By Shannon Guild
Let the challenge…. BEGIN! For many, “Hey, do you remember ‘Raven’?” stimulates memories of a perky American teen and her psychic so called adventures. Credit, where credits due, this cheesy sitcom has its place… way, way down in the Kid’s show archives!
No, I’m not talking about That’s So Raven. Unfortunate perhaps to share a name with such a pointless excuse for entertainment, CBBC’s Raven deserves first place – at least in the list of TV shows with birds in the title like Cuckoo Land or Thunderbirds. Swapping a chirpy squeak for a dignified Scottish accent is guaranteed to cure your bleeding ears in the morning before school (and after school, at the weekend, etc.). James Mackenzie, (who I definitely do not think is oddly attractive now I’m 21) knows the true meaning of adventure. Forget seeing the future: this Raven can read minds! He guides a group of participants (and a million odd kids across the country) into a make believe world. Like a real life video game, his 7 ‘warriors’ compete against each other in trial after trial. What child wouldn’t dream of fighting demons with slingshots and scaling giant spider’s webs?
If you’re still not convinced, take the show’s main features: rings and feathers. A kid’s show has to be good if it’s got rings and feathers! And these rings aren’t just any rings…they’re gold rings. Let’s rewind a decade or so and imagine 11 year old you running around in a forest collecting gold rings! Now you’re sliding your treasure into position on your own heraldic standard that displays your unique emblem. Even if you lose a life, the 100% genuine and not at all edited in special effects lightning that comes from Raven’s staff as he zaps it from your standard more than makes up for it.
I’m under no illusions, most of us were never lucky (or agile) enough to actually make it to the show. But come on… don’t lie to me… you must have at least once trashed the living room leaping from sofa to sofa to avoid perishing in “the way of the warrior”.
By Alex Fuller
I’m not entirely convinced that I’m not bending the rules here – I’m about to speak about my favourite children’s show, yet when I watched the show in question it certainly wasn’t really in my childhood… Horrible Histories, the award-winning book series by Terry Deary, definitely was a huge part of my childhood, something I can say without the faintest hint of cliché that shaped my love and comprehension of history growing up. It’s based on this very idea, of drawing young children into history in a fun and engaging manner just as I was, giving a broader view of historical periods while drawing you in with some of history’s more macabre details.
Fast forward a few years then, 2009 to be precise – my love of history, especially classical and ancient, has only grown as my shelves fill with the Penguin Classics, yet my (complete, yes complete) collection of Horrible Histories has not moved from its place, The Groovy Greeks and The Rotten Romans sitting side by side with Herodotus and Pliny the Elder. Imagine my absolute joy to hear the BBC were adapting the series into a kids’ show!
The format is simple, a series of sketches on quirky historical facts and significant or just plain funny historical moments, supported by details from the show’s presenter, all-knowing rat Rattus Rattus, and cleverly presented in a parodies of Panorama, The Apprentice, or even Masterchef (where the impression of Greg is so perfectly nailed). These moments in history are brilliantly brought to life by the show’s cast, comedic stars whose names, or at least faces, you’ll recognise underpinning many of the BBC’s comedy shows. The highlight of the episodes, its witty presenting aside, is without doubt the songs, pastiches of every genre imaginable that just work so well, and which I’ve sung with friends here Oxford more times than I can count!
It’s clear from the style and wit underpinning Horrible Histories that this is not just a show for children, but for adults to enjoy too – I don’t feel anything has quite proven the human fascination with gore or at least kids’ fascination with toilet humour more. I know I’m not alone in feeling that this wonderful show is undervalued, not just as a kids’ show, but as a genuinely brilliant comedy show. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have this amazing David Bowie parody I need to go watch on repeat…