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Take Hart (1977-83)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Take Hart (1977-83)
BBC Bristol, 15/02/1977-30/12/1983
102 episodes in 8 series, colour
Production CompanyBBC TV
ProducersPatrick Dowling
 Molly Cox
 Christopher Pilkington
 Jane Tarleton

Presenters: Tony Hart, Wilf Lunn, Colin Bennett (The Caretaker)

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Tony Hart presents art and craft ideas for viewers at home to try.

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This continuation of Vision On (BBC, 1964-76), retained Tony Hart's art and craft ideas and its creative, wacky animations but dropped the sign language elements aimed at deaf viewers. It also retained Vision On's 'Gallery' feature for viewers' paintings and borrowed the famous 'Left Bank 2' gallery music for Take Hart's first theme tune (Take Hart's gallery used Stanley Myers' 'Cavatina', theme to The Deer Hunter).

Events took place in Tony's loft studio overlooking the docks (of course just a set). Originally, Tony presented alone, with only animated clayman Morph and the occasional visit from Wilf Lunn to keep him company. While Tony's speedy working style kept the show pacy, this lack of interaction gave it a studious, quiet feel.

The introduction of caretaker Mr Bennett remedied this. Accident prone, and forever putting his foot in Tony's paint tray, the punning clown formed a slapstick double act, with Tony as his straight man ("What's a Greek urn?" "About 50 drachma a week!").

1980s graphics and a funky synth theme brought things up to date for revamp Hart Beat (BBC, 1984-93). Younger female assistants, including graphic artist Margot Wilson and painter Joanna Kirk, formed creative partnerships with Tony, while Mr Bennett continued to play the fool. When Colin Bennett later left to pursue writing projects, his place was taken by similarly bumbling tealady Elvira Muckett.

The last few series took a more serious approach, using Tony and Gabrielle Bradshaw as roving reporters investigating the role of art and design in daily life. Margot Wilson left to host Artifax (BBC, 1991-93), similarly examining design in action.

A desire for younger faces and the success of ITV rival Art Attack (ITV, 1990-) led to a fresh art series SMArt in 1994, with Hart edged out into weekend early mornings for The Artbox Bunch (BBC, 1995-96). SMArt (and the famous Gallery) has continued since, presented by comedy actor and cartoonist Mark Speight with assistants who have included Zoƫ Ball and Kirsten O'Brien. O'Brien joined Tony Hart to co-host SMArt Hart, a trawl through the Hart archives, in summer 1999.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. Magic water pictures (3:33)
2. Paper marbling (2:27)
3. The Gallery (2:38)
Complete episode: 'Water' (19:40)
Vision On (1964-76)
Hart, Tony (1925-2009)
Factual Children's Television