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How / How 2 (1967-81, 1990-)

Courtesy of Endemol Worldwide Distribution Ltd

Main image of How / How 2 (1967-81, 1990-)
Southern Television for ITV
17 series of 240 episodes
ProducersStephen Wade
 Kevin Goldstein-Jackson
 Angus Wright

Cast: Fred Dinenage; Jack Hargreaves; Jon Miller; Bunty James

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The How team use fun and games to demonstrate scientific principles.

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How (ITV, 1966-81) was the idea of its long-standing presenter Jack Hargreaves - a one-off late night version begat the famous children's series. This was a miscellany of answers to the myriad questions posed by children; 'How do you get a ship into a bottle?' or 'How do you get a quart into a pint pot?' were typical queries.

The questions, both silly and taxing, were demonstrated using party tricks and wheezes, then explained scientifically to lend the programme an educational edge. What How lacked, up until its end in 1981, was the resources to best explain such principles. Being almost totally studio bound, whatever props were to hand were pressed into service - the programme rarely took advantage of television techniques such as graphics or animation. Brief location film reports were shot without sound, and even photographs were displayed by opening a book at the correct page.

The programme was still being recorded as-live by the late 1970s, the good-natured bonhomie of the presenting team being used to paper over the (many) cracks. Presenter Fred Dinenage was given the messier demonstrations on purpose - all the better if his attempts to place his weight safely on three eggs or try a potter's wheel ended in disaster. Most children ended up watching the show for the mistakes.

When Southern Television lost its franchise at the end of 1981, How (the franchise's longest running series) was axed. Southern's successor TVS revived the series as How 2 in 1990 (later series were produced by Meridian and Scottish TV). Fred Dinenage led a team that included Gareth Jones (aka Gaz Top), Carol Vorderman, Sian Lloyd and Gail McKenna in a run now almost as long as that of the original series.

(If you're still wondering how to get two pints into a one pint pot, slowly pour a pint of water into a pint glass filled with sawdust - the sawdust will absorb the water and still fit the glass.)

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
How strong is an egg? (3:12)
Factual Children's Television