PAUL NEWELL: The day I let the Muppets' director join our football game

Those of you who affectionately remember Hugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb may not be aware that their creator, Gordon Murray, died a couple of weeks ago, aged 95.

Thursday, 17th November 2016, 6:00 am
Firefighters extraordinary
Firefighters extraordinary

His stop-go animations of Trumpton, Chigley and Camberwick Green are etched in my memory and characters such as Windy Miller were instantly recognised in the ’70s.

My conscious viewing began about 1975, although I’m told I would sit on my potty in front of the television. I’m not sure which shows helped with that process.

My favourite was Mr Benn. He was the slightly strange guy who lived alone and would go to the costume shop and try on outfits which then led to adventure. ‘As if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared’ and Mr Benn would go home with a memento.

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‘Here comes Bod…’ Bod was a bald kid who had adventures with a farmer, a policeman and ‘Aunt Flo’. The best bit was Alberto Frog and his Amazing Animal Band as you had to guess which flavour milkshake would be picked.

Mary Mungo and Midge, Playschool, Bagpuss, Fingerbobs, Mr Men, Tales of the Riverbank, The Flumps and You and Me were no more than 10 to 15 minutes long and would be on early afternoon. Rainbow was at lunchtimes. They loved their colourful dungarees on Rainbow.

Teatime viewing was between 4pm and 5.35pm. Serials such as Stig of the Dump, Rentaghost, Grange Hill, Chocky and The Famous Five had us tuning in next week and educational shows such as Johnny Ball’s Think of a Number, Newsround, Play Away, Take Hart, How!, Magpie and Blue Peter introduced us to more thought-provoking subjects.

I sent a picture to the gallery on Take Hart but didn’t get a reply. Obviously, Morph did not approve!

I loved the The Muppet Show. I was amazed to discover the director of the revived Muppet films is James Bobin. ‘Jim’ was in my year at the grammar school and I remember him asking me if he could join our game of football. An incredible success story.

On Record Breakers, I recall a child asking resident expert Norris McWhirter which tree had most leaves. Norris was famous for knowing every record and had his own slot called Norris On The Spot. On this occasion he didn’t know the answer and it made the national press. He went away and found out, but it was big news at the time.

Animal Magic was a favourite. Johnny Morris was brilliant and his voiceovers with the animals made the show. Other animal-related shows included Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Lassie and The Littlest Hobo which won the best theme tune accolade for a children’s programme. It was amazing how Skippy only had to chitter away and a human would automatically understand that Billy was stuck down a well and needed rescuing!

Any child of the ’70s falls into one of two Saturday morning camps: Swap Shop or Tiswas. I was a Swap Shop kid. I didn’t watch it avidly but I recall Posh Paws the purple dinosaur and the phone number – 018118055 which you called to swap a toy or speak to a celebrity. Swap Shop was replaced by Saturday Superstore and I remember Saturday Banana because outside the TVS studios in Southampton there was a big banana.

To be continued...