TV (Pt. 1): Mathilda Junkbottom.

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When I was very little, most of my TV-watching was on one of three channels: TV Ontario, CBC, or PBS. On sick days, if I timed it right, I could watch Sesame Street three times in one day, one U.S. episode and two Canadian ones. (The very Canadian ‘Sesame Park’ was invented later – the Canuckistani Sesame Street we got in the early 80s was the same as the American one, except shorter, and the language lessons were in French, not Spanish.)

That makes it sound like I spent my whole childhood in front of the TV. I didn’t; I was outside a lot and would get so into books that I’d read them while walking down the street. But, like most kids and adults, I had my must-see programmes. My favourite of all when I was small was ‘Doctor Snuggles’, which was on Wednesday at 6:30 after ‘The Polka-Dot Door’. (There was a lot of British content on TV Ontario – we also got ‘Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings’, ‘Don’t Ask Me’, and ‘Gran’ (not ‘Supergran’, though), among other things.)

It was a seriously trippy show, involving an inventor (voiced by Peter Ustinov – who signed an autograph for my brother as Doctor Snuggles) who had a wooden, bicycle-powered spaceship, a talking duck umbrella/pogo stick, a best badger friend named Dennis, and acquaintances like tea-drinking camels who lived in the clouds. It was amazing. I would actually get upset when TVO wasn’t running it (only thirteen episodes were ever made) and put the traumatising ‘Fables of the Green Forest’ on instead. (Seriously, even Davros on ‘Doctor Who’ was half as scary.)

The amazing thing I learned recently is that two episodes were written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd (the man who invented QI). I’m astounded. It probably explains a lot about my sense of humour as well – I was groomed from age 4. Of all the trivia I’ve learned lately, this is probably my favourite bit. I don’t really have a conclusion here, except to say that this was the most memorable episode, one where water is being stolen, in some cases in cubes of liquid by winches, and the Doctor and his team have to investigate.

I know that there are probably literally thousands of Ontarians who would buy DVDs of this program (which still pops up on TVO from time to time), so I hope that we eventually are able to buy them in this region. YouTube doesn’t really do it justice.

They tried to bring the show back all modern-like, with jazzed up animation, a few years ago, but I’m pretty glad it didn’t take off. Thirteen episodes is the perfect number – any more and it probably wouldn’t have been beloved, nor as whimsically delicious.

The creator Jeffrey Kelly has a Doctor Snuggles website to peruse if you want to delight in the memories of one of the best kids’ television shows ever. It’s here.

5 thoughts on “TV (Pt. 1): Mathilda Junkbottom.

  1. Erica

    Okay, wasn’t there another weird Canadian kids show of that era involving a bicycle-powered spaceship (time-travel device)? The boy who rode the bike had a little sister, I think, and they both had to go on these adventures to fight the two adult male bad guys? Possibly with the cunning use of math problems? (Not Square One, which I loved dearly. Something very lower-budget). My google-fu is failing me.

    I have very fuzzy memories of all the trippy shows I grew up with, but there were many. MANY. I mean, House of Frightenstein let Vincent Price cackle at us! How could we ever sleep again? Even the song for “Once Upon A Time” (http://www.alboe.org/ouat.html) consistently made me cry: “Now poor Marion the Librarian/A prisoner she’ll stay/Until the witch is happy/And lets Marion go awaaaaaay.” She was a nice and pretty librarian! God, that witch was a total… witch.

  2. Katy

    I remember watching TV as a teeny tiny kid “in the country” (in English: during long visits to the family farm north of Montreal) and being sorely disappointed when the only Sesame Street on was French Sesame Street. I was confused about what exactly French was. I knew that some people in Canada spoke a different language, and that language was something called “French.” Sometimes my grandparents spoke a different language when they didn’t want us to understand what they were saying, so I got the idea that they were speaking this “French.” It was actually Yiddish.

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