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 PRE-SCHOOL PROGRAMMES

“ …Rick has done an excellent job. His writing is very precise and witty …Rick is very gifted and I think Big Bag is lucky to have his talents.”

That’s what Brett Pierce, VP of Children’s Television Workshop, wrote to the producer of the pre-school show Big Bag, when I adapted the programme for British television. It may seem immodest to use it here but hey, it’s not often producers commit their appreciation of a writer to paper! And praise from the producers of Sesame Street is something I’m very proud of.

From 1981 through to 1998 I wrote virtually all of Yorkshire TV's pre-school output for the ITV network, as well as some for Granada. The closure of YTV's Children's Department put an end to that, but I carried on working in the genre with series for Five and, mosty recently, CBeebies. In all, I’ve written over 500 programmes for pre-school children, and these are some you may have enjoyed:


GET UP & GO! (ITV)

The first pre-school series I ever created, and one that became a cult with students. It ran from 1981 to 1983, a grand total of 89 programmes - and I wrote the lot, apart from the children’s stories in the middle, which were written by the wonderful Shirley Isherwood. The programmes starred Beryl Reid (and were fondly remembered in her autobiography “So Much Love”), Stephen Boxer and the anarchic puppet Mooncat. It was little wonder that Mooncat was so manic – the puppeteer was David Claridge, who developed the character of Roland Rat while he was working on this series. There was a song in every episode with lyrics by me and music by Stephen Boxer.

MOONCAT & CO (ITV)
A spin-off from Get Up and Go! – with Stephen Boxer, but without Beryl Reid, who was working on Smiley’s People, and David Claridge, who was creating headlines with Roland Rat. Another puppeteer took over the role of Mooncat and the show ran for 33 episodes from 1983 to 1984. Again, I wrote them all, Shirley Isherwood wrote the children’s stories and Stephen Boxer and I provided the songs.


PUDDLE LANE (ITV)
Sheila McCullough had written a hugely-successful series of Puddle Lane stories for Ladybird Books, and I was commissioned to create a TV series around them, which ran for 104 episodes (all written by me) from 1985 to 1988. I borrowed the character of the Magician from the books, then added a supporting cast of characters like Toby Spelldragon, Mr Hooter the owl, Snodgrass Snake, Cauldron and Auntie Flo. Each episode had a completely original storyline, with a Puddle Lane story dropped in the middle, plus a song, for which I wrote all the lyrics and the legendary Neil Innes (who played the Magician) wrote the music. The main puppeteer was Richard Robinson.
 
ALLSORTS (ITV)
This was my first experience of working on someone else’s series. Allsorts was an established Granada TV pre-school series, and I was asked to contribute seven episodes in 1989. One of the actors was Wayne Jackman, who was later to become a writing colleague on various children’s series for PeakViewing International (see Children’s TV page).

THE RIDDLERS (ITV)
This was a mammoth series which ran for nearly ten years between 1989 and 1998; there were 226 episodes in all, I wrote every single one, and I’m still wondering how I did it! Some relief came from the fact that each episode contained a children’s story of some kind, many of them written by Shirley Isherwood. Other former colleagues that I teamed up with again on this series were Neil Innes, who wrote the music to my lyrics (one song per episode), and Richard Robinson, who made the puppets and operated them alongside Mike Gallant. The puppetry was really inventive on this show, and if you’d like to read about how Mike managed to operate one of his characters in the middle of a cricket pitch, and how I ended up as a character in one of the programmes, then click here for a story from the Yorkshire Evening Post – November 7 1994.

Riddlers videos and DVDs were issued, and I also wrote six Riddlers reading books for the educational publishers Schofield & Sims.



BEACHCOMBER BAY (Five)
This was a series written by several different scriptwriters, and I was commissioned to contribute 9 episodes in 1999.
 

HAPPY MONSTERS (Five )
Happy Monsters was the series which reunited me with David Claridge, aka Mooncat and Roland Rat. David devised, produced, directed and did the puppetry for the programme (busy boy!), as well as writing some of the shows – which just left me the small matter of 29 episodes to write in 2000/2001.
CARRIE & DAVID’S POPSHOP (CBeebies)
In 2007 came a phone call out of the blue - would I be interested in being part of the writing team for a new 30–part CBeebies series about music and the creation of songs, starring Carrie and David Grant? Wouldn’t I just! I was initially commissioned to write 3 episodes, but when I delivered my first one, the commission was upped to 6 - which I have to admit was pretty gratifying.

  CHUGGINGTON (CBeebies)
Made by Ludorum for CBeebies, Chuggington is hugely popular, so in 2011 I was delighted to be contracted to write my first script for the show: a Badge Quest episode entitled "Wilson's Winter Feed", which was first transmitted in February 2012. A commission to write a full episode for the new 2012 series, "Backup Brewster", followed in the autumn, and I have just finished my latest episode, provisionally entitled "Wilson and the Firechugger".