The jarring nostalgia of kids' TV reboots

Feature Rob Smedley 23 Jun 2014 - 07:00

How likely is the current crop of kids' TV reboots, from Danger Mouse to The Clangers, Morph and more, to harm your childhood memories?

The period June 9th to 15th 2014 was an unpleasant raid on the collective VHS cassette memory of our youth. Not only did Eric Hill, the creator of Spot the Dog, pass away, but so too did Casey Kasem, who for forty years had been the voice of Scooby-Doo's snack wingman Shaggy. Francis Matthews, the stiff upper lip behind Captain Scarlet's stiff puppet lip, departed to be with a different angel squadron. And before that Earth lost Rik Mayall, who performed the best Jackanory ever. Sorry Prince Charles. He did.

So if you felt a part of your formative years had suddenly melted away like a Funny Feet ice cream abandoned on a see-saw, then that's perfectly normal. It's always sad and strangely personal when a childhood telly hero dies, as if a small part of your youth has died with them.

However it's an even more complicated, more jarring emotion when your Past collides with the i-Present and a part of your childhood memory is suddenly resurrected. We'll call it 'Nostal-jarr' - jarring nostalgia. And much like grief, the nostal-jarr reaction to the re-making of an old show comes in seven stages. There's Surprise, followed by Excitement, Apprehension, Scepticism, Tweeting, Re-Tweeting, and then finally Acceptance. I felt them just the other day when I saw that Funny Feet lollies were back in the freezer section after a two decade absence. On a stick or on TV, taste is cyclical.

Following in the strawberry footsteps of frozen podiatry treats from the Eighties, we've been nostal-jarring all over the place lately, as TV execs of a certain age (or whose children are of a certain age) have decided we'll buy into the past like the greedy kids we once were, and scoured their Filofaxes for the best-loved shows of yesteryear.

Should you be worried? Perhaps. Lately reboots of old favourites such as Fireman Sam, Postman Pat, and Captain Scarlet have had all the charm of a Cyberman's handshake. But what is sacrilege for today's adults is nostalgia for tomorrow's kids. So with an open mind, let's take a look at shows are returning and what their chances of destroying your childhood are. And let me know if you hear the ice cream van, and we'll pause this article and run out and get a couple of Toffee Crumbles, yeah?

 

Morph

Plasticine nudist and stop-motion stationery hassler Morph is back, and it's all thanks to you, you wonderful people. After a wildly successful Kickstarter, Aardman Animations have created fifteen new short animations that will premier on the Morph YouTube channel this summer. Made of good old fashioned clay, sweat, and probably a drop or too of real ale, it's a delightful counterpoint to the other techno-obessed reboots occurring. The only way it could be better is if Tony Hart were still alive to interrupt and show you Timmy from Basildon's watercolour of a cat stuck in a rosebush. Al together now with The Noveltones' Left Bank Two: 'Doo-dee-doo-dee-doo-dee-doo...'

Chances of ruining your childhood memories: Zero. It's Aardman, it's Morph, it's free. Your childhood remains as intact as a lovely big lump of clay. This might be even better than the originals. The only downside will likely be any 'Skip this ad >|' intrusion.

 

Teletubbies

It's not known exactly when Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, La-La, and Po will return, but when Teletubbies does, according to exec producer Maddy Darrell, it will feature CGI and be given 'technological sparkle to match the viewing expectations of a new generation'.

What expectations does a three year old have? It's a shame that people think technological sparkle is what keeps kids' attention. I remember watching Fingerbobs and being enthralled by what was essentially just a man wearing a series of Etsy-ready gloves. They'd probably airbrush Yoffy out now, the bastards.

Mind you, given that the Teletubbies lived in an eco-friendly habitat to shelter them from the burning gaze of a main sequence star baby head; owned a robotic hoover, a complex artificial carbohydrate manufacturing system, and, in a feat of techno-ergonomics that Google can only dream of, possessed wireless screens in their stomachs on which they could Netflix all of human life, perhaps a pixel brush-up is in order. Tinky-Winky's handbag might even get 4G.

Chances of ruining your childhood memories: It doesn't sound like there'll be any departure from before. Besides, you'll probably have been too young, too tired from parenting, or too stoned to properly remember it the first time anyway.

 

Danger Mouse

The Internet treated news of a Danger Mouse return with a level of disgust you imagine would normally be reserved for if Simon Cowell ever attempted to exhume Queen Victoria with a view to using her as a Britain's Got Talent judge. Crumbs!

Let's look at this rationally. Pros are that series co-creator Brian Cosgrove has signed off on it; one of the Horrible Histories writers, Ben Ward, will be on scripting duties; and DM will still have his HQ in a red PO letterbox, LOL. Cons are that it won't feature David Jason's vocal talents, and will certainly be so shiny as to lack any of the scribbly charm of the hand-drawn original. That doesn't mean it'll be terrible, just a different take on a character.

