TV Nostalgia: Our childhood favourites
The end of the year is nigh and the end of our tenure as film editors is fast approaching! Nostalgia is in the air. As such, we decided to ask our writers to talk about their favourite nostalgic TV shows. Whether you were a CBBC fanatic or part of the (elitist) Disney community, we all have ‘that show’ which takes us back to the days before uni stress, household drama and the impending ‘adult world’. Sit back, relax and take a trip down memory lane.
Deadly 60 by Benjy Klauber-Griffiths
Deadly 60 aired at a time when social clout depended one your favourite dinosaur, whether you could do your seven times table and what snack you had in your packed lunch.
When life was spent colouring maps (Geography students may still relate) and staring enviously at the year 6’s sitting on the benches in assembly there was no better show to return home to after an arduous 15:30 finish.
Dubbed (by me) the Attenborough of CBBC, the show saw hunky animal enthusiast Steve Backshall travel the world searching for the deadliest creatures to pet, stroke and nuzzle. After seeking out some of the most endangered and ferocious animals in the world, Backshall would conclude by charismatically stating the obvious. “The (insert insanely dangerous animal here) is definitely deadly”. Iconic.
And that was the show. Kids saw parts of the world they’d never seen before, learnt about animals they’d maybe only see behind a glass panel, all the while creating a new generation of conservationists and eco-warriors. Pretty wholesome if you ask me.
Not to mention the cult status it then received among our generation. Mention Deadly 60 to ANYONE and they will respond with awe. One of CBBC’s flagship shows it’s easy to understand why, masking important education behind awesome facts and the suggestion of carnal violence means obsessives have still managed to retain some of the niche carnivorous facts to this day. Did you know the cheetah doesn’t have retractable claws, a sign that it isn’t in fact, a ‘big cat’?
At times my obsession went too far. A near complete collection of ‘Deadly 60 cards’, the shows Match Attax equivalent, is still one of my crowning achievements but also probably one of my more questionable childhood purchases. Still, if you need an unusual animal fact, you know who to come to.
Tracy Beaker by Ella Robinson
Tracy Beaker Returns was my childhood. I remember having friends over on a Friday night to watch the new episode when it aired. Four years after The Story of Tracy Beaker ended, Tracy was back at the Dumping Ground, this time to work. It had one of the most iconic opening comeback episodes – Joe McFadden would have won his age of industry argument instantly if he just included the line “I am like Tracy, we both got nicked”.
When lockdown hit, and we were in need of a bit of nostalgia, we decided to rewatch Tracy Beaker Returns as a house – but I don’t think any of us had realised quite how traumatic it is. We all remember Lily falling off the roof, there’s even TikToks recreating it, but do you remember Carmen falling through the bridge? The escaped prisoner eating their spaghetti hoops? The fire caused by chilli in their face masks? I don’t think I’ve looked at a chopping board the same way since.
One of my housemates isn’t from the UK so hadn’t grown up watching the show, so rewatching with her (and ten years on ourselves) really gave us a fresh perspective. I think we’ve all gone through a stage of realising Jacqueline Wilson novels were pretty dark – My Sister Jodie speaks for itself – but Tracy Beaker Returns alongside the ridiculous drama, actually tackled some pretty important issues.
Lily was on the roof because of the council cuts to care home funding. Whilst the issue was framed in a lighter way for children’s TV, with Liam selling the piano and curtains, and Tee cutting slippers “so we won’t miss the carpets”, in reality, funding per child has fallen from £571 in 2010/11 to £425 in 2018/19. Whilst Tracy Beaker certainly was more fun than the reality, focusing on these issues caused conversations in households up and down the country, about topics which may otherwise have been ignored.
Tracy Beaker Returns represented a range of issues and people on screen. Frank, one of the show’s main characters, had cerebral palsy. Gus has Asperger’s Syndrome. These conditions were shown in a way that enabled children and young people to understand them, without it defining their characters’. Homelessness, refugees, gangs, and loss were all also shown and discussed in a way that was humanising as well as educational.
But what I loved most about the show was the friendship and care they all had for each other – the family that had been created at Elmtree House. It was a really fun show, despite the heavy moments, with dancing, laughter and pranks, and rewatching it in lockdown, ten years after it aired – it felt like coming home.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars by Joe McFadden
When Benjy asked me to write about a TV show I loved growing up there was only one programme I could possibly write about. There was only one show that defined my formative years so much so that I can safely say I would be an entirely different person without it – and that show is Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
Following its August 2008 film debut, Star Wars: The Clone Wars premiered on the small screen on October 3rd of that year. What started out as a fun, light-hearted foray into a previously unexplored era of Star Wars would – 12 years, 7 seasons, and a fan campaign like none other later – eventually transform into one of the defining shows of the 2010s and one of the most beloved stories in Star Wars history.
I still remember when I first watched The Clone Wars. The date escapes me but it would have been sometime in late 2009 when I was 7 years old and me and my twin brother, Tom, rented the DvD ‘Clone Commandos’ from the library. The first episode we watched was Season 1 Episode 5 ‘Rookies’ and the memory is still imprinted in my mind over a decade later. Watching this show was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It was violent yes, but not scary, and it had a maturity to it that even as a kid I remember appreciating. The Clone Wars wasn’t a show that talked down to its audience, but instead taught them and encouraged them to grow up with it.
