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The original British children's television programme - forget about Muffin the Mule, and Andy Pandy, and Bill and Ben: Children's programming started here.

Play School had a very predictable pattern. It always began in the same way ('Here is house, here is a door. Windows, one, two, three, four. Ready to Play? What's the day? It's...insert day of the week of your choice here'). It was presented by two people usually of the dungarees and big hair variety but they were none the worse for that. Key players included, Brian Cant, Chloe Ashcroft, Floella Benjamin and Fred Harris. Even Rick Jones (Yoffie from Fingerbobs) did his turn. They were all brilliant.

Every programme had a prefilmed bit; something being made in a factory was very common fare - you got to try and guess what it was before it was made. It was usually an umbrella. The scene was introduced by going 'through a window'. In the studio there were four windows: round, triangle, square and arch (presumably 'pentagon' was considered too much for a four-year old). We got to guess which window it was going to be.

There was lots of stuff for us to do too. We got to be acorns growing into oak trees (I know it's a cliche, but I remember that specific programme very clearly indeed). We got to be boiling kettles, and snowflakes and all sorts of stuff - all at the same time as a grown adult was doing it before our very eyes. What lucky kids we were. (It sounds like I'm mocking this, but I'm not. Nothing today even comes close.)

There was a story too, always heralded by looking at the clock and trying to work out what time it was whilst a revolving scene underneath impressed us with the care with which it was constructed. (There was loads of audience participation to this - I'm quite impressed by how much). The stories were read by one of the presenters and often included still pictures from the book that they were read from. All this in twenty-five minutes. I'd like to see The Teletubbies try and compete with that.

The stories eventually evolved into 'Jackanory', and the show itself was eventually scrapped in favour of 'Playdays' which, as daring as it wanted to be at first, found itself turning back to the tried and trusted formula regardless of the 'sign on the lollipop'. Is it me, or is it always the 'fairground stop'?

Play School also had the toys. Big Ted (the patriarch), Little Ted (the rogue), Jemima, (classic rag doll), Humpty (round, kept falling over) and Hamble (eventually considered to be too middle class, and scrapped in favour of Poppy who was less obviously Anglo-Saxon: no-one ever really took to her though). Fred Harris, in a now famous out-take from the show, watched as first Big Ted and Little Ted showed blatant disregard for the script and toppled over in turn. Fred kicked little Ted across the studio, glared at the camera and said: 'How can you expect me to work with such amateurs?' Hilarious in retrospect. It would have broken my heart had I seen it at the time.


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