What is worrying though, is that its producers say it has been 'brought up to date'. Because having a flying car clearly isn't up to date enough for what Freemantle cringingly call 'today's tech-savvy and content-hungry kids'. Or as they're otherwise known, 'kids'. Kids have always been tech-savvy and content-hungry. And again, it wasn't technology that made Danger Mouse fun, it was the irreverent humour. That's not stopped them giving Danger Mouse a gadget-packed 'iPatch', because everything has to have an 'I' in front of it to be culturally relevant these days. Any rumours that Penfold will be played by a /r/sidekick subreddit are entirely made up. By me.

Chances of ruining your childhood memories: CBBC have had great form of late, so I'm going to be optimistic here and bet that it'll be a decent effort let down only by its need to appear relevant to the tablet generation.

 

Powerpuff Girls

It feels like Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup have never gone away, perhaps because of constant re-runs and comic books, and a couple of specials in recent years. But the world can always use more sugar and spice and Chemical X. That's what Cartoon Network is counting on.

It hasn't yet been announced if the show's creator Craig McCracken is onboard (he had no input in the 2014 feature release of Powerpuff Girls: Dance Pantsed), nor has it been made clear whether it will follow the hand-drawn style of the 1998-2005 episodes, or whether it will go with the new computer generated style shown in the 2014 special. I quite liked the new animation, but judging by many comments, ardent viewers prefer the traditional look and are prepared to yell at YouTube as though something could be done about it.

Chances of ruining your childhood memories: Slim to none. Only if Mojo Jojo does not appear will this be considered a failure. Probably no need to bring Ringo Starr back though after his appearance/song in Dance Pantsed. Much peace and love Ringo.

 

Thunderbirds Are Go!

Thunderbirds is old enough now for three generations to have watched it as children. That's a lot of people to disappoint with a bad remake. But bear in mind that before his death creator Gerry Anderson was on the record as wanting an updated Thunderbirds. Thunderbirds Are Go! might well be Anderson's wishes come true.

Next year - fifty years after the original episodes aired in SUPERMARIONATION (Explosions!) -  twenty-six new adventures will air on CITV, made by the do-no-wrong special effect's whizzes at Weta Workshop's Pukeko Pictures and written by Rob Hoegee, who's previously worked on Ben 10 and Teen Titans. Add to that a solid voice cast, including Rosamund Pike as Lady Penelope, Kayvan Novak as Brains, and best of all, David Graham reprising his voice duties as Parker, and things are starting to look very F.A.B indeed.

So there'll be no strings, so what? We didn't tune in to look at threads. We wanted to see action, and adventure, close-ups of real people's hands, The Hood shouting 'KYRANO!', and something cool emerging from Thunderbird 2's belly. Ideally The Mole. I loved The Mole.

Chances of ruining your childhood memories: Having fed all the data into the Cham-Cham, I actually think this could be something special. Nothing that can rival the imagination and hard work of the Gerry Anderson series, but something that may renew everyone's – young and old - love of Thunderbirds. Break out that Blue Peter papier-mache Tracy Island! Can I come play at yours? Mine never set.

 

The Clangers

In talking about the return of The Clangers, CBeebies controller Kay Benbow openly referenced the nostalgia factor, and promised 'we always think very carefully about remakes or re-imaginings'. Good start, and one backed up by five million Earth pounds, which have been poured, like currency broth from the Soup Dragon's ladle, into a co-production cauldron with the US pre-school channel Sprout. Pounds five million. That could buy you an awful lot of blue string pudding.

But really money is of no sway here. The Clangers was made on the budget of a sixpence and, as with all of Oliver Postgate's works, the intergalactic whistling sock mice felt delightfully  home-made; that was their charm. Watching an episode was like seeing something that a kindly uncle had made for you in his shed and filmed with his old JVC compact, just for your next visit. It made you feel loved. No amount of money can replicate that sensation.

Chances of ruining your childhood memories: It's difficult to see how they'll capture any of the original magic Oliver Postgate imbued the show with, but if they stick to the original spirit, it should be enough to melt even the rustiest heart in the most curmudgeonly Iron Chicken. Melt it like a Funny Feet lolly abandoned on a – oh I've already done that simile.

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Wow, I had no idea about that Powerpuff Girls update. Looks good. So long as they continue to have everybody's favourite inducer of discomfort, Him, in it, I'm on board. Never understood the Danger Mouse love, always preferred Duckula.

Centurions.
Bring back the Centurions.
Do it.
I can't, because I have no talent or drive and spend too much time watching things and bitching about them to actually produce any, but I would love to see a new Centurions tv show.
Perhaps without the orangutan, though.
She was annoying.

Call them the iCenturions or something.
Give Doc Terror a tragic back story (because being an evil cyborg despot isn't enough) and then turn the London Eye into a War Wheel and I'm in.

The ones I'm most upset about are Clangers and Danger Mouse... they should not be touched at all. If the current generation of children are even remotely interested in the concept of a spy mouse or whistling mice in space then they would search for the originals themselves instead of it being spoonfed to them. I say that with confidence as that's what I did, I wasn't alive when either started airing yet I found them and bought the Videos/DVDs and loved every second of them, they were part of my childhood too.

