Playdays (known as Playbus until 25 December 1989) is a British pre-school children's television program that ran from 17 October 1988 to 28 March 1997 on Children's BBC (CBBC), and was aired in reruns until 2002 (From 2002 to 2004, reruns were aired on CBeebies). The show was the successor of Play School and, like its predecessor, was designed as an educational programme. The creator Cynthia Felgate had been executive producer of Play School.
After the show was dropped from CBBC on BBC1, reruns were shown on CBeebies from 2002, until repeats of the show were axed altogether by the BBC in August 2004. In 1989, the BBC insisted that the independent production company which made Playbus (Felgate Productions) change the programme's name, after they had received a complaint from the National Playbus Association.
The main characters of Playdays were puppets known as Why Bird (A Goldfinch, voiced and manipulated by Fiona Beynon Brown and later by Ellie Darvill), Sam Patch, who was later replaced by Peggy Patch (initially mute but later voiced by Sally Preisig) and Poppy, a cat (voiced by Sue Monroe).
They were also accompanied by Mr Jolly (Robin Fritz, later Clive Duncan and then Andy Hockley), who would usually end each programme with a song (usually a nursery rhyme). There were also a number of human presenters including Zoë Ball, Trish Cooke and Dave Benson Phillips.
The show would begin with an animated title sequence of the Playbus driving along to the theme tune until it reached the bus stop, where characters on the bus were Why, Peggy, Poppy, Dot, Humphry, Lizzie, Wobble and Mr. Jolly (From 1988 to 1991 Sam Patch was on the bus instead of Peggy, even though Peggy succeeded Sam in 1990, Mr. Jolly didn't appear on the bus until 1992 and Poppy didn't appear on the bus until c. 1994). The bus stopped at a different place each day. It was effectively several different television series, under one single branding.
The opening titles consisted of the programme's logo transforming into the Playbus, which would depart through a tunnel before stopping at traffic lights. The lights then changed from red & amber to green, and the Playbus drove on a road bypassing all the locations for the episodes - the Playground, the Lost Property Office (the WhyTech can be seen in a window), a billboard depicting Dot (1988-1991) and Rosie the Roundabout (1992-1997) and the Play Tent. It lastly pulls up at a lollipop bus stop, which whirs around to depict the day's stop.
The lyrics to the theme tune were as follows:
It's the Playbus!
But where does it go?
Where does it stop?
Watch for the sign on the lollipop!
... It's the ________ stop!
There were four versions of the theme tune. The first one was used until mid 1991, followed by the second one, which was used until early 1993, when the third and penultimate one was introduced that year. This version was used until the show's cancellation in 1997. There was also a fourth version of the theme tune, used in the 1997 video release Winter Adventure.
Monday – The Why Bird Stop. Why Bird lived at the Lost Property Office, where things that were left on the Playbus were filed until someone claimed them. She interacted with the human bus driver - there were several throughout the series. She had a special computer called the Why-Tech, which had a variety of uses, it could provide music for songs, pictures for stories, instructions for making something in keeping with the programme's theme, or to help sing a song (e.g. paper sugar buns for Five Currant Buns). In later series, the office became more like a warehouse, called "Why's Supplies".
It also showed videos, usually to show how everyday things were made - socks, toothbrushes etc. Sometimes, either Peggy, or Poppy, or both visited the Lost Property Office. In a later series, the office installed a telephone, where people, usually Peggy or Poppy, could phone in asking for particular things, (examples include information about spiders and a night time picture to help someone sleep during the day).
Tuesday – The Playground Stop. A variety of different things involved. The programme always opened with the presenter (several, including Dave Benson Philips and Elizabeth Fost), saying, "Girls and boys, come out to play...", followed by the programme's theme, (e.g. we're playing racing games today). The show featured a group of children doing activities, such as pretending to be cooks and making paper meals.
Dave was accompanied by a glove puppet named Chester. Elizabeth was also accompanied by a glove puppet called Ruby. The programme always featured a rhyme accompanied by Makaton sign language and a song performed by a marionette named Lizzie Dreams, who loved to sing and dance. She was occasionally accompanied by another marionette named Nick. There was also a story, often featuring Max and his magical chest of dressing-up clothes.
