There’s still a bear in there

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Graeme Blun­dell

It’s hard to be­lieve that this year the tele­vi­sion pro­gram Play School cel­e­brates its half-cen­tury as the na­tion’s most re­spected, trusted and longestrun­ning chil­dren’s se­ries.

To mark this mo­men­tous mile­stone, Kate

Ritchie presents Big Ted’s Ex­cel­lent Ad­ven­ture: 50 Years of Play School. It’s the nos­tal­gic story of how a kids’ show, de­rived — like so much of our cul­ture back in the 1960s — from Bri­tain, charmed Aus­tralia and rapidly de­vel­oped into some­thing orig­i­nal. It has now run for more than 2250 episodes, sup­ported by nu­mer­ous brand ex­ten­sions that would make Dis­ney en­vi­ous, in­clud­ing books, DVDs, apps and mer­chan­dise.

Ex­ec­u­tive-pro­duced by Craig Gra­ham, the rather charm­ing doco, quirkier than one might ex­pect, fea­tures well-known per­form­ers in­clud­ing Mikey Robins, Han­nah Gadsby, Nazeem Hus­sain, Craig McLach­lan and mem­bers of the orig­i­nal Wig­gles shar­ing their per­sonal mem­o­ries of the show. And there are anec­dotes from past and present Play School pre­sen­ters, in­clud­ing Benita Collings and John Waters.

The doc­u­men­tary takes a nos­tal­gic jour­ney through Aussie child­hood, re­liv­ing the laugh­ter and de­lights of half a cen­tury, while chart­ing the na­tion’s so­cial his­tory. It’s easy to take for granted the way Play School has re­flected the cul­tural changes in this coun­try as they were tak­ing place and spear­headed di­ver­sity.

The faces on the show changed, with pre­sen­ters of dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties ap­pear­ing as reg­u­lars, let­ting white kids know that there were also Asian and Mus­lim kids in other play­grounds, well be­fore black and Asian ac­tors were seen in our grown-up dra­mas. And it’s guar­an­teed to have you singing the theme song for hours.

Big Ted’s Ex­cel­lent Ad­ven­ture: 50 Years of Play School, Sun­day, 7.40pm, ABC

Kate Ritchie, pic­tured with Big Ted, presents the spe­cial cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of ABC’s Play School

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