Hey kids, today we're going to learn how to write an article on TV Tropes using nothing but a keyboard, some sticky-back plastic and an empty washing-up bottle. But first, here's One I Prepared Earlier
is the longest running children's programme in the world, starting in 1958 and still going today. Usually aired on BBC1
for most of its run, but moved to BBC2 during Wimbledon
. Nowadays airs on CBBC
The show is best described as a "magazine show". The presenters (usually three or four these days) do a variety of different activities:
- Craft demonstrations, such as a papier-mâché Tracey Island.note
- Presenters doing rather insane challenges. This will involve stuff like painting the Forth Bridge, military assault courses, or climbing Nelson's Column.
- How stuff is made.
- Meeting celebrities.
- Acting in panto(mime)s, historical re-enactments and original tales.
(They once managed to do an entire edition on the Young Bond novels, complete with performances of James Bond
songs, and never showed a movie clip).
There are often performances by various people. Everyone who appears on the show gets a Blue Peter Badge, which allows free admission to a number of UK attractions. There are other types of badges, the most famous being the Gold Badge, given to people who have done something very special (presenters are now getting them on departure).
Every year, the team go on a Summer Expedition abroad. There is also the annual charity appeal, with the "totaliser" and the attendant "bring-and-buy sales
" - usually, the charity appeals run on a biannual schedule of these and 'collecting X' note
, often things which can be reused, or recycled for monetary gain.
The show has a number of resident pets. The most famous of these was a dog called Petra (actually a substitute after the first dog died), whose death became national news.
ITV tried to launch a knock-off imitator called Magpie
, but this faltered and failed after perhaps four years, despite the attractions of presenter Susan Stranks
The show has an extremely good relationship with Doctor Who
- Presenter Peter Purves also played Steven Taylor, a companion to the First Doctor.
- Actress Sophie Aldred (who played Ace) was awarded a Blue Peter badge as a child, she later wore it as part of her costume (which caused something of a stir until it was confirmed that it was indeed Sophie's badge and not a prop).
- A 1973 edition contains the only broadcast footage of the First Doctor's regeneration and the show has made appeals for lost footage.
- During the 1970s, the show had a nationwide 'manhunt' for a group of criminals who stole a set of Daleks from the BBC. The Daleks were returned within 24 hours, in varying degrees of misuse.
- The show was featured on screen in "Aliens of London", and The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Invasion of the Bane".
- The show ran the competitions to design the monster for "Love & Monsters" and the makeshift junk TARDIS for "The Doctor's Wife" and for an actor to appear in "Utopia". Said character then ended up Toclafaned off-screen.
- There's been quite a few Who-related crafts.
- Bits of Blue Peter are often included on the DVD releases of classic series stories as bonus clips, often featuring interviews with the actors or displays of relevant Who-mania.
- There's a myth that the last episode of "The Tenth Planet" and "Power of the Daleks" were lost by Blue Peter. However, what is true is the clip of William Hartnell's regeneration survives to this day because of Blue Peter.
There have been 32 presenters over the years. They include:
- Valerie Singleton
- John Noakes, the longest serving presenter, remembered for his collie and associated Catch Phrase ("Get down, Shep!") This sums up John Noakes/Shep quite well.
- Peter Purves, a companion of the Doctor, as mentioned above.
- Janet Ellis, who also made a minor appearance in Doctor Who ("The Horns of Nimon"). Is the mother of pop singer Sophie Ellis Bextor.
- Sarah Greene. Also known from Saturday Morning Kids Show Going Live, and another Doctor Who actor (one of the Cryons in Attack of the Cybermen).
- Richard Bacon. For all the wrong reasons - see below.
- Mark Curry, a man who epitomized all that was tackiest about 1980's style and fashion. Once demonstrated some life-size human sculptures in lego bricks and succeeded in breaking the head off one, which rolled off accross the studio floor.
- Konnie Huq ("Huck") - having been on the show for a decade, she's apparently a major draw for students, for the rather obvious reason of her looks. On Mock the Week Dara Ó Briain implied she was attractive and got mocked for it for the rest of the episode. Left in 2008.
- Gethin Jones. Appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2007.
- Matt Baker. Strictly Come Dancing 2010 finalist, and thought by some the be Konnie's equal in the looks department.
- John Leslie, who's become something of a punchline due to losing a later job on This Morning over rape allegations and admitted drug use.
- Caron Keating, who sadly died young of breast cancer and left the presenting team having to explain the concept of death to a child audience. Not easy.
- Anthea Turner, whose TV career went stratospheric after leaving the show - the completely opposite trajectory to most ex childrens' TV presenters. Less frequently seen in recent years.
- Yvette Fielding, now involved in paranormal reality TV.
- Katy Hill, notable among the older crowd due to wearing miniskirts and the related camerawork attempts to avoid showing anything too inappropriate as a result.
- Zöe Salmon, an ex Miss Northern Ireland. Her moment of notoriety came when she expressed on-air fury about a graphic of the British Isles that showed Ireland as a united whole and did not adequately convey the separateness of Northern Ireland. Worse, Ireland was coloured green. By way of punishment, Zoe was sent to do a report on Irish traditional dancing - the sort which does not attract Protestants for long-established historical reasons - to indicate that the show was not and would never be sectarian.
- Michael Sundin, a former dancer who left BP very abruptly when tabloids outed him as not only gay, but a former porn performer and occasional rent-boy. He has since died of AIDS-related complications. His death was completely ignored, compared to the lengthy eulogy and obituary that Caron Keating deservedly received from the show.
