Sunday, 2 October 2011

Television Presenting? Child's Play!

"I could do that! How hard is it to present a television programme?" The regular call of viewers throughout the land as they see many numbers of faces on their screens day in and day out, as Sue Peacock would testament quite hard on your debut. Sue was picked by Esther Ranzen and her Big Time team to be give the chance to co-present Nationwide along with Frank Bough, the pro's pro. But thinking about presenting especially in children's television, there has been so many presenters over the years since Phillip Schofield took on in-vision continuity in the afternoons replacing the BBC1 robot. Which itself seems alright as Phillip had a radio and television career in New Zealand before coming home and to bigger and better things.
Go-pher broke...
Beyond Phillip the rota of stars who have taken the route of children's television is amazing, but one thing stands out if you were to consider what most of them had done before they wouldn't it even get on the screen today! It maybe said that times were different, with most presenters coming through the media studies route and having been trained in what they should say and to a template. Not that's there anything wrong with that if they are good. 

For example with Play School, most of the protagonists came from a dramatic background such as Gordon Rollings and also Brian Cant as well, Rollings later playing parts in two of the Superman movies with Cant still working occasionally with an appearance earlier this year in BBC 1's 'Doctors'. Their communication skills such as also Toni Arthur and Carol Chell would qualify for them to be good presenters, but then the waters get muddied. Some of the people who joined in the 1970's were to re-write the script literally. Don Spencer was a folk singer but with experience of Play School in Australia, bringing musical experience to the mixture which was already there with the vast experience of singing the theme to 'Fireball XL5'. Added with Julie Spencer, Floella Benjamin, Stuart McGugan, Ben Bazell, Eric Thompson and so many more as well.

"Let's make it a date!"
Then we come to three men who came from left field, who looking at their combined CV's they would not have struck the average person as children's television material. Johnny Ball, now know as a leading light on promoting science through his television programmes and later on his stage shows. But back when he was give the job of entertaining the under 5's that Johnny had already been a stand-up comedian and a Redcoat at Butlin's as well. Hardly, a glowing CV you might say but number two was even more from left field!

On the ball!
Derek Griffths, what can you say about him? Legend is a word which bandied about so easy, but Derek could fit in anywhere. There was time where you could just turn on the television there he would be starring in a drama, singing a song, doing a bit of light entertainment with the best of the day even appearing with Terry Scott and June Whitfield for a touch of sitcom. In 1997, Griffiths originated the role of Lumière in the original West End production of Beauty and the Beast  and played the role of The Child Catcher in the West End run of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Ice, ice baby...

Finally comes Fred Harris, a one time teacher who decided he needed a change of career so one wet and dull afternoon coming back from teaching he was passing a television rental shop and saw Play School on the bank of televisions. So with a thought of "I could give that a go!" and waited until the end to see the name of Cynthia Felgate and decided to write off to ask if they need anyone else to present and put himself forward as a presenter. From this, Fred was launched onto a new path of comedy taking in 'The Burkiss Way' and its television counterpart 'End of Part One'. Which lead to in one episode, threatening to squash a hamster if the show didn't get a better time slot and was taken out of the children's programmes on a Sunday afternoon. Dramatic you might say, but this helped Fred cement his relationship with the viewing public as such for being a steady hand when needed but also with the freedom to be as surreal as a 'Python' member. 

A right One Show!
The worst case? Oh no, that goes to a young lady who had been an actress and had make a career out of being attractive in a number of films both horror and also some which were a bit saucy. She was Jenny Hanley, Jenny had the unenviable task of replacing Susan Stranks on Magpie in 1972. But with the able hands of Mick Robertson, Douglas Rae and later Tommy Boyd, she became action girl for a whole generation of young girls and boys and even maybe crush material as well! Well, she had learned from the best though as she had been a Bond Girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969. No better qualified then learning from 007 himself... She etched herself on the memories who saw her and stayed with the programme until its end in 1980, thus proving a movie career maybe the best option for being a Children's presenter.
Jumper-ing to conclusions...

There have been people who've gone the other way such as Jake Humphrey, the BBC's F1 anchor who had previous experience working for IMG's television sport division learning from Anglia's Gerry Harrison. He's proven that you can make the leap, as for Ortis Deeley... Well, everyone knows you can't run before you can walk... Though if you've got rubber legs as well, its twice as worse..

It shouldn't happen to a Kids TV presenter? Maybe it might, maybe it should... But always remember, Television Presenting, it can be Child's Play where ever you enter it from...

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous post Rob! BTW: It's Julie Stevens not Spencer - who went on to present "Not For Women Only" for TVS and tip coffee into pot plants whilst advertising Mellow Birds and who previously was a big favourite at ABC TV including being in the Avengers. She always seemed to be Brian Cant's favourite paring, but that's probably just how I remember it...