Crikey DM, we've got our work cut out for us here. Despite their long history of delivering quality children's programming, from Freewheelers to Press Gang and beyond (and, lest we forget, TV's Eye Of The Storm), ITV have never really taken the requisite 'branding' for the nominal timeslot for such programming very seriously at all. Normal practice in 'them days' was to just sort of shove the halfway decent homemade stuff out in some sort of vague positioning somewhere between 3pm and 5pm, surrounded by acres of bulk-bought piss all - indeed, if there actually had been an eight million American kids-have-adventures serial called Piss All, they'd have fallen over themselves in the rush to purchase the rights to it - and hope for the best.
From the early days of out-of-vision continuity announcers making the imminent arrival of Magpie sound more like a threat, to the modern era of hashtag-heavy credit-squeezing safely tucked away on a remote digital channel so that we can get on with the serious business of that gameshow where people roll down a slope or something, they've never really cared that much apart from one brief shining moment in the early to mid eighties. For it was then that the IBA rapped the collective ITV knuckles for not taking their responsibility towards younger viewers seriously enough (as opposed to the ITC, who would just tell them to go ahead and empty more bins over people's heads), leading to the establishment of strip-stranded branded hoedown Watch It!.
With its iron-on-transfer-friendly logo - seen here literally ironed on to the t-shirt of this Emu's All New Pink Windmill Show escapee gone one pill makes you larger - Watch It! was a Murphy's Mob-heralding hit of sorts, not just on account of the uber-Yer Programme's On in-your-face window dressing but also especially when they hit on the genius idea of renaming it Children's ITV and duly getting Children's ITV-friendly 'names' in to link the programmes from, for no apparent reason, a spaceship. So the 'Broom Cupboard' wasn't quite as original as all those weirdly punctuated side-of-page timelines in the Radio Times might like to make out, but hey ho. So, setting the controls for the heart of The All Electric Amusement Arcade...
The main, erm, mainstay of the inexplicably intergalactic hotseat was of course
Matthew Kelly, at that point weighing up his post-Game For A Laugh options by way of a series of hobby-skewed vocation-proposing Children's ITV magazine shows like Kellyvision and Madabout ("YOU MUST BE MADABOUT!/Trains! and chucking out planes!", ran the Kelly/Sub-Madness Gruff Bloke-sung theme song), and always on hand to introduce that news quiz one with Tommy Boyd that nobody ever quite saw the point of. But he had to go off holiday every now and then, which is when the stars - and indeed characters - would step into the lever-crowded flight deck...
'anarchic' children's TV regulars of the day to start off with, namely Charlotte Coleman in character as Ruby Cunliffe-esque tearaway Marmalade Atkins, seen here most probably denouncing Gammon And Spinach as 'boring' or addressing one of those prats from Brendon Chase as 'cock', followed by serious ac-tor turned perpetual flan-flinging vicinity resident David Rappaport, appearing here in character as a Tizer advert. And, apparently, in the Big Brother Diary Room to boot.
Two extremes of comedy now, albeit two extremes that were pretty much rendered much of a middle ground muchness by virtue of their affiliation with Children's ITV. First up there's Bill Oddie, whose diversion in his post-Goodie pre-Birdbothering void into Dolenz-helmed sitcommery for younger viewers - most famously the inexcusably stage school brat-sponsoring From The Top and the inexplicably giant Bertie Bassett ripoff thing-sponsoring The Bubblegum Brigade - has strangely dropped off the historical radar. Then come The Krankies, seen here at the height of their censored-theme-song Joke Machine infamy, and it has to be said that, much like poor old Russ Abbot, Ian and Wee Jimmy's stint on ITV was when they were actually quite good. Sort of. Just don't let them start singing (He's Always) Pickin' On Me.
More commercial channel tomfoolery for the benefit of younger end of the audience spectrum, courtesy of Derek Griffiths in a rare in-character promotional appearance for bewilderingly widely remembered cartoon-introducing cinema-based lunacy Film Fun, and - stand back Superman, Iceman, Spider-Man, Batman and Robin too, and also Peter Petrelli as well probably - it's Gudrun Ure, TV 'Supergran', no doubt introducing the next programme on the proviso that 'Scunner' Campbell would not have sabotaged its transmission. They never got Nings from How To Be Cool in to do it, did they?
Yes, it's leading alien puppet nasal mucus receptacle Gareth 'Gaz Top' Jones, fresh from drinking some cherry pop made with alternative technology. And what's that? He likes The Alarm, you say? My goodness, what a revelation. Stand down, Dominic Sandbrook!
Given the endless procession of all-singing-all-dancing sitcom-variety series based around the conceit that Emu had a remote control or something, Rod Hull and his glittery blue bird pal were inevitably regular occupants of the interstellar presenting chair, with the requisite quota of "oh no you've pulled the wrong lever they'll have to watch C.A.B. now instead!!"-type gags fully intact. Needless to say there was also plenty of room for the Parkinson-twatter to indulge in trademark non-Rod beaky anarchism, such as the above intrusion into the somewhat meagre day's schedule. Only one of the above shows had Jo Unwin, Gian Sammarco and most of the cast of Hardwicke House in it.
Sadly, shark jumpage had occurred by 1987, when the decision was taken to replace the moonlighting stars of the shows with Schofield-plagiarising 'regular hosts'. Seen here are Gary Terzza and Debbie Shore (a former 'Miss ATV', apparently, as if that was something that you'd put on your CV), in a pastel-on-pastel nightmare which we need concern ourselves with no further.
Hang on a minute... Parky? What's he doing here?! Don't start adjusting your set just yet - unfortunately, despite extensive research, it's proved impossible* to locate an image of end-of-the-eighties host Jerry Foulkes and his puppet pal Scally The Dog, so Mr. Parkinson has kindly agreed to appear as an illustration in its place. Anyway, that's the last we'll be seeing of him.
* For 'impossible' read 'we just couldn't bear to see his stupid face again, or Jerry's either'. Anyway, join us again next time, when we'll be shouting 'THIS IS A SOME THE NEWWWWWWWWS'...