Switching on the childhood TV memories - what was your favourite show?

Thomas the Tank was a favourite of Callum Maclean

Thomas the Tank was a favourite of Callum Maclean

It’s been a tad nostalgic in the office this week, writes Kate Dodd. A flippant mention of favourite TV as a child, and the chat turned all misty-eyed and heart felt.

Was Blue Peter one of your favourites? (L-R) John Noakes, Valerie Singleton, and Peter Purves in Blu

Was Blue Peter one of your favourites? (L-R) John Noakes, Valerie Singleton, and Peter Purves in Blue Peter. . PA Photo: (C) BBC - Credit: PA

There is something incredibly special about children’s programs that will never leave you - whether you had two, four or 800 channels to choose from.

Paddington, Thomas the Tank Engine, Doctor Who, Blue Peter - here we share some of the best.

I thought I was named after Thomas The Tank - I loved it that much

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It wasn’t the case of not being able to wait to get home to watch Thomas the Tank engine, it was more of a case of spending every waking moment thinking about it.


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Every morning I’d be up at an obscene hour, before sunrise, to get one of the various VHS tapes in my collection to watch, waking up my parents.

The Island of Sodor seemed like a great place.

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Trains that can talk, and all the various trouble, Thomas, James, Edward, Percy, Gordon et al would get into before a stern telling off and possible moral lesson from the Fat Controller was enough to keep me happy.

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I ate, slept, drank, wore Thomas the Tank Engine, through various bits of merchandise I had.

I thought I was named after Thomas because of how much I loved watching it.

Callum ‘Thomas’ Maclean, 23

Stay away from the trap door! Cause there’s something down there...

I remember re-runs of Flash Gordon, Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons and Fireball XL5 when I was really young. I still have the theme tune to the latter on vinyl somewhere.

Then there were classic cartoons like Captain Caveman and The Teen Angels, Wacky Races, Battle of the Planets…

Slightly older I liked the anarchic Saturday show No 73 which starred Sandi Toksvig as the house’s eccentric owner who became inexplicably younger as it went on.

I still love The Trap Door – “Don’t you open that trap door! You’re a fool if you dare! Stay away from that trap door! ‘Cause there’s something down there...” – Danger Mouse and Count Duckula…

Too young to realise exactly how great it was at the time, my favourite show as a kid though was Fawlty Towers. Before the days of multiple repeats across multiple channels, my parents would rent it on VHS for me - happy memories.

Wayne Savage, 40

Such was the lack of daytime TV that I would - once we ‘had BBC2’ - even watch Open University

I remember days off sick from school when I was home alone (it was allowed in the mid-60s) and I would switch on the telly and stare at the Test Card for what seemed like hours until Watch With Mother came on. I would always hope that the day’s selected Watch With Mother programme would be Candlewick Green or Trumpton rather than something too childish like Andy Pandy or The Flowerpot Men.

Such was the lack of daytime TV that I would - once we ‘had BBC2’ - even watch Open University, not knowing what the hell it was about.

Peter Blythe, 57

Crackerjack - with its coveted prize of... a pencil! - delivered good, honest fun. And then there was Blue Peter

“What. Is. That?” demands my 15-year-old son as I slump in a chair after a long week, ping the TV into life and chance happily on Top of the Pops: The Story of 1980. When the present is trying, the past is a comfort.

A teenager of the iPod generation, he’s incredulous that a group of primary school girls in pink (plus the odd boy) rose to the number two position in the national music charts that year. Worse, he learns that St Winifred’s School Choir’s sickly-sweet There’s No One Quite Like Grandma was actually the Christmas Number One later that December. Even the recent murder of John Lennon couldn’t elbow aside the Stockport kiddies and push Starting Over into the coveted top spot on a tide of sentiment.

Inflation, by the way, was about 22% that year.

Teenage son, with access to more media streams than he can count, can’t comprehend a world with only two channels, as there were for the first six or so years of my life. But TOTP was how we got our music - unless you dialled 16 for the Dial-a-Disc service when your parents weren’t looking (because such cutting-edge technology cost about £95 a second) and listened to a record played down the crackly telephone line.

TOTP was a shared experience. You watched it on a Thursday and talked about it in the playground the next day. And sprayed your old wellingtons with gold paint so you looked like a certain glam-rock star now jailed for sex offences and airbrushed from history.

Of course, for ages the pictures were all black and white.

For years, in my mind, the suits of the submariners in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea were blue. It was only when Mark’s family next door got a colour set that I realised they were red. Or it might have been the other way round.

But it didn’t matter. There was more room in which to wonder and ponder in those less-crowded times, when you couldn’t get TV on demand, on wireless devices, 24/7.

