Did we like it?
A pleasant skip down memory lane in which the subtle skills of storytellers such as Kenneth Williams and Tony Robinson delighted, but by the end we had remembered why we rarely watched it during our childhood.
What was good about it?
• Kenneth Williams and his supple face. During his tale about a queen and her dribbling teapots he distinctly characterised each role through his voice – where he would elongate vowels, adopt different accents or rolling his consonants – and also his face – which would contort with unique specific elasticity for each individual in the story.
• Judi Dench’s contrasting calmness during which she looked as though her body from the neck down had been paralysed.
• The illustrations of Quentin Boyle that meandered across huge walls.
• Tony Robinson revolutionising the whole of Jackanory with his colloquial versions of the legends of Greek heroes Theseus and Odysseus. The best clip was when Tony was embroiled on a harbour front somewhere and was passionately telling the story while all about him the local Darby and Joan club looked on utterly bemused.
• Rik Mayall’s manic telling of George’s Marvellous Medicine which was indelibly classic children’s TV as it passed the litmus test of provoking parents to complain. Some moaned that the tale was disrespectful to old ladies, while one was aghast when her offspring tossed all the ingredients of the Medicine into a bath, including paint stripper, ruining the bath as a consequence.
What was bad about it?
• The doctored images of the halcyon days of the 60s, in which small children would gather obediently around a television and marvel with good-natured awe at the programmes.
• Jane Asher looking suspiciously younger now than she did when telling a story in 1981.
• Jackanory Playhouse, the Voyager to Star Trek’s Next Generation in that it stretched the fabric a littler too tightly and was let down by poor special effects and ropey storytelling.
• The longer the evening wore on, the more that petulant impatience of yore returned as we found ourselves fidgeting uncomfortably. And we realised that Jackanory is how adults would like children’s stories to be told, but it’s rarely exciting enough for the hyperactive kids themselves.