After watching this first episode, now a firm fan favourite, I was hooked. Not just on this show but the universe it inhabited. Interestingly, I had never actually watched the Star Wars saga before. Growing up I was never forced to sit down and let the magic of George Lucas’ space opera wash over me. Instead, I discovered it on my own – or rather fittingly, with my brother – and that is why I think The Clone Wars had such an effect on my formative years. It opened my eyes to the magic of Star Wars, a franchise that has had such a defining effect on my life, and most importantly, formed the centrepiece of mine and my brother’s relationship for much of our later childhood.
On May 4th 2020, The Clone Wars aired its series finale ‘Victory and Death’, the epic conclusion not just to the thrilling ‘Siege of Mandalore’, or the show itself, but to our childhoods. I remember waking up early and going downstairs to watch it together as if we were kids again. The Clone Wars was such a huge part of our childhood that when it ended 6 weeks after we turned 18 it only felt appropriate that our childhood should end with it.
For me, this is why Star Wars: The Clone Wars was the most important show of my childhood. Not only did it awaken my love for Star Wars and subsequently cinema, but it taught me about life, politics, and morality. However, most importantly, it was something I shared with my brother, and that is why I will always be grateful for this show.
(Go to The Mancunion to read Joe’s longer piece)
Doctor Who by Dan Collins
It is hard to imagine my childhood without the constant presence of Doctor Who, whether that be in the show itself, its spin offs or its many collectable figurines, books and models.
Many of my prominent early memories revolve around it: gathering the family around to watch the Christmas special, playing Doctor Who themed top trumps in long car journeys or spending countless hours building my own TARDIS. I also distinctly remember waking up to the news that Elisabeth Saden or as I knew her, Sarah Jane, had died – I almost didn’t go to school that day.
It has become somewhat of a cliché to say this but these weren’t just characters on a screen, they were people who truly mattered to me. David Tennant’s Doctor was always my favourite but I also loved the zaniness of Matt Smith and the dark underbelly of Eccleston’s first series. Perhaps this is what was so appealing to me and so many others, Doctor Who seems like it has no boundaries. Like the bedtime stories you were told as a kid, with just a bit of imagination you could’ve been taken off to far flung futures, meet William Shakespeare or battle an alien invasion.
Moreover, it’s not just the setting that changes but also the genre, episodes such as Blink or The Empty Child were well rooted within the horror mould whereas something like Partners In Crime is a mix of comedy and pulp adventure. Nevertheless, it always had a certain unnameable charm that kept me coming back.
Overtime, my enthusiasm waned for the series. It wasn’t any one thing that made me stop but in the same way I no longer play football, I also no longer watch Doctor Who. Whilst I have watched an episode here and there and enjoyed what I’ve seen of Jodie Whittaker’s take on the character, no matter what I do, I can’t quite transpose my childhood wonder into the present.
Although I understand the impulse to reject change, it is built into the generational project that is Doctor Who. In this sense, I don’t long for a lost past but think of the new wave of fans that will be born out of this reimagining.
The cynic in me may want to reference the fact that this is all really just the culmination of corporate marketing but there is something to be said for a show like Doctor Who, a show that seems to rise above these pessimistic notions and finds the wonder in everyday life.
Somehow it is a show that embraces nostalgia and all the problems that come with doing that but also one that looks forward and envisions futures that hold messages of hope and togetherness, even amongst the chaos – or at least that’s how I remember it.
The Wombles by Florrie Evans
When looking back at all the TV shows I watched as a kid, one tv show kept coming back to me, The Wombles. I must have only been about five when I watched The Wombles for the first time, but the classic theme song was the soundtrack of my very young life. You might be asking, why were you watching The Wombles when you were born in the year 2000, a reasonable question considering the first episode came out in 1973.
I hate to break it to everyone but it wasn’t because I was a really cool kid who felt they were born in “the wrong era”, but because The Wombles was the only thing my grandma had on video tape, yes, you heard correctly, video tape. I look back on the days when I sat in my grandma’s front room, singing along to the very famous lyrics ‘Underground, Overground, wombling free, the wombles of Wimbledon Common are we’.
Now for anyone who didn’t know, The Wombles is based on a set of children’s novels by the author Elisabeth Beresford, released in 1968, and is a story like no other. The story centred around little pointy nosed creatures, who lived in burrows on Wimbledon common. Now these weren’t just ordinary creatures, they were activists.
You heard correctly, they would fit in perfectly with the Greta Thunberg’s of today. They were hard workers, and encouraged the art of upcycling, you would find them picking up the rubbish of the ‘everyday folk’ and using it in many creative ways.
The only episode I really remember (I was five okay) was called, ‘Peep, Peep, Peep’, in which Wellington invents a phone using two tin cans and a piece of string. After watching this, all I wanted to do was have my own homemade telephone. Who knew that this piece of nostalgia was actually feeding me the crucial message, REDUCE, RE-USE, RECYCLE.