RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES celebrates Creepy Kids Week with five examples aimed at younger viewers
Creepy tales were pretty ubiquitous on children’s TV in the UK throughout the 70’s and early 80’s. The BBC may have had the reputation for quality, but it’s easy to overlook just how good some of their commercial rival’s output could be, particularly in the field of children’s programmes. This was back in the days when ITV was made up of many regional companies, all competing to get their shows on the air, and intelligent writing in their drama output was the norm, rather than the exception.
Naturally, wherever there were creepy tales aimed at youngsters, creepy kids weren’t too far away, often with opening credits which were enough on their own to put the frighteners up you. These genuinely eerie shows would never make it past a children’s commissioning editor nowadays, for fear of getting irate parents up in arms, so enjoy a look at some of ITV’s best examples of the period.
Sky (HTV, 1975)
This strange alien visitor landed on our TV screens, and the earth tried to obliterate him, much as an immune system would fight a virus. HTV’s intriguing serial combined sci-fi with folk-horror elements, and made great use of locations in the company’s broadcast area, from Glastonbury to Stonehenge.
Children Of The Stones (HTV, 1976)
Also from HTV, this is almost a Wicker Man for younger viewers. Matthew Brake (Peter Demin) is the new kid in the village of Milbury (actually Avebury). On his first day at his new school, he encounters some super intelligent children who appear to be given preferential treatment by the teacher, the result of a mysterious force taking hold of the locals – and not just the kids…
Nobody’s House (Tyne Tees, 1976)
The Nobody of the title (Kevin Moreton) was so called because he was a ghost who couldn’t remember his own name. He died of plague in a Victorian workhouse, returning in the 1970’s to haunt a family, living in a house built on the same spot.
Come Back Lucy (ATV, 1978)
When young Lucy (Emma Bakhle) is bereaved and sent to live with her cousins, she has a difficult time. The good news is that she makes a friend in Alice (Bernadette Windsor). The bad news is that Alice has been dead for over a hundred years, is a nasty piece of work, and wants to drag Lucy back in time, to play with her for eternity…
Chocky (Thames, 1984)
In this adaptation of John Wyndham’s novel, Matthew has what at first appears to be an imaginary friend, but is actually a scout from another planet, searching for other worlds to colonise. When Chocky begins to communicate through Matthew, he develops amazing talents and intelligence, as well as an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything. Chocky’s Children (1985) and Chocky’s Challenge (1986) followed.
Got a vintage ITV fave I haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments section.
RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES lives with his wife close to the Dorset Coast. He spends far too much of his spare time watching horror films and listening to psychedelic music (sometimes simultaneously). He also writes on Movies, Music, TV and other matters for his blog, The Purple Patch. You can follow him on Twitter @PurplePatchBlog