Hiding Behind the Sofa: Freaky 80s Kids’ TV

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With the sad passing of Robin Williams, Eve, her boyfriend and I were reminiscing about our earliest RW memories. For Eve’s boyfriend it was Mrs Doubtfire for Eve, the genie in Aladdin. And for me, and here I’m showing my age, it was Mork and Mindy.

Not that I particularly ever understood it. When he’d go off to talk to his alien boss it all went over my head. I just liked the funny bits.

But, although I’ve liked a lot of Robin Williams’ work – the Genie in Aladdin, his stand-up, the darker One Hour PhotoMork and Mindy sort of scarred my childhood. I was never 100% comfortable watching it. And, to be honest, I think it was the combination of Mork’s very tight top and excessive body hair. I think somewhere in my mind I kept thinking of that awful sensation when hair gets caught up and it made me cringe. So, for me, it was less ‘Nanu nanu,’ more ‘No no, no no!’

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But Mork and Mindy wasn’t the only show to freak me out, whether due to its aesthetics or the personalities involved. I spent a lot of time cringing and wishing to hide behind the sofa.

DOCTOR WHO – TOM BAKER ERA.

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Doctor Who was a programme whose sole aim seemed to be to have kids cowering behind the sofa. But for me it wasn’t about the monsters and aliens (even if the daleks were properly scary, despite their inability to climb stairs) so much as The Doctor himself. Tom Baker was just a bit too manic and wild-eyed for my delicate sensibilities. It was a massive relief when he morphed into the far more civilised Peter Davison.

ROD HULL AND EMU

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Again, more mania.

My sister and I would love singing ‘There’s somebody at the door, there’s somebody at the door,’ as Grotbags inevitably went to visit Rod in his big pink windmill. (And I still find myself singing it in my head when someone calls round.) But Rod Hull, through the medium of Emu, always took things too far.

I have the utmost respect for Michael Parkinson for laughing through his Emu attack. Had it been me, I’d have been compelled to punch Rod Hull in the face.

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WORZEL GUMMIDGE

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Another grubby old man, put on TV to entertain kids. What was wrong with TV executives in the 1980s? Was the intention to have characters that would make kids recoil so as to make Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris seem like nice people in comparison?

Ok, Worzel Gummidge was a scarecrow, but still, he was just so dirty. And that was before he’d take his head off and swap it for an even more odious character.

The only part I’d like was trying to predict which way he’d fall on his post at the end.

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FENELLA THE WITCH – CHORLTON AND THE WHEELIES

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This one seems fairly innocuous now, but at the time she freaked me out. Mind you, I was only 4 at most. And Fenella was mean. I’ve never liked mean people.

NOSEYBONK – JIGSAW

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Now, this character was so freakin’ scary I’d all but repressed his existence until my Google search for Fenella the Witch threw up an image. AAAAARGH!

How anyone thought he was an appropriate character for kids’ TV is beyond me. Anyone whose appearance is obviously influenced by the rape scene in A Clockwork Orange is just plain WRONG!

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ZELDA – TERRAHAWKS

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Even when she wasn’t bathed in green light, I literally couldn’t stand the sight of Zelda. Terrahawks was my own personal terror, ensuring the TV would immediately be switched off.

My aversion to Zelda is still within me today – my Google image search hasn’t been a pleasant experience. It may explain why I can’t warm to the character of Shirley in EastEnders either.

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Maybe it was all a ploy to get us kids to stop watching too much telly and follow more wholesome pursuits instead. Well, either that or they wanted to give us collective nightmares. I reckon I shall be having some freaky dreams tonight.

And so, to alleviate the childhood images I’ve now scorched onto your retinas, I’ll leave you with this adorable image of Teddy instead:

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In the words of Nick Ross on Crimewatch: ‘Don’t have nightmares.’