In an attempt to go back to simpler times, our TV critics nostalgically recall their favourite childhood TV shows
Dan Hunt – Teletubbies:
From ‘eh-oh’ to ‘uh-oh’, is it time that Teletubbies were cancelled for good?
It is with great sadness that I, Chair of the Cancel Council, announce that it is time to say goodbye to the Teletubbies, for crimes related to psychedelic exposure and depravity. I know this decision is a controversial one, and while the theme tune will always hit different, we can no longer ignore the clear sexual tensions and Freudian tendencies which should not be witnessed by innocent children.
We start with Tinky-Winky, who harnesses negative stereotypes against The Man-Bag Owner’s Club (of which I am the Treasurer). Dipsy’s phallic protrusion atop his head and Laa-Laa’s ball has for too long corrupted our children. Admittedly no-one has ever complained about Po (let’s face it who would), yet Noo-Noo has been the subject of nightmares. According to research conducted by the “Children’s Nightmare Society” (of which I am the founder), 1 in 80 children have had a Noo-Noo related dream in the last five years . This has to stop.
Much of the backlash regarding this decision will be a result of the question on the lips of everyone since the show was first released in 1997: are the Teletubbies naked or are they wearing clothes? Irrespective of this, they have no place on children’s TV.
 This statistic has been fabricated for comedic effect.
Izzy Dharmasiri – Good luck Charlie:
Like everyone else during lockdown, I was tempted into a Disney+ subscription by the prospect of re-watching all my childhood Disney Channel favourites. Obviously, I had to start with the classic that is Good Luck Charlie (yes, I did watch all 97 episodes in the space of two weeks – I have no shame).
I would say it is the characters that made this show the masterpiece it was, so let’s rank them.
In fourth place, Mrs Dabney (Patricia Belcher) for simply being a savage queen. What’s more, you can’t forget the episode in which the Gabe (Bradley Steven Perry) and PJ (Jason Dolley) thought she had murdered her husband – someone call Ofcom because is that really suitable for children’s TV.
Let’s put Gabe in third place, as his sarcasm did not go amiss on the show and there is just something about the ‘troublesome’ child pulling pranks on their family that just screams Disney Channel nostalgia.
In second place is Teddy (Bridgit Mendler), the original vlogger (#SorryNotSorry Zoella) filming video diaries for her little sister and breaking up with her boyfriend every other episode. Let’s be honest, 8-year-old me lived for the drama.
Finally, in an indisputable first place we have Amy Duncan (Leigh-Allyn Baker) who, let’s face it, carried the show (babam). Her iconic catchphrases, supreme dance moves and all-round motherly cringeyness were some of the many reasons why you could not help but love her.
There is only really one way I can end this article, and that is by saying… ‘Good Luck Charlie!’
Abi Kinsella – The Next Step:
I must begin with an admittance of fraud.
It is utterly fraudulent of me to be writing about The Next Step in a piece about childhood nostalgia because I still watch, and indeed greatly enjoy, the show.
For any culture-deprived readers out there, The Next Step is a reality-style drama about a group of competitive teenage dancers from Canada (although they are strangely reticent to say that they are from Canada; in season three – spoiler ahead, try to contain yourself – they travel to an international competition and are referred to only as being from ‘North America’).
‘Reality-style’ is a wonderfully loose description. Storylines include a spy conspiracy, near-mauling by alligators in the Everglades, and my personal favourite, a dancer being revealed as the Crown Prince of Switzerland (Yes, that Switzerland: perhaps the world’s most famous republic).
The Next Step in all its farcical, melodramatic glory utterly thrills me. The love triangles, the medical emergencies, the races against the clock to make it to the stage on time – it remains my comfort watch, which BBC iPlayer dutifully reveals every time I load the app.
The mockery from my brand-new flatmates was so worth it.
Maisie McCormick – Hannah Montata:
There is only one word that I can use to describe Hannah Montana and that is: iconic.
Beginning in 2006, the sitcom follows the life of eighth-grader Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) as she navigates high school as both a regular girl and an international superstar. She truly embodies ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ which is, of course, one of her many incredible hits. What’s not to love?
