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Hey kids, today we're going to learn how to write an article on TV Tropes using nothing but a keyboard, some sticky-back plastic and an empty washing-up bottle. But first, here's One I Prepared Earlier:
The show is best described as a "magazine show". The presenters (usually three or four these days) do a variety of different activities:
- Craft demonstrations, such as a papier-mâché Tracey Island.
- Presenters doing rather insane challenges. This will involve stuff like painting the Forth Bridge, military assault courses, or climbing Nelson's Column.
- How stuff is made.
- Meeting celebrities.
- Acting in panto(mime)s, historical re-enactments and original tales.
(They once managed to do an entire edition on the Young Bond novels, complete with performances of James Bond songs, and never showed a movie clip).
There are often performances by various people. Everyone who appears on the show gets a Blue Peter Badge, which allows free admission to a number of UK attractions. There are other types of badges, the most famous being the Gold Badge, given to people who have done something very special (presenters are now getting them on departure).
Every year, the team go on a Summer Expedition abroad. There is also the annual charity appeal, with the "totaliser" and the attendant "bring-and-buy sales" - usually, the charity appeals run on a biannual schedule of these and 'collecting X' , often things which can be reused, or recycled for monetary gain.
The show has a number of resident pets. The most famous of these was a dog called Petra (actually a substitute after the first dog died), whose death became national news.
The show has an extremely good relationship with Doctor Who:
- Presenter Peter Purves also played Steven Taylor, a companion to the First Doctor.
- Actress Sophie Aldred (who played Ace) was awarded a Blue Peter badge as a child, she later wore it as part of her costume (which caused something of a stir until it was confirmed that it was indeed Sophie's badge and not a prop).
- A 1973 edition contains the only broadcast footage of the First Doctor's regeneration and the show has made appeals for lost footage.
- During the 1970s, the show had a nationwide 'manhunt' for a group of criminals who stole a set of Daleks from the BBC. The Daleks were returned within 24 hours, in varying degrees of misuse.
- The show was featured on screen in "Aliens of London", and The Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Invasion of the Bane".
- The show ran the competitions to design the monster for "Love and Monsters" and the makeshift junk TARDIS for "The Doctor's Wife" and for an actor to appear in "Utopia". Said character then ended up Toclafaned off-screen.
- There's been quite a few Who-related crafts.
- Bits of Blue Peter are often included on the DVD releases of classic series stories as bonus clips, often featuring interviews with the actors or displays of relevant Who-mania.
- There's a myth that the last episode of "The Tenth Planet" and "Power of the Daleks" were lost by Blue Peter. However, what is true is the clip of William Hartnell's regeneration survives to this day because of Blue Peter.
There have been 32 presenters over the years. They include:
- Valerie Singleton
- John Noakes, the longest serving presenter, remembered for his collie and associated Catch Phrase ("Get down, Shep!")
- Peter Purves, a companion of the Doctor, as mentioned above.
- Janet Ellis, who also made a minor appearance in Doctor Who ("The Horns of Nimon"). Is the mother of pop singer Sophie Ellis Bextor.
- Sarah Greene. Also known from Saturday Morning Kids Show Going Live, and another Doctor Who actor (one of the Cryons in Attack of the Cybermen).
- Richard Bacon. For all the wrong reasons - see below.
- Mark Curry, a man who epitomised all that was tackiest about 1980's style and fashion. Once demonstrated some life-size human sculptures in lego bricks and suceeded in breaking the head off one, which rolled off accross the studio floor.
- Konnie Huq ("Huck") - having been on the show for a decade, she's apparently a major draw for students, for the rather obvious reason of her looks. On Mock the Week Dara Ó Briain implied she was attractive and got mocked for it for the rest of the episode. Left in 2008.
- Gethin Jones. Appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2007.
- Matt Baker. Strictly Come Dancing 2010 finalist, and thought by some the be Konnie's equal in the looks department.
- John Leslie, who's become something of a punchline due to losing a later job on This Morning over rape allegations and admitted drug use.
- Caron Keating, who sadly died young of breast cancer and left the presenting team having to explain the concept of death to a child audience. Not easy.
- Anthea Turner, whose TV career went stratospheric after leaving the show - the completely opposite trajectory to most ex childrens' TV presenters. However, once a household name who was on everything, the jobs have sadly dried up for her.
