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18 June 2014
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Play School - Floella Benjamin: Click for more images After some considerable pressure, the Cult team were finally forced to watch an episode or two of Play School each. Here's what they thought of it, an average twenty-five years on.


Playschool. It was like background noise - always on, every morning. I'm now thinking it was part of that whole BBC conspiracy (that, of course, doesn't exist) to brainwash a generation of children.

Picture the scene. It's Saturday moring, I'm on my own in the flat. I fix breakfast (coffee, fruitjuice, roll-up fag). And I sit down.

'Its only short', said Ann 'and you'll really enjoy it'. After I'd got over the instant regressesion brought about by the title sequence (a door, 1,2,3,4... now empty your parents wallets and send it all to this PO box.. ) I was treated to a lanky bloke called Ben singing like there was a man with a machine gun held to his wife's head just off camera. And then he started clapping. And showing me how to click my fingers.

'You try.'

Those are the secret words. Those words will trigger a marauding army of thirtysomethings come the revolution. Because it took me about two minutes to realise that I'd been sitting there, fag unsmoked, coffee untouched... clicking my damn fingers.

Help me. Get me out of this place before they realise I know the truth.

Editors note: Kim has been sent to our countryside 'recovery' centre, where she is being reprogrammed with extensive use of TISWAS. Our thoughts go out to her family.


Only Play School could open with the phrase: "Hello! I'm painting by blowing. It's so good because it doesn't get your fingers dirty. Remember to blow down your straw, not suck. Otherwise you get a mouthful of paint."

It's a strange experience watching Play School now. You have to wonder at the sheer ability of the cast to go through with it all. The hopping, the clapping, the art of making polite conversation with Little Ted.

There's so much to marvel at. The breathtaking enthusiasm as Carol looks up from spilling ink on a crumpled paper bag to coo, "See if you can guess what this is!" The bloodcurdling brio as the token floppy-haired bloke skips through a duet with Humpty-Dumpty (Maybe you know that song. If you do, join in if you like). The relentless charm of the specially composed "we're painting with some ink and a twig" background music.

Forget the round window. Forget the clock. I don't even care if all the little pigs lived together in the house of bricks, or if a strange old man wants to play knick-knack on my knee.

Play School is riveting practical parenting porn. Watching Brian Cant and Johnny Ball coo, fluff, and lark their way around the studio is still spookily like watching the best Dad ever. Even today, you know that when Brian Cant winks at the camera, he's winking at you. He really wants you to join in the finger clicking game, read the clock, and guess the right window. He's doing this because he loves you. Why else would he be wearing a silly paper hat?

Now, could you tell me the way to Humpty-Town please?


Play School was a programme that you first loved, and then hated with a passion, especially if you had a younger sibling. At five it seemed the most enchanting and wonderful programme ever, at seven it was childish and stupid. And that’s how my memories of Play School were left until I watched, or possibly re-watched, a few episodes for this site.

Now, at six times the target age range for Play School, I think it’s absolutely brilliant. And so did my boyfriend, who I caught joining in at one point. His attempts to pass this off as "ironic" failed to convince. There’s the nostalgic shock of seeing the clock, calendar and toys of course, which had half the office gathered around a screen excitedly watching the clock and pointing.

Also, though, as an adult it’s also possible to see just how skilled presenters like Johnny Ball, Julie Stevens and Brian Cant were, and despite the childish themes, there’s a lovely naïve charm to Play School, making it high-tog comfort-watching for all. Except 7-14 year olds, of course.

Video  Bounce bounce bounceA song, a ball and a game from 1968.
Video The Clock - 1968And the long hand's pointing to ...
Video The Windows - 1968  Which one will it be?
Video Numbers - 1968  Can you count to a hundred?
Video Pets  Katoo is playful, and Johnny twitches his nose.
Video The Calendar - 1971  Today, it's Monday.
Video The Clock - 1971  And what's beneath the clock today?
Video The Windows - 1979  A very rare treat indeed.
Video The Toys  Lovely Little Ted, happy Humpty and er..Hamble.
Video Joining In  Can you click your fingers?
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