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From Bagpuss to Sabrina: the Stylist team’s favourite children’s TV shows

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Chloe Gray
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Sabrina and Bagpuss are among our favourite TV shows.

Chucklevision has been voted the greatest CBBC show of all time, but what are the programmes that have stayed with us in the years since we watched them?

Cast your mind back to when you were a child. A time before tablets and smartphones. Before children watched YouTube and Netflix from iPads in the back of the car, at the supermarket, at the dinner table. Before Minecraft. What was it that we did during those times?

The answer might be running around the great outdoors. But most likely it’s that we were just as obsessed with screens – only ours were much larger and not transportable. Because when we were growing up, TV was at its peak. 

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So there were mixed feelings in the office when we heard that Chucklevision was voted the greatest CBBC show of all time by a Radio Times survey. There’s no denying that the antics of Paul and Barry Chuckle were fine viewing: the catchphrases (“to me, to you”), the slapstick comedy, the brotherly bond. But there’s just so much fierce competition for that top spot. So after much debate in the Stylist office, here are the other programmes (from all channels) we think deserve to be celebrated. 

The best TV shows of our childhood

That’s So Raven - Chloe Gray, editorial Assistant 

Make a show about a teenage physic and it could end up as a magical fairytale. Thank GOD this show didn’t. This show was FUNNY. I think “Oh SNAP”, “Ya nasty” and “Do you carry a lunch boooox?” were 10-year-old me’s most quoted sayings, and I longed for a life and friends as fun as Raven, Eddie and Chelsea. 

But the show also tackled huge social issues: there’s an episode where, after being told she was too big to be a runway model Raven storms the stage with a message of body acceptance. In another, Raven deals with missing out on a job because the shop owner “doesn’t hire black people”. I didn’t realise it at the time, but these messages were firmly rooting themselves into my young, impressionable brain, and it’s not an over statement to say my feminism is probably rooted in Raven Baxter’s teachings. Great work, Disney.

Bagpuss - Anna Fielding, associate editor

“Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, old fat furry cat puss…” I loved Bagpuss when I was little. The story of a saggy, old cloth cat who could be rhymed into life by his owner, a little girl called Emily. In each episode, Emily brought an object she’d found and Bagpuss and his friends – the mice on the Mouse Organ, Madeleine the rag doll, Gabriel the banjo-playing toad and academic woodpecker Professor Yaffle – would go on an adventure based around Emily’s find. 

It was animated and narrated by Oliver Postgate – who also did The Clangers and Ivor The Engine – and, even now, the sound of his voice is the most comforting thing in the world. I loved Bagpuss then, and I still love it, because it was gentle, but also strange and weird and magical. It had nothing to do with my life, it wasn’t trying to teach me anything, and there were no ‘child’ characters you were supposed to relate to (Emily, the only human, was a bit of an eccentric herself, stocking her always-shut shop with lost items). Bagpuss was about the stories, the crown jewels of a frog princess, mice using a ballet shoe as a rowing boat, a small, squashy creature called a Hamish. Because if your toys could come to life, would you want them to do mundane, everyday things? Bagpuss and his creators decided no, and it made a children’s TV classic.

SMTV: Live and Sabrina the Teenage Witch - Hollie Richardson, digital writer

Hollie with Aunt Hilda from Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Hollie with Aunt Hilda from Sabrina the Teenage Witch

I got up early to watch SM:TV Live every Saturday for Wonky Donkey, Pokefights and Chums. I’m not ashamed to say that quite recently, on a particularly slow day, I spent a good hour YouTubing old clips. The moment when Gary (Ant) brought in Brian from Westlife in the Pokefight against Misty (Dec) is one of the funniest TV moments of all time. As is the ‘Blink for Ant” episode of Chums. 

The show also played episodes of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, which I loved mostly because of sarcastic Salem the Cat. A photo of the time I met Aunt Hilda at the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago is something I treasure. You could say it was a magical moment.

Sister, Sister - Sarah Shaffi, contributor

Settling down in front of the TV after school only became greater when my parents briefly got cable (as it was then) and we had access to Nickelodeon. It was there that I discovered Sister, Sister, a sitcom about identical twins Tia and Tamera (also their names in real life) who are adopted separately at birth and then find each other 14 years later.

It doesn’t seem very relatable, but the show has stayed with me for years, partially because in their house the girls shared a bathroom between their two bedrooms, which is a feature I’d love to have in any home I eventually purchase (although ideally the second bedroom would be my office and I would share the bathroom with myself).

But more seriously, the show has stayed with me for its depiction of young black women living their lives, having fun, dealing with difficult times, and above all being both family and friends to each other. It was the first time I can recall seeing girls of colour being treated just like white girls on my TV screen, and although it may not be perfect viewing now, in a world that was mostly white when it came to pop culture, it was a defining show (and of course led me on to programmes like Moesha and Kenan and Kel).

The Queen’s Nose - Felicity Thistlethwaite, digital executive editor

Fifty pence pieces were never the same for me after 1995 when I first watched The Queen’s Nose. The idea that young Harmony Parker had a magical coin she casually busted out whenever she wanted a wish granted was far cooler than any other post-school TV show airing in the 90s. (And yes, that includes the boy who shall not be named and his time-halting stopwatch.)

Looking back it was a bit creepy when uncle Ginger appeared in the mirror, but the innocence of the era is something I remember with great fondness. It was just a young girl pre-hair straighteners, mobile phones and social media pressures living her best life running around the garden in own-brand trainers magically making rabbits appear. I doff my hat to author of the book Dick King-Smith, and Steve Attridge who adapted the show. Now, where’s my purse?

Sweet Valley High - Helen Bownass, entertainment director  

People often ask me what inspired me to become a journalist, and I secretly think a big part of the reason was because Elizabeth Wakefield in Sweet Valley High was one. When the books were adapted for TV when I was 13 it was beyond my wildest dreams. Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield – the protagonists – were the epitome of glamour, and everything 13-year-old me dreamed of: tall, thin and blonde, with jock boyfriends – I didn’t even know what a jock was but I knew I wanted one, a swimming pool in the garden and cans of fizzy drink in the fridge they were allowed to help themselves to. I am pretty certain the show hasn’t aged well, and I feel a bit sorry for that teenager who looked on so enviously, but I know I will be spending this weekend in a YouTube hole rewatching it and being grateful about where I am today.

Clarissa Explains It All! - Kat Poole, head of email and editor of Stylist Loves

I genuinely attribute a lot of my teenage characteristics to Clarissa: ‘experimental’ with clothes; always trying to do one better than my brother; a tendency to over-dramatise a situation and overly comfortable voicing her opinions, especially when she disagrees with something. Also, fun fact! Hunger Games writer Suzanne Collins started out writing for the show. Who knew?!

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