A programme intended to teach preschool children starts with a deception. The hamster and crow as co presenters from 1974 series. Put a crow with a hamster and watch as the crow eats the hamster. This never once happens in the show. Children being shocked by the realities of the natural world and crying as Alice the hamster was torn apart is the probable excuse why this piece of education was never featured. They were also stop animation figures too which may have something to do with it.
The series in the 1970s was more of a documentary style showing features about moving house in the first episode or oranges in a subsequent one. The human presenters were voice overs in these segments before cutting back to Alice and Crow as commentators.
The show moved away from information style education to entertainment education when in 1979 the crow and hamster were sacked and replaced with a dragon. Like all dragons Duncan the dragon ran a shop. A messy shop which was not a good example for children. If the dragon can have an untidy room so can children would be the logic against parents. Duncan was a puppet instead of the earlier stop animation which means he was able to acquire a curly haired human compatriot. The show's atmosphere was more lively and entertaining than the earlier years and the documentary pieces were largely replaced with dragon and man performances as educational inserts. Still it didn't feel like any other children's' show. The content was for 5 year old but the style and atmosphere had more gravitas than many news programmes.
The dragon was evicted after only 2 years. A new approach to make it more relevant to children consisted of a new reggae song by UB40 and the introduction of inner city puppets Cosmo and Dibbs and their friends often at a market stall. Their human co presenters never asked what kind of species these various coloured foam Muppet style creatures were. It remains unclear what on earth they were. These foam puppets were more engaging than the wooden dragon and their interaction by having 2 or more, Baxter and Spike of them gave the show the popularity it had lacked.
The puppets all had distinct personalities. Gravel voiced Cosmo was the assertive one and confusingly with the voice was the girl puppet. Her brother Dibs was the cautious but timid and often mournful character.
The show provides a sociological study in its change of production starting with an educational programme designed for school: information, adult voice overs and its 2 animated characters in a news blank background. Then the dragon with human partner in a complete set as a means to make it more entertaining. With the final casting the show tries to reflect the experience of its audience by setting it in a market place, in an inner city with a variety of people which many children would have experienced unlike talking to a dragon.
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