- Tina Heath, who was asked to leave the show because she had become pregnant outside wedlock and had no intention of marrying the man involved.
- Diane Louise-Jordan, the first non-white Blue Peter presenter. Having joined some years after Tina Heath, her being an unmarried single mother was less of an issue.
- HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, was a guest presenter on the show between 1970-74, although she is not usually counted as one of the "official" thirty-two. A friend and fan of the show, Anne Windsor accompanied the then presenters out to Africa on a summer safari, generally enjoying herself in the company of the presenters, and being very good PR for the Royals. Princess Anne also reported on horsey matters for the show and very graciously gave riding lessons to BP presenters hitherto innocent of the charms of equine contact. Her association with the show diminished after marriage in 1974, but she has returned at intervals.
There have been a number of very notable moments:
- An elephant defecating on camera and walking out of the studio, stepping on John Noakes' foot in the process. (Noakes later claimed that he only shouted "Get off my foot!" for comic effect, and that if the elephant had really stepped on his foot he'd have ended up walking on crutches.)
- Richard Bacon's sacking for taking cocaine, which resulted in a senior BBC official reading a live on-air apology and him being stripped of his Blue Peter badge.
- A Christmas Episode Reunion Show, about ten years later, casting various current and past presenters in a musical, featured an unseen villain named "Richard". Following his defeat the male lead said to the camera "I've cooked his bacon.".
- Vandals breaking into the Blue Peter Garden and wrecking it, which was treated on-air by the hosts with all the gravitas of a murder. (An American equivalent would be slashing Mr. Rogers' tyres. You just don't do it.) The series Ashes to Ashes, about a cop who wakes up in the 1980's, features a Historical In-Joke where Gene Hunt turns out to be the vandal, destroying it while apprehending a suspect.
- In 2007 there was a handful of scandals about "rigged" audience participation events, including a child who was backstage apparently winning a phone-in competition when the lines went down; the decision to ignore an internet vote on the name of the new cat; and two actors being amongst the kids interviewing impressionist John Culshaw, to ensure the right sort of questions got asked.
In 2012, the BBC announced the end for Blue Peter
on mainstream BBC TV. The show left its long-time home on the BBC1 network (along with the last of the childrens' shows in their traditional slot) and was moved to the CBBC childrens' network, one of the BBC's many digital channels. This decision has caused comment and criticism, especially as the BBC, like ITV, proposes to fill the gap left by the departure of children's TV with quizzes and game shows with much lower production values. This follows on from the decision that after forty years, there will no longer be an annual tie-in book.
This show contains examples of:
- Brand X: the show invented the phrase "sticky-backed plastic" (for Fablon and Coveron) and used "sticky tape" (for Sellotape). The show once did an entire feature on the production of Smarties, while never naming the product.
- Catch Phrase: "Here's one I made earlier" and "And now for something completely different". The former is rarely used now - it's that cliché - and the latter is far better known for its use on Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- The Christmas Annual: The Blue Peter Book, published from 1964 to 2011 with occasional gaps.
- Executive Veto: Prior to producer Biddy Baxter, the show had featured up-and-coming musical groups in music slots. However, Baxter was against having musical acts on an educational programme and cancelled scheduled appearances by two quite popular new bands of the time - the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. No musical group ever again appeared on BP until the very late 1990's and Baxter's retirement, when Steps became the house-band for Blue Peter.
- Executive Meddling: Biddy Baxter, who saw the BBC's role (and by extension Blue Peter) as an organization appointed to inform and to educate, at the expense of entertainment (see Executive Veto) Baxter's essentially benign, but still authoritarian, management of BP is said to be the biggest single reason why BP has lasted so long - it is viewed as an old-time quality product. It has been frequently commented on as to how "standards appear to have slipped" since Baxter gave up the reins.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Lesley Judd, a seventies presenter, was holding two appealing juvenile dogs up to camera, close to her chest, when her male co-presenter (possibly Peter Purves) declared "Aren't they a lovely pair of puppies!"
- Similarly, Eighties presenter, Janet Ellis, was talking about the evolution of the humble doorbell and demonstrating the devices mankind has used down the years. Cue co-presenter with "What a lovely pair of knockers!"
- While probably unintentional, the name of the show could be one, since "Peter" can be a slang for the penis, thus making the show name very similar to blue balls.
- Mood Dissonance: The cast's response to Katarina's death scene from The Daleks' Master Plan in the Tenth Anniversary of Doctor Who episode.
- Never Work with Children or Animals
- Nipple and Dimed: Anthea Turner once did a feature about training with Great Britain's Olympic high-diving hopefuls. Turner's lack of respect to the crew (mainly camera men and sound recorders) led to the camera man taking advantage and shooting her in increasingly perverted and unflattering angles, including her being filmed shivering in the cold with both visibly erect nipples making a very obvious point about the air temperature.
- Never Work with Children or Animals
- One I Prepared Earlier: The Trope Namer, from the above Catch Phrase.
- Shout-Out: On Monty Python, there was once a sketch featuring a spoof children's magazine programme, John Cleese and Eric Idle in drag, called How to Do It ("And now, how to play the flute: just blow down one end and run your fingers up and down the outside").
- A Winner Is You: The 50th Anniversary of Blue Peter and what do we get? One very short montage and the other 44 minutes talking about McFly. We did get a cool book about it though.