Europe, UK, Life

5 Utterly Terrifying Programs from British Children’s TV

Admittedly, we have always struggled with quality children’s television in Britain. Across the pond, Sesame Street, Barney the Dinosaur, Pee-wee’s Playhouse and Arthur have entertained tots for generations with their inquisitive ideas combining entertainment with learning, whilst teaching morals at the same time, yet us Brits prefer to induce insomnia on our younger viewers rather than to please. Let’s have a look at some of these train wrecks.

1. Torchy the Battery Boy (1960-61)

Torchy the battery boy
He had a f**king light bulb installed in his forehead. Let that sink in.

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We will start off with the article’s namesake. This is ‘Torchy.’ The neutrality of Wikipedia describes him as an “eponymous boy doll with a battery inside him and a lamp in his head.” The team at CrowdH, however, prefers to think of him as “a terrifying crack-addicted puppet with a light bulb shoved into his forehead given the lack of creativity and/or ideas at the time”.

Effectively copying the idea from Pinocchio, Torchy was brought to life by his “master” Mr. Bumbledrop, wizard/homeless looking figure who wastes his pension on creating life-like child dolls; an arrestable offence in 2017 for obvious reasons. Moreover, Torchy and Mr. Bumbledrop appear to own a rocket in their garden, which is an obvious hint to baby boomers that the Soviets had sent a space pooch into orbit a couple of years back and we needed to get moving.

The rocket is made out of cardboard. That is written in the actual plot. I have read the damn synopsis. Mr. Bumbledrop built it out of cardboard. Suck on that Khrushchev.

2. Pinky and Perky “Where There’s Life There’s Soap” (1964)

This beauty of a program is a little less conservative than Torchy the Arsonist Boy, and it’s amazing how the culture of British television can change in just a couple of years. Pinky and Perky are a pair of “anthropomorphic puppet pigs” designed to please a generation of youngsters who prefer to listen to some barely audible swine rather than their authority figures.

Pinky and Perky
We can’t understand a thing they are saying, and nor can you. Nice hat though…

 

The Pinky and Perky franchise is long running and well known to Brits across many generations, yet when we dug out this little number from the dusty depths of the YouTube archives, it left us a bit bemused to how much gutter glitter the producers used before filming this number.

The plot this program concerns actor Jimmy Thompson on his quest to advertise soap powder with the help of two Czechoslovakian piglets.

But Pinky and Perky keep spontaneously breaking into innuendo-laden novelty songs.

It turned out that “soap powder” was mistaken for “soup powder” and thus the plot was complete. But two piglets and a B-list actor were not enough for this episode; it had to include Horace the Hare- a London cockney leporid whose recent success left him wishing for life in the gutter:

“Give me back me flippin’ barra…” Those dance moves though.

3. Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (1984-present)

Torchy the battery boy
The Southern service to London Victoria is delayed due to.. “problem cannot be rectified.”

 

For anyone familiar with the British railway network, particularly in the south of the country, you get used to excuses. From personal experience, these have included “hooligan on the tracks”, “a severe shortage of staff due to sickness” (which was a lie to cover up a strike), and “driver failing to turn up”. But thank heavens for Thomas and his tanked engine of punctuality showing how it is done!

To make our dreary lives more human, the makers of Thomas the Tank Engine superimposed a face to the front of the train, just like we do to our vacuum cleaners, adding character to this metal majesty of steam and combustible outputs. Despite this anthropomorphic idea of genius, Thomas and his locomotive ‘friends’ such as James, Gordon, Henry, and Emily (token female) don’t work well together. It is a tragic story of jealousy, bitching and spite; looking to destroy the reputation of one another, against the spirit of goodwill and comradeship.

Gordon, Henry and the Fat horizontally challenged conductor bitchin’ it out.

Now that I think about it, Thomas and his crew are not showing it how it is done. This program is essentially a mirror image of the real life train strikes that are creating misery for passengers across southeast England. This misery is exacerbated by the droney, monotone voice of Ringo Starr; the former Beatle is who not particularly famed for his wide vocal range.

4. Pipkins (1973-1981)

Pipkins
This is what one of our editors looks like after a heavy session.

 

Anyone with a pet rabbit will know that it probably hates you anyway. Well, judging from the hungover, near-destitute appearance of Hartley Hare (shown above), he probably hates you too. He has that classic long haul London to Auckland flight appearance in which your in-flight television was not working, and the dude sitting next to you kept performing tai-chi in his seat whilst fiddling with his ‘flight socks’ to ensure ample circulation.

What’s the plot? There isn’t one. It’s vague, irrelevant and forgettable except for its poor-quality puppetry. Hartley’s friends include a beady eye pig (named Pig) and a heavily accented macaque-looking monkey named Topov; who are equally terrifying in their appearance.

Academics have argued that by the early 1970’s, children’s television producers simply gave up on the job and ran out of ideas.

Unlike Thomas and Tank Engine, Pipkins was canceled early into the following decade, and no merchandise, fan club, or legacy ever evolved from this atrocious television program.

Pipkins
Pipkins shown later in life circa 2017.

 

5. Emu’s Pink Windmill Kids (1984)

“I’m Joe, to you”

 

Okay, we added this one in not because it was particularly terrifying, but because of it’s ‘shazazz’ factor. The beginning of this program actually became a British meme late last year as a kind of club entrance performance. Still, the energy from this show is a little bit nauseating and would remind anyone over the age of 25 that their body is starting to deteriorate.

Joe pictured in later life. He lives in a bedsit in Skegness and enjoys a Greggs Steak Bake™ on a Tuesday afternoon whilst sitting in the ASDA car park watching vehicles maneuvering out of their parking spaces.

Now that you have a vague rationale of how these insomnia-inducing ideas scarred a generation, you may go out into the world and count your blessings that future generations are more selective over what program they can watch. There was a time when youngsters didn’t have a choice over what was showing on their receiver. You do, however.

About Stuart Chapman

Stuart is a a current affairs connoisseur, picking and scratching at some of the more obscure, ambiguous topics that currently plague the political spectrum. As well as having considerable experience in the analytical art of nitpicking at pariah states and unworkable governments, Stuart manages a UK-based politics publication, and has recently launched his own copywriting start-up firm. As an active member of the Royal Society of Asian Affairs, he takes particular attention to the socio-economic conditions within the region, and enjoys writing opinion pieces within the Asiatic sphere. Outside the world of politics, Stuart enjoys drinking copious amounts of strong black coffee, and jogging at daybreak.

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