Boys Costumes Depicted in Television Shows: England

Figure 1.-- A magician from another planet teaches at a British prep school. "Mr. Majestik" features children in their prep school uniforms during the 1970s.

Britain was the first country to launch regular daily begin television transmissions. We have noted several English programs which illustrate English children's clothes. English clothes at the turn of the century are shown in 1900 House (1999). Clothing in the inter-war era are shown in Up Stairs, Down Stairs (1970s?). Clothing styles in the 1970s and 80s are shown in East-Enders. The long running Coronation Street has also provie glimpses of contemporary clothes over an extened period. Individual productions of Dickens classics and other title such as Little Lord Fauntleroy have provided iseful glimses in period costuming. (The non-serial TV productions are included in the movies section.) Many children's classics have been made into popular childrens shows, such as the Famous Five. There was also a delightfull show set in a prep school, although the name eludes me at this time. Another interesting series was Mr Majestik.

English Television

Britain was the first country to launch regular daily begin television transmissions. The BBC began these transmissions in November 1936. Few English people had TV sets at the time. The transmissions were suspended in September 1939 on the outbreak of World War II. Television was not an impirtant factor in most people's lives until the mid-1950s. It was Queen Elizabeth II's cornanation in 1953 that caused many to buy a set so they could have a look. English viewers for many years watched television rather as they had listened to the radio. TV viewing was likely to be scheduled. Viewers would only turn on the set for specific programs. As there were only a few stationms, and broadcasting had limited hours, it was possible to determine what was on offer with a very quick glance at the paper or Radio Times. Many older viewrs still watch television in this way. Today of course, the in many households is often kept rinning throughout the day, often even whern it is not being watched. Some will leave it on while preparing dinner, doing housework, preparing meals, doing homework, chatting on the phone, working on the computer. etc. Color television arrived in Britain during 1967. Viewing hours were still very limited even in the 1960s. There were no late night broadcasts and even during the day there were scheduled breaks. Unfortunately most of England's early television programing is completely lost. At the time few producers realized the potential commercial value of rebroadcasting programs in the future. Most programs were broadcast live and not recorded. At the time, the only way of recording a program in a quality that could be rebroadcast was film. But this was prohibitively expensive to both do and archive. As a result, not only has the commercial value of early television lost, but also a potentially valiable source of ciltural and historic value. Video taping was not introduced until the mid-1960s, but was also at first expensive. Often only samples or excerpts were archived and tapes reused for other episodes and programs. Programs were not routienly taped and archived until well into the 1970s.

Notable Series

We have noted several English programs which illustrate English children's clothes. Here are some of the English TV series that we have found particularly notable. We have not necesarily selected the best produced or most popular series, but rather those that have provided the most useful insights into boys' clothing. Many of the TV series we have noted in HBC are American. Most of the other are English. A few countries have produced a small number of series (Australia ad Canada). With few exceptions, England is one of the few countries that have produced notable TV series.


From an early point the BBC began producing specials. We are not sure when the first specials appeared. But most Brits did not purchase TV sets until 1953. The occasion of course was Queen Elizabeth's coronation. This was probably the first major special. Specials can be produced for various reasons, such as special events or popular shows. The most important specials by far are seasonal rhemed programs. There have been some specials for News Years and Easter, but by far the most importnt have been Christmas themed specials. The same is the case in America and Germany. As the other networks appeared in Britain we see the same trends. The specoals tend to prominntly feature children as Christmas is such a family themed holiday. Some of these specials re vriety shows hosted by popular show business figures. Others are shows with traditional stories or new stories. Some actually depict the Biblical Christmas story.


HBC readers have provided a range of opinions about British TV.

An American view

An American teenager visiting England write up this assessment of English television, "Television:: Let's talk television for a moment. British television (in my opinion) is nothing compared to American TV. Sure, they do a fair job, but it's just not the same. I think that's why we all gravitated to SkyOne, which showed American TV. We saw The Simpsons, The Nanny, Star Trek, Married with Children, America's Dumbest Criminals, South Park, and many other MERICAN TV shows on SkyOne. The British stuff was mainly on BBC 1 and 2. One show that I saw on BBC 1 during its CBBC programming period (programs for children) was a game show called 50/50. This was a show where two school groups played against each other to win something for their school. They did various "physical challenges" (borrowing a term from "Double Dare" here), plus they answered trivia questions. In the episode I saw, the two schools battling it out were "Callendar" and "Moffat". I believe that Callendar won the game, and they won a computer and some software for their school. However, one thing that you won't find in the U.S. are the British commercials, because we crank out enough commercials to last until we have to worry about a "Y3K" bug. {HBC note: I think the point here is that the British commercials are more imaginative and humerous.] But here's one sound clip from a commercial where it was like one of those operations where one person is fed orders from someone else. This was about the older brother having his younger brother prepare a TV dinner and bring it to him. At the end, the little brother is holding up the antenna, and says the quote duplicated here right before the commercial fades to black. "My arm hurts!" Another commercial featured three Mounties standing on a stage wearing nothing but their hats. Thankfully, you couldn't see anything. These three were advertising some kind of fruit drink. The drink was low in calories, "so we can stay firm ... (camera moves down the body, stopping at the stomach) where it counts!" At this point, the man pats his stomach."

Another American view

Personally I prefer British TV. The adults programs are smarter and better written. They tend to be lower budgets and thus don't have the glossy look of American programs. I find recent British programs are becoming more like the American ones. THey are bigger budget glossier programs but the scripts are not nearly as interesting as the older programs. Our Argentine reader is quite correct about American children's programming. Its dreadful. And the commercials are only one of the problems. There is one exception, however, which is Publos Television (PBS). The PBS children's programming like Seasame Street is quite good. My major criticism of British TV is the BBC and the oftenly stridently ideological presentation. There is a lack of ideological ballance in British news programming.

An English view

I was most interested in the comments posed by your American reader re British and American Television. However, I do take exception when he says. "British television (in my opinion) is nothing compared to American TV. Sure, they do a fair job, but it's just not the same." I wish to point out that British Television is regarded as the world's best especially when it is directed toward children. Over here we have what is called the "watershed" in that all TV programmes screened before 21:00 hours are supposed to be free of any bad language or explicit sex references. One example of a fine British children's TV show is "Blue Peter" a magazine programme which has been running since 1958 and one I grew up with. The programme was originally transmitted twice a week, but has in the past few years been extended to three days. The programme does a great job especially at Christmas with its appeals in which children send in anything from old clothes to milk bottle tops in order to provide such things as guide dogs for the blind or riding fascilities for the disabled. Another feature of this programme is its annual summer break in which the presenters visit a foreign country where children are shown cultures which are totally alien to them. Another thing about British TV is that BBC-1 and BBC-2 are free from advertising, here again on the channels that do take advertising it is strictly controlled in that any advertisement for a particular toy for example, must now show the price, whereas, at onetime this was deliberately left off the advert in order for the child to pressurise the parent into buying the product, even if they couldn't afford it. It must be very frustrating for American viewers to see so much advertising in the space of a 25 or 50 minute slot. We have our commercial breaks, say one in a 25 minute slot and perhaps three in a 50 minute one.


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Created: August 24, 2001
Last updated: 8:29 AM 5/17/2018