What Happened To Children’s TV?

During my childhood, children’s TV, especially at the weekend, was something that I looked forward to and absolutely always enjoyed. My little sister is 5 years younger than me and yet unlike myself and my parents, she has never experienced the joy of ‘Saturday Morning TV’.

When I was younger, I’d wake up on the weekend excited to turn on BBC 1 to watch Smile or Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow knowing that I’d have 3 hours of enjoyment ahead. These shows, like the ‘Saturday Morning TV’ shows before them, combined studio fun with cartoons, sketches, viewers on the phone and mini TV shows. If that wasn’t enough, there was also a chance to win prizes from the show, most commonly a show themed drawstring bag- what a prize! This type of telly was proudly naff and ridiculous and I’m fairly sure that Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow was the most nonsensical thing to have ever been aired by the BBC.

To me, that’s the point of it; silly, childish and mum-and-dad-don’t-want-to-watch-but-you-can-because-they’re-still-asleep-TV was always the highlight of my week. My 7 year old self and 5 year old brother would always wake early to make sure we didn’t miss the beginning of the show that united everyone at school. In the playground we’d giggle about how much we fancied one of the presenters and express our jealousy at not having won our own Nev teddy and drawstring bag.

Nowadays children’s TV is shown almost exclusively on ‘children’s channels’ showing 12 hours, sometimes 24 hours, of children’s telly every day. As fantastic as this sounds, the constant availability of children’s TV must take away some of the excitement that I felt growing up. We had only 5 channels to choose from and children’s TV was only shown for 3 or 4 hours a day meaning each show had firmly earned its place on the schedule and had a big enough viewership to justify its showing. Shows also tended to only be shown once so there was great excitement about each new episode, especially since there was no way to catch up.

It’s sad to think that at the moment, there’s no Smile or Dick and Dom equivalent on telly because I can’t imagine my childhood without these things. I know that times change but something enjoyed by my generation and my parents’ generation can surely be revamped to keep up with how children nowadays do things.

Growing up it was like a rite of passage – you knew when you were a teenager when you started watching T4 at the weekend instead of Smile because boys and music had taken priority over cartoons and drawstring bags. Sadly T4 has ended too.

I’m sure that people older than me will look at my childhood and relay the classic, ‘it wasn’t how it used to be’ but the lack of ‘Saturday Morning TV’ is, I think, a huge shame because for me and many others like me it was the highlight of my week and a fond memory from my childhood.

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