The toy cast from the Australian version of the show.
The success story that is Play School
started in Britain in 1964. It was a preschooler show at its most basic—save for one film clip an episode, there were few gimmicks and the entirety of the show was carried on the shoulders of the two presenters—never the same each day, and always one man and one woman. All they had to play with? Everyday junk (used for homemade crafts), the toys (really the only constant "cast" on the show), a short story (always after checking the time on a clock), and a film shown through "the windows". There would also be songs, and activities that children at home could participate in.
Astonishingly, the show actually caused a strike at the BBC. A regular feature of the show was a clock with a turntable underneath, on which a different set of objects would rotate past the camera each day. A union dispute over whether this constituted a prop or a special effect (and therefore which union was responsible for operating it) blacked out Television Centre for weeks!
In 1966, the format was adapted for Australian TV by the ABC
. Both shows ran concurrently until 1984, when the British version was axed. The Australian version, however, has gone on to become so ingrained in the culture that you'd be hard-pressed to find any Australian person who hasn't
watched the show at some point. Many of the show's presenters are well-known Australian actors, and the job is quite a challenging one. The show has changed very little over the years, aside from one revamp in 1999 that changed the "Windows" into a rotating prop.
There was also a Norwegian version called Lekestue
that ran from 1973 until the early 1980s, and a Canadian version, Polka Dot Door
, which ran from 1971 to 1993.
This show contains examples of:
- Berserk Button: Do not mock this show in front of an Australian.
- Has Two Mommies: The Australian version had an infamous episode containing an instance of this. The actual relationship status is not so much as mentioned, and the footage itself was concerned with a day at the fair. Of course, the Australian tabloid media was all over it.
- The little girl in that story, Brenna Harding from Puberty Blues.
- Hey, It's That Guy!:
- A child who watched the UK version in the Seventies and Eighties would go on to see Brian Cant, Floella Benjamin or Johnny Ball in ... well, just about any other educataiment show on Children's BBC.
- Pretty much all the cast in the Australian version are well-known actors, so the series has this trope in full effect. Philip Quast, most known for playing Inspector Javert in Les MisÚrables, is just one example.
- The Kiddie Ride: A miniature carousel ride based on it can occasionally be seen in Australia.
- Bizarrely, this was based on the Rocket Clock, and has not been remodeled since, despite the Rocket Clock no longer appearing on the show.
- Long Runners: Almost all versions ran for a considerable length of time, but the Australian version stands out at an astounding 45 years.
- Multi National Shows: As aforementioned, numerous international versions spun off the original English version exist - the Australian one is the oldest and most famous, and others include New Zealand, Norwegian and Canadian versions.
- No Fourth Wall: The key to the show's success is due to the presenters' treatment of the audience as though they were actually there — therefore simulating a Real Life preschool or playgroup environment.
- Once an Episode: The Australian version memorably used to include use of a calendar, two clocks of varying novelty, looking through one of three windows, and reading a story.
- One I Prepared Earlier: The show does this for arts, crafts and even cooking all the time, even using the trope name, although sometimes they seemed to do it to avoid the tricky part of the process...
- Re Tool: The Australian version of the show changed very little in 33 years of broadcasting, but all of a sudden in 2000 it underwent a dramatic makeover. Practically everything save for the toys and the Theme Song were changed.
- Rube Goldberg Device: At least one of the calendars was this.
- Spinoff: The Australian version was popular enough to produce numerous spinoffs, including one starring host Monica with a variety of mostly puppet friends. Most faded into obscurity, but Bananas in Pyjamas, popular beyond imagination, apparently originated from an idea on Play School as well.
- Subverted Kids Show: Not Play School itself obviously, but many years after her tenure on the show, one of the Australian version's most famous hosts recorded a reading of Go the Fuck to Sleep in the exact same style she used to use when reading stories on Play School. The Australian media reacted much as you'd expect it to.
- That Reminds Me of a Song
- Too Soon: One episode had the team using building blocks then knocking them down...on September 12, 2001. This was the first time the show received hate mail from upset parents.
- For the record, the attacks happened at 11pm Australian time, while the show (which is recorded months in advance) goes out at fixed times in both the morning and afternoon.