There's So Much More In TV Times Part 3: Sings Recites Talks Prays

In the days before warehouse-driven online shopping, the Grattan catalogue was where any self-respecting youngster would head for to bulk up their Christmas Present-coveting 'wants' list. Page after page of the latest and most exciting toys and games, arranged in enticing poses and crammed in together so tightly that you frequently had to deploy a magnifying glass to enable closer examination. Back when you had to make your own entertainment, it was so important and fiercely sought-after a resource that it was not unknown for inter-sibling fights to break out over who got to look at it first.

The same was probably never true of the toy adverts in TV Times, though. With the big companies saving their advertising for avenues where it might actually make a difference, i.e. television, there was plenty of affordable space available in the corresponding listings magazine for more cash-strapped toy pushers to push the cheap, the nasty, the boring and, well, the downright terrifying...

Standing at a mammoth two feet and three inches, 'Jackie' was a heavily-plugged doll who could walk, talk, laugh, sing, recite nursery rhymes, and, erm, 'pray'. Yes, you read that right. Pray. The advert doesn't specify where in the USA she was imported from, but we're guessing it was somewhere within the Bible Belt. Note also that the advert does not state at any point that she requires any kind of batteries, suggesting that she didn't just look like she could come to life of her own volition.

Eventually villagers with pitchforks and flaming torches surrounded 'Jackie', who was presumed destroyed in the ensuing conflagration and, erm, whatever the word is for loads of poking with pitchforks. However, you can't keep an evil doll down, and the following year she was back, with an additional nursery rhyme and slightly different hair, posing as 'Candy'. And what's more, this time she had an accomplice - 'Gina', billed as The Most Thrilling Doll Ever, and apparently capable of walking a mile on her own. Not exactly the sort of bold claim that could realistically be tested by purchasers. And anyway, who in their right mind would challenge her on it?

Ah, that's much better. A nice, polite, smartly-turned out Teddy, keeping a dutiful eye on a Duty Free Shop-friendly assemblage of putative presents available at Boots including handbags, tea sets, card games, and an official Concorde electric blanket. The future is now! But why's there a malevolent-looking clown apparently about to eagerly scoff the entire lot? That's not really 'putting the fun back into Christmas Shopping', is it?

Meanwhile, this poor sod's behind bars! Assuming that this wasn't in fact some cunningly subtle and sophisticated satire on that nice Mr. Heath, you do have to wonder how poor old Edward ended up in the slammer, though we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was imprisoned for his beliefs. Or that he worked on the controversial 'Teddys' issue of Oz. Anyway, you could help free him by buying baby products from the decidedly unappealing-sounding 'UniChem', apparently once such a big deal that they had their very own 'House' in Chessington. Look on their works, ye mighty, and... actually, no, just have a look what time Gideon's Way is on.

More violence in the name of promotional giveaways from Spillers, who ask only for two dog food labels in exchange for a 'Pongo Puncho', a Disney-skewed inflatable toy whose apparent sole purpose is to encourage children to thump dogs in the face. Mercifully, they appear never to have done one based on The Incredible Journey. Or Nazi Supermen Are Our Superiors.

Rivalling Disney in the early sixties rush to get the last remaining tie-in toy in the shops on 24th December stakes were a number of ITV shows, including Fireball XL5, Supercar, The Flintstones, Wells Fargo and Space Patrol, not to mention their rivals at Warner Bros. Somewhat slightly further down the Santa-begging list came Gus Honeybun, the still geographically baffling Westward/TSW rabbit mascot thingymajig rarely sighted outside of 'Regional Variations' and much beloved of ident-obsessed forum-dwelling headcases pining for the days before the 'politically correct brigade : (' stopped The Black And White Minstrels from using hosepipes on their Benny Hill golliwogs. Here a stuffed variant on the Honeybun formula is somewhat ambitiously touted as a 'TV-Land favourite' who is on sale 'locally'. You don't say.

Quite how a *spit* BBC programme found its way into TV Times was doubtless the subject of a major internal inquiry, but all the same here's a plug for Triang's rather quite splendid board game based on The Magic Roundabout, alongside fellow non-television related big hitters like Twister and Frantic Frogs. And, erm, The Sir Francis Chichester Game, which is presumably even less exciting than it sounds. And Checklines, which promises 'simple but thought-provoking rules'. Was it about class mobility or something?!

If she's seeing a pink elephant THAT big, we can only assume that the gift she'll never forget was a crate of gin.

No, we don't know what TV's The Meddling Monk had been up to that warranted this punishment, but that pigeon sure looks like it means business. Anyway, here's hoping you don't wake up to find ANY of the above in your pillowcase on Christmas Morning (sozzled-looking redheads waving large pink elephants are an exception), and join us again next time when we'll be looking at just how TV Times kept those blasted Women's Libbers in their place...