Speaking of technology, Star Trek (created before man had even walked on the moon) spoke of a brave new world. I crafted my own version of Kirk’s flip-up communicator from folded-over cardboard. Now we have the real thing: mobile phones - so commonplace that we take for granted the advances of 40 years.

What would teenage son have made of The Woodentops or Bill and Ben The Flower Pot Men - puppets with visible strings - or the stop-motion charm of Pogle’s Wood, shot in converted farm buildings in Kent?

We loved them - because it was about the stories, not glitz. Dr Who was powerful not because of CGI but because it was powered by imagination unleashed.

Crackerjack - with its coveted prize of... a pencil! - delivered good, honest fun. And then there was Blue Peter.

It was pretty moral and sensible - at six I dutifully collected used stamps for the Christmas appeal to help the blind or buy lifeboats or something - but it showed you things about the world. And John Noakes and Peter Purves, you could tell, were mischievous schoolboys at heart. You wanted to grow up just like them. I have.

I got a Blue Peter badge simply for sending the show a letter. Then I got a “silver” badge for... sending another letter. (Actually, for plagiarising the instructions in a book about how to make a toy roundabout using a pencil, cardboard and a cotton-reel.) Six years ago I perched in the living room of Peter Purves’s Suffolk home, pinched myself and interviewed him about his autobiography. I should have seized the chance to confess all and plead for absolution.

Steven Russell, 52

Is there anyone in the English speaking world who doesn’t immediately recognise the distinctive voices of Parker and Brains

Five . . . Four . . . Three . . . Two . . . One. Thunderbirds Are Go!

Nothing could touch Gerry Anderson’s FABulous Supermarionation series for sheer excitement in the mid-1960s.

Its timeless appeal saw it appealing to old fans (like me) and a young generation of fans when it was repeated at teatime in the 1990s.

Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John Tracy were named after the first five US astronauts – and is there anyone in the English speaking world who doesn’t immediately recognise the distinctive voices of Parker and Brains.

The series survived the efforts to kill off the memories with one of the most cack-handed Hollywood movies ever a decade ago and in its 50th year is to be resurrected as a CGI-based story.

Will it be the same? Almost certainly not. But I don’t care. I’ve got a box set of the entire original series (and the two Supermarionation films).

And somewhere in the loft I’m sure the Die-Cast model of Thunderbird Two is still lurking (with Thunderbird Four in the pod, of course).

Paul Geater, 56

Much later I saw him in an episode of Crossroads and I was horrified to think he had once been my pin up

“I used to love the BBC sitcom Compact, I think I was about 14-years-old and totally hooked. It told the story of life working on a magazine, the cut and thrust of high fliers - a million miles away from my life.

There were love affairs and political infighting - all very glamorous and a bit risqué for my age.

The editor of the magazine was Ian Harman, who I thought was the bees knees. Much later I saw him in an episode of Crossroads and I was horrified to think he had once been my pin up.”

Sue McGrath, 64

I watched Paddington perform Singing In The Rain long before I ever saw Gene Kelly splash his way through the original

Childhood TV – just thinking about it envelopes me in a warm glow. The ages between 5-9 retain a special place in your heart. I was an avid Blue Peter fan during the golden era of Valerie Singleton, John Noakes, Peter Purves and Lesley Judd. After Blue Peter finished I loved watching those brilliant five-minute Paddington mini-epics which eased the family from children’s TV into the news. I watched Paddington perform Singing In The Rain long before I ever saw Gene Kelly splash his way through the original.

If you were off school sick then you had a chance to catch up with the goings on in Camberwick Green and try and second guess who was going to emerge from the music box this week. But, the highlight of the week for me during the 70s was Saturday tea time and Dr Who first with Jon Pertwee and then Tom Baker. Production values may not have delivered the cinema style effects we enjoy today but the Daleks and Sea Devils still had me watching through my fingers. I’m just glad that I was able to repeat this experience with my own two children. There is something special about children’s TV that never leaves you.

Andrew Clarke, 51

And what about the children of today? Here’s what they are watching

“I like The Simpsons, because it’s funny and You’ve Been Framed. I want to make a video and send it in for £250 one day. I also like to get up early and watch Match of the Day on Sunday mornings especially if Man United are playing.

Tommy Bentley, aged 8

“I like You’ve Been Framed because it’s hilarious, I like Nature’s Weirdest Events because you learn a lot of things about nature and the strange things that happen. And I like Top Gear because Jeremy Clarkson is really funny. I also like to watch James Bond films on Sunday afternoons because it’s cool and exciting.”

Jack Bentley, aged 6

“My favourite TV program is Katie Morag. She wears wellies all the time and a green skirt, and lives on a tiny island. She goes on lots of adventures with Granny Island. I used to really like Peppa Pig, but I’m bigger now. My sister loves that. I also like princess things and dragons.”

Matilda Dodd, aged 5

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