- Yvette Fielding, now reduced to presenting those suspicious haunted house shows shot in green infrared light, alongside a camp scouse "psychic" . Her role is to scream in terror at every creak and drip.
- Katy Hill, a statuesque lass who favoured very short miniskirts. This posed headaches for the cameramen doing low-level shots, say of the team together on the sofa. Even despite careful editing and chosen camera angles, her knicker flashes became a legend.
- Zoe Salmon, an ex Miss Northern Ireland, unkindly referred to as a blonde Barbie doll made flesh. Her moment of notoriety came when she expressed on-air fury about a graphic of the British Isles that showed Ireland as a united whole and did not adequately convey the seperateness of Northern Ireland. Worse, Ireland was coloured green. Wags suggested Orange Peter as an alternate name.By way of punishment, Zoe was sent to do a report on Irish traditional dancing - the sort which does not attract Protestants for long-established historical reasons - to indicate that the show was not and would never be sectarian.
- Michael Sundin, a rather fey former dancer who left BP very abruptly when tabloids outed him as not only gay, but a former porn performer and occassional rent-boy. He has since died of AIDS-related complications. Critics have wondered why his death was completely ignored, compared to the lengthy eulogy and obituary that Caron Keating deservedly received from the show.
- Tina Heath, who was asked to leave the show because she had become pregnant outside wedlock, had no intention of marrying the chap, and was therefore a Fallen Woman And Not The Sort Of Example, Good Lord, No.
- Diane Louise-Jordan, who joined some years after Heath's departure, represented a different emphasis. In the politically right-on caring 1990's, it didn't matter that D-L-J was an unmarried single mother, as she was also Black British, and the BBC had been ordered to be more inclusive to minorities. Diane-Louise became the first non-white Blue Peter presenter, just in time for the summer expedition to the Deep South of the USA...
- HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, was a guest presenter on the show between 1970-74, although she is not usually counted as one of the "official" thirty-two. A friend and fan of the show, Anne Windsor accompanied the then presenters out to Africa on a summer safari, generally enjoying herself in the company of the presenters, and being very good PR for the Royals. Princess Anne also reported on horsey matters for the show and very graciously gave riding lessons to BP presenters hitherto innocent of the charms of equine contact. Her association with the show diminished after marriage in 1974, but she has returned at intervals.
There have been a number of very notable moments:
- An elephant defecating on camera and walking out of the studio, stepping on John Noakes' foot in the process.
- Richard Bacon's sacking for taking cocaine, which resulted in a senior BBC official reading a live on-air apology and him being stripped of his Blue Peter badge.
- Vandals breaking into the Blue Peter Garden and wrecking it, which was treated on-air by the hosts with all the gravitas of a murder. (An American equivalent would be slashing Mr. Roger's tyres. You just don't do it.) The series Ashes to Ashes, about a cop who wakes up in the 1980's, features a Historical In-Joke where Gene Hunt turns out to be the vandal, destroying it while apprehending a suspect.
- In 2007 there was a handful of scandals about "rigged" audience participation events, including a child who was backstage apparently winning a phone-in competition when the lines went down; the decision to ignore an internet vote on the name of the new cat; and two actors being amongst the kids interviewing impressionist John Culshaw, to ensure the right sort of questions got asked.
At the time of writing, May 20th 2012, the BBC has announced the end for Blue Peter on mainstream BBC TV. The show is to leave its long-time home on the prestigious BBC 1 network (along with the last residue of childrens' shows in their traditional slot) and it is to be moved to one of the BBC's many digital channels, probably the CBBC childrens' network. This decision has caused comment and criticism, especially as the BBC, like ITV, proposes to fill the gap left by the departure of children's TV with some of those lovely quizzes and game-shows that are done to such wonderfully high production values. And so educational, too.... this follows on from the decision that after forty years, there will no longer be an annual tie-in book as kids just ain't so into words any more (ie, borderline illiterate). Is this the end for BP? The death of a thousand cuts?
This show contains examples of:
- Brand X: the show invented the phrase "sticky-backed plastic" (for Fablon and Coveron) and used "sticky tape" (for Sellotape). The show once did an entire feature on the production of Smarties, while never naming the product.