Ulysses 31, please. Just don't change the theme tune.

I don't know f the kids who grew up watching "Powerpuff Girls" and "Teletubbies" are old enough yet to care about nostalgia and ruining childhood memories.

Does DM's iPatch mean he can now remember the Silence when he's not looking at them?

To be fair, the 'iPatch' gag is standard fair for the kind of wordplay DM used to dish out.
The pandering to "the younger generation" aspect does irk me though, as these kinds of corporate statements always do. This is a vocabulary destined for boardroom meetings and investors, not the general public.

I didn't mind New Captain Scarlet. I quite enjoyed it. Though I can imagine that the choppy way ITV originally aired it pretty much doomed it from the start, but count me amongst the fans who discovered it afterwards. Hoping to see some Hypermarionation action being implemented into Thunderbirds are Go...

I don't know why people are bothered at all by them making old cartoons for a 'younger generation'.

Who does it hurt?

Making them more relevant makes sense to me.

These shows are not aimed at us, so why would they care. Kids watching them wont care what the old versions are like, so it doesn't matter what they change.

And the old versions are still there for us to see, and the new generation to seek out once they are made aware of them by the new versions :-)

Everyones a winner.

You mean, leave in the only bit that was any good.

As a parent of a 2 and 5 yr olds, I get my fair share of Cbeebies time and on the most part its good stuff. I have introduced my two to some classics (Bag Puss and Ivor the engine) and for the most part they like them, however they prefer the colourful and faster pace of the newer shows. Although they did love Willo the Wisp.
For me personally, Danger Mouse will live on in my memory along with Hong Kong Phooee and Bat Phink. (You tube here I come)

I absolutely loved the CGI Captain Scarlet. We caught an episode quite by accident, having no idea it even existed, and bought the DVD set to watch them all. I'm glad they changed animators after the first two episodes, but most of the stories were solid and I liked that they looked a little deeper into how immortality would take its toll on Paul's mind and friendships.

I had to look up Powerpuff Girls: Dance Pantsed because you mentioned Ringo Starr and damn, that looks awesome! And not only awesome, but really, tremendously great. Thanks for that heads-up!

Instead of remaking them, why not just repeat them. I'd love to see classic episodes of Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, The Storyteller (Jim Henson), The E-E-E-E-Ewoks (get that stuck in your head), Droids, Ulysses, Transformers (original 80s ones from Arrival from Cybertron), Gummi Bears, Duck Tales (ooo-ooh), Ch-ch-ch-chip n'Dale: Rescue Rangers, etc back on TV. Goodness knows they have enough Freeview Channels now to show the odd classic without a bland CGI remake.
My step daughter prefers the old classic Scooby Doo to the new CGI-fare. It's not the tech behind the show, but the quality of the storytelling.

My kids loved the original clangers, bagpuss, danger mouse etc I got the DVDs and we all watched together they are a little too old for the first two now but I think we will all like the new dangermouse if done well. It will not tarnish my memories if it's awful I just will not watch

Absolutely no need for this, if parents would just expose their children to the originals. I've just recently been showing my 5 year old daughter original Bagpuss and Bananaman, and she is constantly asking to watch them again and again. When she was a smaller tot I had no qualms about showing her Camberwick Green/Trumpton/Chigley, and whilst she's rather grown out of them, at the time she found them equally engaging. No need to change/update. Just expose the kids to the originals...it's cheaper for starters.

I'd also love to see live action films of The Mysterious Cities of Gold and
The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. Ulysses 31 was also awesome.

Ulysses 31 was fricking awesome, I ended up studying Greek Theatre because of my love of Ulysses 31!

now there's a crossover!

Duckula was awesome, weird that they didn't bring that back when Vampires came back in vogue.

It undermines the original while continuing a corporate culture of bean counters in creative industries that refuse to allow anyone to actually be creative or take risks. It sucks the soul out of the industry. It's everything that's wrong with MBA driven creative ventures today.

I'm 21 and probably in the future they will start remaking some of my children's programs and you know what I'm not bothered if they do. In fact I would be quite interested to see what they would do to those shows and if I don't like it then I don't watch it. After all it isn't going to ruin my childhood is it?

Any chance of a 'Galloping Galaxies' reboot? I bloody loved that show. I doubt they'd find someone as good as Kenneth Williams to do the voice of the computer though.

I'm still trying to get over what the Americans did to the Mr Men. The utter, utter bastards!

Please leave "willow the wisp" alone.

I'd love to see the Horrible Histories team remake Rentaghost. Mat Baynton would be the perfect Timothy Claypole.

The one thing I really hope they don't change about Thunderbirds Are Go! is Barry Gray's iconic theme music. Totally irreplaceable.

True. I'm still trying to get over what the Americans did to Thunderbirds in 2004, with the Riker-directed movie.

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