OMNIPOTENT CHILDREN’S odds-and-sods odyssey delivered by three-quarters avuncular quartet of friendly faces, in a split-level-desks-and-shelves-of-stuff format which survived two generations largely unchanged. “The home encyclopaedia delivered to your fireside”, they said. They also said: “Facts become fun as the team lark their way through another fascinating show.” Or better yet: “Facts, fun and mystery in television’s fastest free-for-all of fact!” And fact you certainly got; the sheer conviction with which the original delivered its often charismatically dull factoids (HOW d’ya get a ship in a bottle? HOW d’ya balance an egg on the rim of a milkbottle with only a cork, four forks, twelve feet of cotton and a tampon? etc.) and the sweltering AmerIndian theme plus unseen chief “How” “How!” marked this out for greatness. Participants started off as: FRED “GAMBIT” DINENAGE, of course – the eager but slightly goofy manchild of the bunch; JACK “GNOMIC” HARGREAVES – knowledgable but cosy ruralist pipe man; JON MILLER – science a speciality; and BUNTY JAMES – a lady, therefore craft and cookery were on the cards, plus the token non-stereotypical How for balance. Bunty was replaced by JILL GRAHAM (who was “a player with the Salisbury repertory theatre”) in ’69, and JIM KELWAY and hapless DIY expert BARRY BUCKNELL even did the odd stint replacing Hargreaves. Come 1970, and Bunty was welcomed back into the fold, cementing the “golden age” line-up that would be most strongly identified with the programme. In ’77 MARIAN DAVIES replaced her, for such delights as “How can Fred get rid of his warts? Ideas from Jon, Jack and Marian don’t help – until Fred finds a magical cure.” Behind-the-scenes fact: the final series was produced by NIGEL PICKARD. Later revived by TVS, then Meridian, then Scottish, with the likes of CAROL VORDERMAN and GAZ TOP playing jesters to the court of the evermore regal Fred.
New! From K-Tel!
TVC on Twitter
Creamguide's Pick of the Day
Top of the Pops
Friday, 19.30, 00.00, BBC4
The presentation of this show took a bit of a turn for the worse recently with the temporary departure of Kid Jensen – who might have been able to make something out of those ill-advised interviews before Christmas – and the continued presence of Simon Bates, but we think Richard Skinner has been a valuable addition to the roster, both having a bit of wit about himself while wearing his knowledge very lightly. Not sure about some of those jumpers, mind. Here he is again, and if you were fed up Fred Wedlock got relegated to the late shift, maybe Tony Capstick will make up for it.
Subscribe to Creamguide!
Points of View
- In 'Lace', George White says: "Basically Bunty comic’s the Four Marys with added sex with its story of “teenage” pregnancy (average age of student – 31)."
- In 'Potty Time, Michael Bentine’s', Scott McPhee says: "The obligatory Christmas episode. Jingle Bells parody; “Oh what fun it is to ride in a super sonic sleigh.”"
- In 'Play School', George White says: "Yes, that’s right, he is. Australia is a small world."
- In 'PICK OF THE DAY', Richard Davies says: "It sounds like it’s worth writing a feature on the rise of stand-up comedy over the last 20 or so years."
- In 'Play School', David Smith says: "Don Spencer is also, in one of my favourite pieces of telly trivia, Russell Crowe’s father-in-law."