blend of animation, comedy, game shows and drama, all of which were lovely to have seen again on the small screen after so long. I can say with complete satisfaction that I enjoyed each and every one to its fullest, all with good reason.

These are the viewing rates for the entire weekend;

(Source: Digital Spy / 'Sooty, Sweep and Soo' Facebook Page)

09:25 - Mike and Angelo: 150k (2.3%)
09:50 - Super Gran: 203k (2.9%)
10:15 - Wizadora: 240k (3.1%)
10:30 - T-Bag: 304k (3.8%)
10:50 - Engie Benjy: 234k (3.0%)
11:05 - The Raggy Dolls: 308k (3.9%)
11:15 - Puddle Lane: 297k (3.8%)
11:35 - Count Duckula: 349k (4.4%)
12:00 - The Sooty Show: 396k (4.6%)
12:25 - Art Attack: 377k (4.2%)
12:40 - The Big Bang: 345k (3.5%)
13:00 - Finders Keepers: 411k (4.0%)
13:30 - Fun House: 403k (3.7%)
14:00 - Knightmare: 361k (3.2%)
14:30 - Fraggle Rock: 324k (3.0%)
15:00 - The Worst Witch: 199k (1.7%)
15:30 - Woof!: 247k (2.0%)
16:00 - Dramarama: 145k (1.0%)
16:30 - Press Gang: 163k (1.0%)
17:00 - The Tomorrow People: 134k (0.7%)
17:30 - Children's Ward: 83.5k (0.4%)

09:25 - Mike and Angelo - 209k
09:50 - Spatz - 270k
10:15 - Huxley Pig - 297k
10:30 - Rainbow - 369k
10:50 - Button Moon - 448k
11:05 - The Riddlers - 453k
11:15 - Rosie and Jim - 457k
11:35 - Dangermouse - 544k
12:00 - Sooty and Co - 448k
12:25 - How 2 - 439k
12:40 - Finger Tips - 280k
13:00 - Jungle Run - 323k
13:30 - Fun House - 407k
14:00 - Knightmare - 325k
14:30 - Fraggle Rock - 226k
15:00 - My Parents Are Aliens - 154k
15:30 - Woof! - 79k
16:00 - Dramarama - 38k
16:30 - Press Gang - 71k
17:00 - The Tomorrow People - 65k
17:30 - Children's Ward - 28

The Top 10 Highest Ratings Shows (SATURDAY)

01 - Finders Keepers
02 - Fun House
03 - The Sooty Show
04 - Art Attack
05 - Knightmare
06 - Count Duckula
07 - The Big Bang
08 - Fraggle Rock
09 - The Raggy Dolls
10 - T-Bag

The Top 10 Highest Ratings Shows (SUNDAY)

01 - Dangermouse
02 - Rosie and Jim
03 - The Riddlers
04 - Sooty and Co
05 - Button Moon
06 - How 2
07 - Fun House
08 - Rainbow
09 - Jungle Run
10 - Knightmare

Still the Greatest after all this time!
To put this into perspective, the highest-rated programme on your digital channel is "Horrid Henry" with just 269k. In less than two days, Danger Mouse had broken the record for the highest ratings ever with 544k. Not just because of the nostalgic factor, but because this series - as with many of Cosgrove Hall's shows - has upheld against the tests of time, undoubtedly the best of British Animation. With humour that is clever and not vulgar, characters that are solidified but not exaggerated, and acting that is genuine and not forced.

The same also applies for the pre-school shows that were aired. Even aimed at a younger audience, the likes of Button Moon and The Riddlers were smart enough not to talk down to their viewers, whether they were teaching them basic lessons or simply to entertain them for 5 to 10 minutes. The Raggy Dolls' message of being different is still relevant to today's generation (where physical appearance has become more apparent than ever) but cleverly disguised with imaginative storytelling.
Wizadora - you'll adore her...and so would today's kids!
In fact, comparing Wizadora with the odd choice of Engie Benjy, I found the former to be much more interesting than the latter. Wizadora managed to give us a string of witty one-liners as characters interacted with one another, which resulted in a valuable yet subtle moral of friendship. Engie Benjy, on the other hand, downplayed and over-explained everything as if in fear that their audience might not understand the story entirely. And while Wizadora did break the "fourth wall" by interacting with the viewers, it wasn't as constant as Engie Benjy, which in this fashion quickly became tiresome and distracted attention from the episode.

