Like many wildlife scientists and naturalists i got in to nature at a young age. I loved the outdoors, some of my favorite toys were garden tools and magnifying glasses so i could dig up worms and catch insects. I loved to watch ants, i was fascinated by their community structure, how they carried grains of sand and worked together. I looked at aphids on the willow tree we had in our front garden and constantly pestered my mother for a pet. I collected shells and broken egg shells and maybe tried a few sketchy insect dissections.
One of the places where i learnt the most was from kids TV, in particular The Really Wild Show, Blue Peter and How 2. I wanted to share some of my own memories while discussing the history and evolution of kids wildlife TV today.
Well before my time kids got excited about exploration of the world and the new and exciting discoveries with newspapers and radio. Expeditions like Scott’s famous Antarctic voyage got people excited about what was still to be discovered in this world, that there were still uncharted waters and they dreamt of joining them.
With the introduction of television and its widening distribution throughout the classes Zoo time hit our screens. Fronted by Desmond Morris the show followed the life of animals at London Zoo. This was closely followed by the infamous Zoo Quest which led to the rise in fame of our beloved Sir David Attenborough. Sir David ventured with Zoo staff around the world to film animals in the wild. The late Jack Lester really propelled Sir David in to the series creating the opportunities not only for Sir David to join the team but also due to unforeseen illness, led to Sir David getting the presenting gig.
During this time Blue Peter was also on our screens, this was not only aimed at getting kids to make household waste in to awesome toys, but also to introduce them to wildlife in your backyard and lovable pets. Blue Peter has gone on to become the longest running kids TV show ever and hosted by the likes of Tony Hart, Richard Bacon and Matt Baker.
Wildlife TV then took a more comical turn, in the 1960’s Animal Magic hit our screens. Set at Bristol Zoo (yes another zoo!) the show involved hilarious voice overs not dislike the more recent Creature Comforts TV show.
At this time wildlife shows were not only hitting our TV screens but also that of the cinema with underwater pioneer Jacques Cousteau. This later led to his TV documentary series that the likes on my grandfather and mother watched with awe and amusement.
The 80’s kicked of with Animals in action closely followed by the Really Wild Show! I literally loved this show, i was glued to the screen dreaming of the adventures i could have as a wildlife TV presenter. In the early years my i hold fond memories of Terry Nutkins with a severe lack of hair and Chris Packham with too much hair. Along with the really wild show my thirst for knowledge was satisfied by science shows like How 2. I always remember the iconic hand sign and Fred Dinenage’s classic glasses.
I carried on watching shows such as The really wild show and Blue Peter watching presenters come and go. I remember i idolized Michaela Strachan, she seemed so cool in her quirky clothes and blonde pony tail. I aspired to be that, knowledgeable and heard. It was about the age of 7 that i decided i wanted to be a marine biologist. I loved knowing how things work and the beauty of the natural world. I took up photography at a young age. i was constantly posting off films and i remember always using a particular brand which promised a free film each time you got photos developed to save on pocket money.
As i grew older i started to watch more and more nature documentaries, not just those aimed at kids. When we got sky TV when i was around 13 it was the best day of my like, National Geographic and Animal Planet filled my spare time, when i wasn’t outside of course. oh and i finally did get a cat!
However the face of kids TV has progressed, The Really Wild show continued until 2006 fronted by Michaela Strachan and Steve Backshall. Once it was over there was a new space in the children’s TV word, that’s when Deadly 60 was thought up which has propelled wildlife TV in to the 21st century and continued to inspire nature and adventure in to the hearts of kids all over the country.
And that brings us up until today, who knows whats next, it could be you!