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Children's Television by Alistair McGown
Introduction Scheduling Puppets Merchandising Long-running Presenters
Drama Youth Imports Schools    
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Still from Tucker's Luck

Tucker's Luck (BBC, 1983-85)

The first British teenagers appeared in the 1950s. They were the first generation to dress noticeably differently from their parents and they listened to the exciting new rock'n'roll and pop music records.

The first TV shows aimed at teenagers were pop music variety shows like Oh Boy! (ITV, 1958-59) and Ready Steady Go (ITV, 1963-66). By the Swinging '60s British youth was celebrated around the world, and TV reflected this with a magazine covering wider teenage interests from fashion to relationships, A Whole Scene Going (BBC, 1966).

The new tastes and ideas of young people could upset and outrage older generations, so schedulers at BBC1 and ITV had difficulties finding space for youth programmes. Most ended up on BBC2, including Something Else (BBC 1978-82). If A Whole Scene Going reflected the vibrant optimism of '60s youth, Something Else covered the pressing issues of Thatcher's Britain, like massive unemployment among school-leavers, mixed with live music.

Drama Grange Hill (BBC, 1978-present) had covered several teenage topics and a spin-off series for slightly older viewers, Tucker's Luck (BBC, 1983-85) went further still. So too did Maggie (BBC, 1981-82), with plotlines including teenage pregnancy. The Schools series for sixth formers, Scene (BBC, 1968-97) tackled many such issues in one-off plays. ITV struggled to schedule teen dramas like Jangles (ITV, 1982), which ended up ignored when bracketed with regular children's teatime programmes.

The coming of minority channel Channel 4 in November 1982 solved this scheduling problem, and an early youth hit was rough and ready music magazine The Tube (1982-87). Network 7 followed (C4 1987-88), with an emphasis on youth issues and sensationalist journalistic scoops. BBC2 poached Network 7's creator Janet Street-Porter to develop similar programmes under the Def II banner. Network 7's journalistic aspirations were abandoned in late night, bad taste successor The Word (Channel 4, 1990-5). Relentlessly shocking for its time, it was designed to capture young audiences home from the pubs.

The acid colour schemes, info overload and fast pace of the '90s youth shows has filtered through to mainstream TV, influencing the style of everything from news graphics to daytime magazines. Youth programmes can now be found on any number of specialist satellite channels, from MTV to E4.

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