PLAY SCHOOL-REPLACING nod to neo-multicultural values (Humpty no longer deemed to cut the inclusivity mustard) in which the titular bus called at a different stop each weekday.
Mondays – THE WHY BIRD STOP: irritating multi-hued bird puppet doing a poor impression of Ruth Madoc pushes buttons on a till-like ‘computer’ with its beak with the aid of constantly rotating human co-conspirators.
Tuesdays – THE PLAYGROUND STOP: AKA The Domain Of Dave Benson Phillips, studio-based ‘playground’ set-up populated a handful of children and Floella Benjamin-alike puppet Lizzie (“I’m Lizzie, and I’m always on the move…”).
Wednesdays – THE DOT STOP: Lisa Stansfield-a-gram drama student type mime artist in dice-themed Pierrot costume pranced around a predominantly monochrome set in utter silence while miming various concepts connected to numbers, sparse interjections from a largely mute narrator, and the occasional guest appearance by people in dog costumes or the rather unsettling-looking ‘Jack Frost’. Not unlike some long-forgotten Kate Bush video, target audience frightened out of their wits, complaints rolled in, original Dot-who-played-the-violin Eithne Somethingorother replaced by Dot-who-played-the-drums Liz Kettle before segment was eventually dropped.
Thursdays – THE PATCH STOP: a series of clues led to inanimate scarecrow-ish doll Sam Patch (or occasional replacement Peggy Patch), interspersed with legendary horticulturally-obsessed animation King Greenfingers (containing one of the last great unadulterated outings for Derek Griffiths in full-on shooby-dooby-dooby mode for the intro song: “hiiiii-yeep! hiiiii-yeep! hiii-iii-yeep, in the valley of Puddle Brook, there’s a green fingered King, and his garden is beautiful from winter through to spring, his fingers aren’t green at all, they’re just-a-like (justalike!) yours and mine, but he is called King Greenfingers, because his plants gro-ow so fine”, with demented “brap-a-ba-ba” acapella backing vocals), and Paddington-attired presenter Amber Leigh (or Vanessa Amberleigh, as her credit mysteriously switched to after a while), who became the subject of unhealthy feverish obsession for many adolescent boys, largely on account of her strong stylistic resemblance to those unattainable Smiths Fan girls in the sixth form that could only be coyly admired from afar (the original Dot’s charms did not go ‘unappreciated’ either).
Fridays – THE TENT STOP: free jazz-like improvisational youth theatre festival-resembling cross between LET’S PRETEND and WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY, with gaggle of over-energetic human performers improvising a story (usually something to do with a King who had lost his hat) with the assistance of a Weeblesque wobbling- but-not-falling-down clown effigy, and more obliquely a Michael-Palin-in-Python-sketch cardboard cut-out Edwardian bather bloke with poseable twirly moustache dubbed ‘Humphrey’.
Hated by proto-Clarksons, loved by children and by daytime TV obsessives alike, but then Michael Rosen-tastic real-life charity Playbus demanded that the BBC change the name to Playdays to avoid associative confusion and it all went in to freefall. Overnight change of name at Christmas 1989 marked by a week of special programmes coming from hastily concieved Jagger-Meets-Lennon compilation effort THE CHRISTMAS TREE STOP (with one episode entitled ‘Why Bird And Humphrey Go To Leamington Spa’ and incongruous Fowler family dialogue on EASTENDERS, Dot ditched shortly afterwards, never quite the same again. Ho hum.