May 9

Golden Age of Children’s Shows

Today is the birthday of the late, great Roger Hargreaves, creator of the Mr.Men and Little Misses.

We all get nostalgic about the shows from our past. For any of you in the US, you won’t know many of the shows I grew up with. What happened in the UK in the early ’70s was pretty magical.

I feel it was a golden age of children’s television.

We had Paddington Bear, still wonderful to watch today. Classics like Bagpuss. The Flumps ‘ which is still fantastic. The Mr. Men. Clangers. And, of course, Grange Calveley and Bob Godfrey’s wonderful Roobarb.

Pure entertainment. Driven by experimentation, freedom and the spirit of play ‘ just like the children the shows were made for.

Those shows will always have a special place in my heart and I admire and look up to the artists and creative talents involved. By the way, Toonhound is a great site for info on many UK children’s classics.

But those times are gone.

In recent years, we’ve had Barney, who hates parents and wishes them dead. The Teletubbies, who I suspect hate children too. What happened to children’s television?!

Well, actually… my daughter Daisy counted from one to ten in Spanish to me at about age two and a half from watching Dora the Explorer. She has learned from shows like SuperWhy. She has sung with the Wonderpets and danced with the Imagination Movers. She has laughed and laughed at the hilarious and fun Peppa Pig and had her heart warmed by the beautiful and wonderfully-honest Humf. I could keep on listing shows.

And, hey, that Fluffy Gardens show isn’t all that bad either. You know, if nothing else is on.

What makes many of these shows special is that they are not just entertaining, they have a clear educational goal. And those that don’t, especially in the UK shows, really offer a huge amount of fun, yet in honest and totally grounded childlike ways.

So, yes, sometimes I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s wrong with television. Or, importantly, what we can do better (and if we can, we should). But it’s worth taking the time to see that there have been some really good shows recently for younger children.

Perhaps we are living in a whole new golden age of children’s television? Albeit a very different one.

For those of us over this side of the Atlantic, though, no matter how good it gets, it’s hard to think we’ll see the total creativity and experimentation of the UK golden age of children’s shows again any time soon. The spirit of play has become secondary to the need to control. The need to license, exploit. But we’ll still have the inspiration, the history and the shadow of those greats egging us on to do better. Reminding those of us who care, why we’re doing this.

We owe a lot to the likes of Roger Hargreaves and probably always will. I know I certainly will. Happy birthday, Mr.Hargreaves!

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