If you grew up in the 90s, you’re in for a nostalgia trip in the first installment of ‘This Week In Weird.’ This is a segment where I write about the weirdest things I’ve come across in my daily internet browsing.
For those of you who watched CITV (ITV’s children’s slot) in the mid-90s, it’s likely you’ll remember the show: Wizadora, following the adventures of a young wizard in training. Her friends included: Hangle, a talking coat-hanger, Tatty Bogle – a cowardly scarecrow and Filbert – a talking vegetable who was also training to master magical power.
Anyone well acquainted with ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ or ‘WorzelGummidge’ might understand the suspension of disbelief required for the fantasy world of Wizadora, so this was ideal TV for anyone interested in the weird and wonderful before the dreadful onslaught of Harry Potter.
But what most people don’t remember is Wizadora was originally a schools’ programme, commissioned by Oxford University Press (OUP) in 1991 to teach basic English language and literacy. And this is where things get weird.
One of the show's minor characters was Phoebe, an anthropomorphic telephone fluent in nearly every language. The first episode of the OUP Wizadora covered her arrival at the young wizard’s house. Being such a low budget production, OUP had to use a real actress to play Phoebe. They obviously didn’t have a production team skilled in sewing to make convincing sock puppets either. Unlike the CITV version the ‘Drawer People’ in this series look like they were made from bits of old pyjamas found in a skip behind the television studios.
All in all, this version defines everything surreal about historical children’s television. Taking a nostalgia trip into this realm of childhood is certainly not recommended for the faint hearted. But if you did grow up with this version of the show and have many fond memories, enjoy.