Potheads Foiled By Weed
Dipping into a programme on the 100 best children's TV programmes the other night was enjoyably nostalgic but also made me realise how few children's programmes I actually enjoyed. Talking to people over the years suggests this is not uncommon.
My grandmother always claimed that she wrote to the BBC to complain about Bill and Ben because it scared me. I have no memory of it scaring me and don't believe this. Seeing a clip confirmed my belief that I probably cried with frustration because that bloody Little Weed was always hanging around to stop Bill and Ben sleeping in the same flowerpot.
When I was a bit older, programmes for the under-12s were much scarier than today. And I'm not talking about Doctor Who, although this was about the same period as the first Dr Who series.
There were a number of series, not sci-fi but set in the real world and usually starring a young Terence Alexander, which used to terrify myself and my friend so much that we almost needed medication and therapy. I think one was called 'The Voice'. But, unlike today, I don't think there were any series set in the world of real children - just Billy Bunter, Just William and lashings of Enid Blyton.
Of course children's series have a problem with realism that adult dramas don't. Because of their target audience they're constrained in their subject matter and language so that even 'realistic' dramas like Grange Hill are probably not much closer to life in a real comprehensive than the world of Billy Bunter.
I once met an ex-Grange Hill cast member and put this view to him. He disagreed strongly and said that the school in Grange Hill was exactly like the real school he went to. I said he must have gone to a very unusual school where children never swore or talked about sex, at which point he went off in a huff - and a ruff and pink tights and pointy shoes (he was appearing in pantomime at the time).
The great divider was 'Blue Peter', and probably still is since amazingly it's still going. I hated it. As someone said to me recently, it was like you were still at school. But I was too old to have the alternative of ITV's Magpie which apparently was a bit racier - the Rolling Stones to the BBC's Beatles.
The big change today is the proliferation of digital children's channels which pump out wall-to-wall American series of mind-numbing banality. They must make a significant contribution to the Americanisation of our culture. Why else do British children now have 'sleepovers', some schools hold 'proms' (nothing to do with classical music) and some local authorities have renamed schools 'Junior Highs'?
OK, it's no big deal. Just another aspect of multiculturalism. But imagine if our kids were glued to Muslim television channels and started wearing burkas. The Daily Mail building would spontaneously combust.
Mind you, if it meant that Britain's teenagers gave up alcohol, the crime rate would drop like a stone.