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We watched this with fascination. There was no talking, only some sign
language for the deaf.
The highlight was the Gallery, a look at the best paintings that kids had sent in that week, accompanied by some addictive soft glockenspiel music. It was always my ambition to get a painting on and see my name on the telly, but I was too afraid to send one in. I used to wonder about all the kids who didn't worry about sending in total rubbish. Maybe I was different.
You never quite knew what was going to happen on this programme. There'd be some animation, and a regular sketch featuring a rigid man in a white lab coat and a Hitler hairstyle, called the Professor, who used to cause general chaos by carrying ladders about. It was all silent and surreal. We watched open-mouthed, not quite knowing what to make of it.
Tony was a genial and benign white-haired fellow, perhaps a bit fussy in the way he dealt with his pots and utensils, but we liked him all the same. We had complete confidence in whatever he started to do, with whatever bizarre materials and however incomprehensible it seemed at first, we knew he would end up with something ingenious.
It was an ingenious programme, that instilled a sense of freedom and originality in us. Good to grow up with.
Vision On ran from 1964 to 1976 under various directors and was
broadcast in many countries. It made TV artist Tony Hart, an
The format had minimum speech as it was primarily aimed at deaf children but instead played legendary jazz themes including 'Leftbank 2' which was used for the 'gallery' where viewers drawings and paintings were shown each week.
There were 260x30 minute episodes, a composite of ideas and people, backed by a very good production team. Ben Benison and legendary co-host Pat 'None of your pictures can be returned' Keysell, both worked with Tony Hart on the series as did Sylvester McCoy of Dr Who fame.
It won many prestigious awards (including a Bafta) and was a starting ground for those behind the now world famous Aardman Animations amongst others. It also starred David Cleveland (better known as 'The Prof') and the famous 'Suzanne & Humphrey'. Humphrey was a tortoise and is the main reason why even today, many tortoises go by this name.
It also has a fan site of its own which documents the history and those behind Vision On. More information can be found on Tony Hart's own website.
This show was made with deaf children in mind. The presenters always signed what they were saying It was ahead of it's time I guess Tony Hart could make the most amazing pictures appear out of the biggest messes
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The sad death was recently announced of Pat Keysell, one of the
presenters of the groundbreaking B.B.C. children's programme 'Vision
On', which ran from 1965-76. Originally intended for deaf children (
and devised by Patrick Dowling ), it evolved into a programme that had
everyone watching for different reasons. Pat communicated to the
audience using both speech and sign language, the latter we see all the
time now on the news but which was very rare then.
The programme itself skilfully blended animation with live material. It was very visual, almost psychedelic at times. Stock characters developed, such as 'Jonah', a little cartoon man who became the show's figurehead in its early years, invisible creatures called 'The Burbles' who lived in a grandfather clock ( and communicated in speech bubbles ), 'Humphrey Umbrage' the tortoise and his owner 'Suzanne', a strange furry thing that used to zip about which Tony Hart would try and catch ( and never succeeded ), a digging workman who kept finding odd things each week at the bottom of a pit, and of course, 'The Prof'. Played by the talented David Cleveland, 'The Prof' was a crazy figure in a white coat who appeared in sped-up film sequences similar to those in 'The Benny Hill Show', and backed by the theme to I.T.V.'s 'Jokers Wild'.
Each programme was built around a theme, such as 'lines' and 'pipes'. Wilf 'Makepeace' Lunn provided batty inventions, and mime artist Ben Benison was a regular for years, replaced later by future 'Dr.Who' star Sylvester McCoy. The latter's character lived in a world where time ran in reverse ( an idea later appropriated by 'Red Dwarf' ) and who entered Hart's art room by stepping through a mirror.
Probably the best remembered feature was 'The Gallery' in which viewers' pictures ( and sometimes, home movies ) would be displayed. Pat would say each week: "We cannot return any of them, but we give a prize for all those shown.". I sent in loads over the years, none were ever featured.
Speaking of pictures, the show's other main star was the great Tony Hart, of whom Jack Dee once said resembled 'Benny Hill on Valium'. He was amazingly talented, and watching him conjure up marvellous works of art in a matter of seconds was indeed a real treat. Thanks to the magic of television, said pictures would then come to life.
'Vision On' was like a rich fruit cake, full of delicious ingredients. You never quite knew what was going to happen next. Even the Daleks from 'Dr.Who' turned up one week ( they had probably heard McCoy was around ).
Music was another important ingredient of the show's success. The library tracks were well selected. The show's logo was a strange grasshopper-like creature whose body was formed from the show's title pushed onto its side.
'Vision On' won numerous awards, and gave birth to a spin-off - 'Take Hart'. In recent years, we have seen B.B.C.-4 documentaries on classic children's shows such as 'Jackanory' and 'The Magic Roundabout'. That one was not done for 'Vision On' ( when Hart and Keysell were around to contribute to it ) seems a bit of a shame.
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