During the afternoon of October 19th, 1968, the "Oebeler Omroep Voor Ontspanning Hoera" (O.O.O.H. for short) 'disrupted' the schedule of KRO television (who only had one Saturday a month set a side for airtime anyway). This 'pirate broadcaster' would regularly appear over the next four years (and suspiciously, always on the KRO's designated Saturday). It was an initiative of Koen de Graaf (Willem Nijholt) and Aagje Ritsema (Wieteke van Dort), the proprietors of the Oeh-Huis (a kind of boarding house where parents could place their children while they are abroad on business) but soon ended up in the hands of Oebele's hip young major Mayor Augustus Rozegeur (Herman Vinck). Making television was just one of the many 'theme-days' Koen & Aagje came up with to entertain the children in their care (others include Carnaval, Wild West, the seasons of the year, holidays etc).
The Oe-house was situated in Oebele, a small town known at the time as a haven for children. The place does not appear on any modern map of the Netherlands, but should be located on the river Oebele near Hoek van Oebele (probably somewhere near Hilversum). Shows were broadcast from a special broadcasting corner on the Oe-Plein. Comic relief was provided by Paulus the Postman (Ab Hofstee) and after a while local soccer hero (for FC Oebele) Billy Biggelaar (Rob de Nijs) also became a regular. Geesje Zoet (Marjan Berk) opened a Sweetshop on the Oe Plein, and each episode featured a plethora of original songs sung by the cast and children of Oebele (actualy Henk van der Velde's Children's choir). The story goes that there also were animated interludes written by children's author Imme Drost and animated by her husband Harry Geelen, with additional art by children from several Amsterdam schools (why not Oebele itself you may wonder?). But none of these survive to this day.
In fact, unsung genius Harry Geelen was the main driving force behind Oebele, writing every single episode and most of the songs, though he likes to point out that the memorable theme tune lyrics were written by director Bram van Erkel. All the music was provided by Joop Stokkermans, a lot of who's compositions have been finding there way into musicals and stage shows of late. 2006 saw a traveling 'childrens talent show' featuring music from Oebele touring all over the Netherlands. And there is more than enough material to chose from, since each edition of Oebele was jam packed with original songs.
Although popular enough to merit a guest appearance by Dutch soccer team Feyenord during it's heyday, not many people recall the existence of Oebele today (nor the location of Oebele or the river it was named after for that matter). This is because like so many television shows from that era, the tapes were wiped after the initial broadcast in order to be used again. Only the Wild West edition (Oebele City), the final episode (Kouwe Kermis) and part of a holiday edition have survived, along with a random bunch of clips and songs. Forty years on, even those who remember watching the show when they were little have difficulty recalling exactly what it was about. The few who do remember, are usually the proud owner of one (or more) of the four long playing records released at the time. Recently however, digital channel /Geschiedenis broadcast practically every remaining scrap of Oebele they could find in the television archives of Beeld & Geluid, so there's still proof that Oebele is not entirely gone and forgotten.
The 31st and final broadcast was screened in December of 1971. Apparently the KRO finally had enough of pesky interruptions to their broadcasting schedule. Willem Nijholt had already left the show at this point, making way for Rob de Nijs to step into the leading man position and Wieteke van Dort was trying to hide a pregnant belly. But, since the KRO still had the children's choir under contract, Harry Geelen was asked to come up with a replacement show to feature a group of about 25 children (and give them ample opportunity to sing). He promptly provided them with the legendary fantasy series "Kunt U Mij De Weg Naar Hamelen Vertellen, Meneer". Oebele regulars Rob de Nijs and Ab Hofstee were joined by Martin Brozius (who guest starred in the Oebele finale) in this new enterprise while Oe-leads Wieteke & Willem featured in supporting parts (in series 4 and 5 respectively). As with Oebele, most of the Hamelen episodes were wiped and lost forever, but this series became even more popular and is even more fondly remembered today. It never would have existed if not for Oebele.
8 out of 10
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