Play School

Like most people my age I watched Play School when I was a kid.  I mainly remember that it was dull, had soft toys, oddly shaped windows, and a catchy theme tune.

An article in an issue of the Listener of 1982 features the host.

It seems strange that I have no memory of this man, because based on this photo alone he appears to be fairly memorable.  He was Barry Dorking, and he had theatrical training…


Well, if you insist, but in my opinion there are a lot sillier things to be than a wicker basket.

The writer of the article notes that Play School is calmer than “frenetic buzz-slap-kapow style of Sesame Street.”  I was more of a sucker for the buzz-splap-kapow style as it turned out.  A while ago I was looking at the Listener from 1973 and Sesame Street was being discussed as a new and displeasing trend in television called “children’s television”.  Opinion among educational braniacs in New Zealand decided that children’s TV was a bad thing because it was passive and children could only learn by being active.  Thankfully educational experts are ignored as a matter of routine.  I myself watched countless hours of TV growing up and aside from an overwhelming desire to sit on couches doing nothing but stuffing my face with crap, and a very short attention span, there has been no major psychological damage to me (that cannot be treated with harmless sedatives). 

20 thoughts on “Play School”

  1. I found myself completely sucked into this video, despite that we never saw this show in the US. Perhaps it’s because Humpty is a dead-ringer for a similar stuffed character that appeared on an American kids show…The Polka Dot Door, I believe.

    I could not read the wicker basket part without stopping to plot out exactly how I’d portray a wicker basket.

  2. Wow, that was pretty bizarre for a Brit like me… I had NO idea that Play School had been exported across the world like that… quite bizarre LOL I can remember seeing it as a small child but I can’t say it was a favourite LOL

  3. Ah Playschool. Arrived a bit late for me but my elder daughter got to enjoy it for several years before it finished. We have our own version of all the toys at our place still. Rebecca leant her first Te Reo watchin Playschool, and could count and knew all the colours in Te Reo before she started pre-school. I learnt with her. Also some great story books read on that show. I have so many videod copies of it still in my media cabinet.

    The Aussie version of Palyschool is still going strong.

    Shame about what they supposedly did to Little Ted eh? How awful blowing up a kids toy like that. Sadistic studio crew!

  4. Yeah, I had the same reaction. I figured it would be easy to do the sides of a basket, but how to represent the bottom?

  5. I know. What the hell were they thinking? I guess that’s just how they rolled at TVNZ back then.

  6. It said in the article I read that they even exported the scripts from the BBC, and then each country slotted in some local content.

  7. There is a boom operator somewhere in New Zealand who still wakes up in cold sweats everynight remembering what he did. The horror. The horror.

  8. Hmmmm…. interesting… even at a young age I used to wonder where they got the name Hamble (Hambel?) from for the doll… who thought of that? But then, if J M Barrie can invent the name Wendy to fulfill their needs, I guess the creators of Play School can too LOL

  9. I grew up with the Aussie version and had no idea it was anywhere else either. It was ehere Noni Hazelhurst got her big break, and I remember in the 80’s my flatmates getting all excited over Miss Jane!

  10. Noni Hazelhurst? This requires a Google.

    I see. Most recently she seems to have done a reading of Go the F&$k to Sleep… gold.

  11. Hamble didn’t make it to the New Zealand version. Instead we had Manu, a Maori doll. It’s just as well – from all accounts, no one liked Hamble. An English woman once told me when she was a child, she wished Hamble would die.

  12. When I was in Dunedin in 2009, I visited the Otago Settlers Museum. They have a headless Little Ted, a proto/stunt Humpty, and Grubber the Kiwi who joined the show in its later years – photo.

    Also, you don’t remember Barry Dorking? He was the source of great comedy in my childhood, mainly because of his hilarious name and also his resemblance to a teacher at my primary school. There was a rumour that Barry’s daughter was soooo embarrassed that her dad played with dolls on TV every day.

    The only other Play School presenters I remember are Rawiri Paratene (!) and Winsome Decker, mainly because she had a cool name.

  13. Yeah, I watched those clips. Maybe I remember Rawiri. I think that my attention was on the soft toys.

  14. I thought of that similarity, too. Only Polka Dot Door – and its follow up, Polka Dot Shorts – are Canadian.

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