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Tiswas

From Academic Kids

Tiswas was an anarchic Saturday morning children's British TV show which ran from 1974 to 1982. It also had a fanatical following among students and parents. The name reputedly stood for one of:

  • 'This Is Saturday, Wear A Smile',
  • 'Today Is Saturday, Watch And Smile',
  • 'Today Is Saturday, What A Shambles'.

It was originally produced as a Midlands region programme by ATV and was first shown on 5th January 1974. Within a couple of years it had been taken up by most of the ITV network. Most famously hosted by Chris Tarrant between 1974 and 1981, and later Sally James, it also featured the young Lenny Henry and Jim Davidson together with Bob Carolgees and his puppet, Spit the Dog. John Gorman, former member of 1960s cult band The Scaffold - was also in regular attendance.

The show was a stitch together of competitions, film clips and pop promos held together by sketches from the cast. The show regularly featured spoof of BBC Children's programming.

A feature of the show was the cage wherein initially the child audience, and later their fathers, were confined and periodically doused in water (one spin-off of the show was the hit Bucket of Water Song, performed by the Four Bucketeers), while the show was also frequently visited by the Phantom Flan Flinger who would throw the eponymous flans around the studio at all and sundry.

A magazine counterpart was produced with interviews with cast, quizzes and letters.

In 1981 there was a restructure of ITV broadcast franchises and ATV was replaced by Central Television. Tarrant left and for two years the series was led by James with comic Fogwell Flax, DJ Gordon Astley and singer Den Heggarty.

In 1982 Tarrant, Carolgees, Gorman and Henry later hosted a late-night show - with the up and coming comics Alexei Sayle and Helen Atkinson Wood called O.T.T. (standing for "Over the Top") which was effectively an "adult" version of Tiswas - in other words, it attempted to be just as anarchic but with swearing and occasional topless women - but it was not such a success and is today only remembered for the naked 'Balloon Dance' performed by The Greatest Show on Legs, including Malcolm Hardee. A second attempt at the "O.T.T." format a year later, 'Saturday Stayback', was also unsuccessful.

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