It has also become evident that, as with CBBC and Disney Channel, you have taken a similar interested focus on live-action comedy. And while the American Imports may save costs on creating home-made programmes, they still lack the perfect comedy timing that Mike and Angelo, Woof! and Super Gran contained that made them oh-so popular in their own times. And not all of them required a laugh-track to prompt viewers to 'join in', which was where the quality of "My Parents Are Aliens" had started to slip later in its run...

Far and away, though, the one element missing from your digital channel nowadays is a way of engaging the viewers within the action. That was what made Saturday Mornings much more interesting, where children were allowed to be part of the programme, whether in-studio or as a phone-in contestant, a time when it was great fun to get messy while earning prizes, and a time when a child used their brains and their muscles within each mad challenge ahead. Even the presenters for the Monday - Friday schedule made CITV worth watching because they had more than a disembodied voice to talk to and be greeted by every afternoon.
Back when "Saturday was Tiswas Day!"
Without these Saturday Mornings for kids, there would have been no other way technology or certain famous faces would have gotten to where they are today. Aside from being one of the first to experiment with live phone-ins, Tiswas introduced us to that common game-show ingredient known as “gunge”, Knightmare was revolutionary for introducing such technology like the blue screen chroma - and of course, a huge amount of folks in prime-time media owe their gratitude to their current careers - Ant and Dec, Matthew Kelly, Fearne Cotton, Holly Willoughby, Chris Tarrant - all of which first started out getting their hair washed with gunge and having a high old time with the kids!

And not just game shows, but "funducational" programmes made children want to learn the world and create amazing arts and crafts by hand - before we had Wikipedia or Photoshop, before the internet had exploded, we learnt hundreds of worldly facts from How 2, we learnt from Finger Tips what to make out of cardboard and sticky tape, and we saw how Neil Buchanan of Art Attack created a Surfboarding Santa in Barbados! If most schools had these programmes on-hand, perhaps Science and History lessons wouldn't appear so boring to many 12 - 14 year-olds.

To round off, we must make mention of the drama shows. What made CITV amazing was that, at the time, you weren't afraid to push the envelope now and again. You proved that you weren't afraid of showing a dark side as well as a light. Whether it was frightening the life out of kids with the supernatural tales of Dramarama or showing the harsh reality of Children's Ward that today's children ought to and should know about, covering difficult issues in a sensitive manner.

While it's now possible to revive several shows with today's technology, there are still many that are best left well alone to simple repeated airings (for fear that the same mistakes would be made as reviving Bernard's Watch had proved). However, in case of Sooty - who is still going on stronger than ever - a blend of the old and the new in future schedules would be lovely: showcasing Richard's latest seasons while introducing newer fans to Matthew Corbett (and, one day, a little of Harry Corbett!) in a way that everyone, old and new, is left satisfied.
The mention of that 65 year old yellow bear brings up a key point - longevity. So many of the shows highlighted in this retro feast boasted very long runs in their day, and were surely discovered and enjoyed by several different generations throughout the 80's, 90's and early 00's. Art Attack very nearly managed twenty years on the air, while Fun House and Children's Ward notched up a very respectable decade each. Aside from this obviously meaning plenty in the archive for you to repeat, can you honestly say any of your currently imported shows will still be running or even remembered in ten years?

Now is the perfect time to encourage the current generation to embrace the past alongside the present. Nostalgia is, after all, becoming ever more apparent and celebrated. These vintage programmes, however dated they may appear now, can still offer great entertainment and educational value for your newer, younger audience.

The weekend of the Old Skool has, in my opinion, been a rousing success. Though it may have been intended as a one-off event I really think you should consider another some time soon, or possibly an Old Skool slot in the schedule. If many of these shows aren't graced with DVD releases - be it due to copyright issues or lack of interest - further repeats in future would be most welcome.

When that day comes, I'm sure many others would be more than happy to suggest a great many other programmes of the 80's and 90's that ought to be given a second broadcast - in fact, I have quite a list prepared already...!

Thanks for letting us "rerun the fun".

Your fellow nostalgic viewer,

Christopher Signore


Don't forget to visit Toonhound for more Old Skool British Animation!