- Catch Phrase: "Here's one I made earlier" and "And now for something completely different". The former is rarely used now - it's that cliché - and the latter is far better known for its use on Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- Executive Veto: in the early 1960's, a new producer arrived who was destined to be a part of Blue Peter for well over thirty years. Presenters might come and go, but Biddy Baxter stayed. And stayed. And stayed. And stamped her personality on the show in a way that would have made Margaret Thatcher or Catherine the Great look conciliatory. Prior to Baxter, the show had featured up-and-coming pop groups in music slots. Biddy changed all this. She was damned if she was having any mind-corroding pop music on her educational and improving show for young people, and red-pencilled scheduled appearances by two quite popular new bands of the time - the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. No pop group ever again appeared on BP until the very late 1990's and Baxter's retirement, when rather camp act Steps became the house-band for a new generation.
- Executive Meddling: the aforementioned Biddy Baxter, a woman steeped in the Reithian concept of the BBC, as an organisation appointed to inform and to educate. Entertainment came a poor third down the Reithian list. Baxter's essentially benign, but still authoritarian, management of BP is said to be the biggest single reason why BP has lasted so long - it is viewed as an old-time quality product. It has been frequently commented on as to how "standards appear to have slipped" since Baxter gave up the reins.
- Getting Crap Past the Censors: Lesley Judd, a seventies presenter with a habit of wearing low-cut tops displaying decolletage, was holding two appealing juvenile dogs up to camera, close to the Judd chest, when her male co-presenter (possibly Peter Purvis) declared "Aren't they a lovely pair of puppies!"
- Similarly, Eighties presenter, the buxom Janet Ellis, was talking about the evolution of the humble doorbell - how do you tell somebody's at the door? - and demonstrating the devices mankind has used down the years. Cue co-presenter with "What a lovely pair of knockers!"
- Mood Dissonance: The cast's response to Katarina's death scene from The Daleks' Master Plan in the Tenth Anniversary of Doctor Who episode.
- Never Work with Children or Animals
- Nipple-and-Dimed: Anthea Turner once did a feature about training with Great Britain's Olympic high-diving hopefuls. Anthea allegedly has a reputation for being difficult and rather perfectionist with backroom staff such as cameramen and sound recorders. On this day, the cameramen took delight in filming her from unflattering angles, such as climbing the ladder to the dive platform in a one-piece bathing costume that was rucking up around her nethers in the classic "camel-toe". She was also filmed shivering in the cold with both visibly erect nipples making a very obvious point about the air temperature. All this suggests put-upon cameramen getting their own back on Madam.
- One I Prepared Earlier: The Trope Namer, from the above Catch Phrase.
- Panty Shot: In the late 1990's/early 2000's, when miniskirts were in fashion again, and presenters Katy Hill and Konnie Huq seemed to be in competition as to who could flash her knickers most often when sitting on the Blue Peter sofa. Just to make it more obvious, Katy appeared to favour what was otherwise a style solecism of wearing white knickers with black tights. She also had a habit of crouching or squatting when presenting to camera that made it difficult to conceal in a miniskirt.
- Shout-Out: On Monty Python, there was once a sketch featuring a spoof children's magazine programme, fronted by a keen but authoritarian John Cleese and a disconcertingly attractive looking Eric Idle in drag, called How to Do It ("And now, how to play the flute: just blow down one end and run your fingers up and down the outside").
- Sideboob exposure: Zoe Salmon became the first BP presenter to go topless in the history of the show, and quite possibly the first presenter to do so in the entire history of BBC childrens' broadcasting. This wasn't even with any high-minded purpose, such as education or art. The presenters were reproducing iconic images from the James Bond movies and it fell to the blonde and pneumatic Zoe to do the one where the girl is covered in gold paint. The Blue Peter Annual no. 36 records the completed image, with a gold-painted Zoe clearly topless in sideboob pose and a combination of hair and right arm covering the contentious bits.
- A Winner Is You: The 50th Anniversary of Blue Peter and what do we get? One very short montage and the other 44 minutes talking about McFly. We did get a cool book about it though.
- ↑ in 2009 it was T-shirts, used to make hospital gowns for kids with cleft lips and palates from India