Wednesday – The Dot Stop (1988–1991) replaced with The Roundabout Stop (1992–1997) - the non-speaking Dot played by Rebecca Higgins, had fun with music or numbers and counting. Later there were 3 Dots: 'The Dot who plays the violin' (Eithne Hannigan), 'The Dot who plays the drums' (Liz Kitchen) and 'The Dot you can count on' (Dyanne White). Sometimes, a puppet called Dash would appear and squirm its way through holes in the set. It had a song: "Not number one, not number two, not number three or four, not number five, not number six, only one Dash can do tricks!" Another pair of puppet friends were Professor Mopp and his blue dog Morgan. The Violinist and Counting Dots had a sidekick called Mr Domino (Peter Gunn, Stephen Cannon). The Dot who plays the drums was accompanied by Domino the Musical Monkey
It was later replaced by the Roundabout Stop. Presented by Mr. Jolly. The show featured the musician, Charlie Grindle (Nick Mercer), who also appeared as one of the bus drivers from The Why Bird Stop, Bitsy Bob (Michele Durler), who played music and made things, and the initially Bella and Baxter the numbears and then puppets Morris Cog and Milly Sprocket (Nick Mercer and Michele Durler), who presented a segment called "Morris and Milly's Numerical Melodies", where they sang a song glorifying a particular number.
Charlie often sang songs for them as well. The main body of the episode featured the characters finding different shaped pictures, which came together to form the title of a nursery rhyme, which was performed by the entire cast at the end of the episode. In later episodes (1995 to 1997) presented by Andy Hockley, the show featured Peggy, Poppy and Why Bird, who rode on the roundabout and went off on adventures (but on some episodes only Peggy and Why went on adventures so on the 3rd shape they would both go together).
At the end of each adventure, a picture associated with it appeared in their shaped ticket (purple circle, red square, pink triangle, yellow diamond, green arch or blue rectangle), and these would combine to make the song, which ended the episode.
Thursday – The Patch Stop. Featuring Sam Patch, a small scarecrow doll and later replaced by Peggy Patch, a small rag doll who were both very kind natured. Sam and later Peggy would often travel places. From 1994 onwards Peggy would leave clues for children to find her and she would also be joined by Parsnip (a brown rabbit), Poppy and/or Why Bird later in the episode. She was originally non-speaking, but gained a voice (Sally Preisig) in 1994. Presenters included Vanessa Amberleigh, Teresa Gallagher and Peter Quilter.
Friday – The Tent Stop (1988–1995) replaced with The Poppy Stop (1995–1997). A group of actors including: Trish Cooke, Ricky Diamond, Will Brenton, Sue Monroe & Sarah Davison would dress up, and with the help of some children, perform a play or show. Humphry, a unicyclist puppet, and Wobble, a roly-poly clown also took part in the stories and they sometimes accompanied Lizzie for her songs (see The Playground Stop above).
When the stop became the Poppy Stop, the setting was at Poppy the cat's house, typically presented by Karl Woolley. Why Bird, Peggy Patch and other characters would often also appear in episodes at Poppy's house. At Christmas time, the Playbus would stop at The Christmas Tree Stop. These special episodes featured characters from all the usual stops.
Playdays also went on various tours during its run. The shows often saw all of the puppet characters coming together and having fun. It also saw Peggy Patch be played by a person, because the puppet was too small to see.
|VHS Title||Release Date||Notes||-|
|Playbus - Animated Alphabet BBCV 4282||2 October 1989||A-Z has never been so much fun! It is sprinkled with animated nouns, verbs, adjectives and abstracts that could only work on film.|
|Playdays - Days on the Move BBCV 4769||6 April 1992||Join Dot as she paints an amazing picture in which she includes all her friends from the Playbus: Why Bird, Lizzie, Peggy Patch, Wobble and Humphrey. There are things to make, songs to join in with, stories, games and all the fun on the move.|
|Playdays - Days By The Sea BBCV 4770||6 April 1992||Join Dot as she paints an amazing picture in which she includes all her friends from the Playbus: Why Bird, Lizzie, Peggy Patch, Wobble and Humphrey. There are things to make, songs to join in with, stories, games and all the fun of the fair.|
|Playdays - Animated Alphabet Re-Release BBCV 4282||6 April 1992||A-Z has never been so much fun! It is sprinkled with animated nouns, verbs, adjectives and abstracts that could only work on film.|
|Playdays - Dot's Fun with Numbers BBCV 4946||5 April 1993||With stories, games, rhymes and songs - it's fun with numbers all the way!|
|Playdays - Lizzie's Singalong BBCV 4190||3 May 1993||Its time to sing along with fun filled songs for everyone!|
|Playdays - Lizzie and Friends BBCV 5248||5 April 1994||Put on your dancing shoes and Singalong with Lizzie and Friends!|
|Playdays - 2 - on 1 BBCV 6296||7 July 1997||Days on the Move and Days by the Sea together on one tape.|
|Playdays - Winter Adventure||3 November 1997||Promotional video featured in a BBC Children's Magazine|