Hannah Montana perfectly creates a world in which anything can happen. An ordinary girl lives an extraordinary life, with many famous relatives (like Dolly Parton), and still encounters problems which we all dealt with as children. From family rivalry and annoying siblings, to grief and friendship, the show tackles such themes in a light-hearted and comedic way and always leaves you feeling good. It is no wonder that almost every girl can still perform all the moves to ‘Hoedown Throwdown’ and knows exactly what I mean if I shout, ‘sweet niblets!’. I truly believe that I will forever find solace in the world’s greatest creation, Hannah Montana, and I encourage everyone to join me in reliving their youth in Miley’s fabulous world.
Becky Gelder – M.I. High:
Anyone who knows me well will be well aware that I constantly joke about wanting to become a spy (I have not quite decided if I am really joking or not yet though…), and I can pretty much trace that desire back to M.I. High.
The intrigue, flashy pencils and secret spy HQ hidden under Saint Hopes high school definitely made the double life these teenagers were living seem even more appealing: balancing their school studies and spy duties kept everything constantly on edge.
Having to foil the plans of the Grandmaster (Julian Bleach) and his rabbit General Flopsy on a daily basis, series one’s Rose (Rachel Petladwala), Blane (Moustafa Chousein-Oglou) and Daisy (Bel Powley) faced numerous dangers with the help and guidance of their mentor Lenny (Danny John-Jules).
While it’s very easy to treat a show like this as a bit of a laugh, the role models it provided no doubt had a profound effect on young people. Being able to witness a mixture of intelligent, resourceful and confident teenagers work (mostly) as a team and subvert their high school stereotypes is everything seven-year-old me wanted to see. Well, that and the cool spy gadgets…
Jake Davies – Avatar: The Last Airbender:
Thanks to its recent re-release on Netflix, I have been able to experience one of my favourite childhood shows, Avatar: The Last Airbender, all over again. The best part is, it’s just as brilliant at 21 as it was back when I was 8. Dealing with a plethora of themes around war, loss, genocide, and morality across three seasons, ATLA feels just as relevant today as it did over a decade ago, with excellent animations supporting an action-packed and satisfying storyline.
It handles these complex themes with an impressive level of maturity for a kid’s programme, balancing these darker moments with the right amount of humour and positivity to create a feel good action-adventure which explores the reality and ethics of war and power. Character arcs, such as Prince Zuko’s, evolve naturally and thanks to the excellent finale, there is not a single disappointing conclusion to any of the narrative threads. It is a strong reminder of why I used to wish I was an Airbender as a kid – with a show as great as this, no wonder it has stuck with me all these years!
Emily Wallace – Phineas and Ferb:
As a child, my favourite show for years was the Disney Channel cartoon Phineas and Ferb. The premise was simple: two stepbrothers embarking on fun, wild adventures during the summer while their older sister tries to ‘bust’ their plans – not to mention the side-plot of their secret agent pet platypus fighting against his evil nemesis.
For me, Phineas and Ferb had it all; from compelling characters and storylines, to catchy songs (that I still know many of the lyrics to), and witty, at times absurdist, humour. I wanted nothing more than to join these characters on their exciting plans, whether it be building a time machine, or fixing an alien spaceship. Even now, I find myself quoting my favourite one-liners daily, and the plush toy of Perry the Platypus currently sat on my bed is a testament to how much I loved (and continue to love) this show.
Over lockdown, I found myself revisiting Phineas and Ferb, particularly with the recent release of a feature length film on Disney+, five years after the programme’s end. I was pleased to discover that it was still both enjoyable and clever when re-watching it from an adult’s perspective. Maybe I never had a summer quite like theirs, but the joy I felt watching it was enough for me.
Tamzin Meyer – Victorious:
Running home from school, I would put my things away and quickly switch on the TV, changing the channel to Nickelodeon in time to sing along to the Victorious theme tune; I can still remember the lyrics to ‘Make It Shine’, ten years later. Everybody I knew had wished they were living the life of a Hollywood Arts High School student. It really felt like Tori Vega (Victoria Justice) was living her dream: not many teenagers could say that Ke$ha had played a private concert at their home.
Most of all, I longed to have one of the pear-shaped phones that all the students had. They seemed so futuristic. My favourite characters had to be Cat (Ariana Grande) and Jade (Elizabeth Gillies). Jade was so cool, never letting anybody get the better of her whilst Cat was so full of energy, with her iconic laugh being a big part of the show.
Of course, as a big Ariana Grande fan, watching her grow up on our screens from playing the sweet, red-haired Cat Valentine to the pop-sensation that she is now is amazing to see. The show’s perfect mix of comedy, drama and musical numbers means that Victorious will always have a special place in my heart.