To the person who suggested raising your children on Catweazle, Worzel Gummidge and The Ghosts of Motley Hall, I couldn't agree with you more, I can't wait to have children and enjoy these shows with a young audience. That being said I am 28 and the only one of the shows I actually saw as a child was repeats of Worzel, I have discovered Motley and Catweazle in my mid-twenties and I can assure potential viewers you do not have to have grown up with these shows to appreciate how good they are as an adult 40 years later.
I'm a bit of a children's tv nut so as well as saying "yes show these programmes to your children" I won't say the things that are on now are rubbish, there are just so many things (and so many of them *are* rubbish) that you have to look to find the gems. The gem of my own childhood was Tony Robinson's Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, still wonderful now. These things work because they are not set in the now, Catweazle was an out of time character just as the Ghosts of Motley Hall are, they work today because they are not set in the now, they are set in their own times. Maid Marian is the same. I will also add that Sorry I've Got No Head and the first two series of Young Dracula are very enjoyable- YD not so much now as the child actors grow so unfortunately do the characters, turning from silly kids into angsty teens and turning what was once a silly vampire show into an odd attempt at teen supernatural drama. There has to be a point when the writers say "No. it's over now".
I will say now why Motley Hall is my favourite children's programme. The first series of Catweazle was wonderfully mad and beautifully sad. Doing a second, more slapstick, series was a travesty, why replace the likeable downtrodden Carrot with an annoying little posh boy in 70s slacks? It lost all poignancy and I think Carpenter (writer of both Catweazle and Motley learnt from this). Worzel Gummidge I love for the nostalgic feel and it too is seeped in tragedy, this important element for me is why modern television for children lacks heart, there must be sadness for you to really experience a scarecrow's joy! This time it was Jon Pertwee who got carried away with hot weather and went off to New Zealand to do a bright and cheery followup -Do not watch Worzel Down Under, it doesn't matter that Una is there being fabulous, Geoffrey Baylden isn't and neither are the charming British children and the charming British gloom.
Motley Hall unlike the other shows I love stays sad. In fact most episodes end on a down note. Other reviewers have mentioned wonderful performances from the actors and they are all excellent, but when it comes to what's important in a children's show it's the stories. Richard Carpenter writes wonderful stories and wonderful (though they may not seem it) complex characters. These characters know they're dead, they know they're trapped and they know it lasts forever, this might not sound the recipe for comedy gold and it isn't! It's the characters and the actors that are funny, the stories are tragic!
There's a Christmas episode that starts with the ghosts arguing whether they should even bother with Christmas because it's just the same as any other day for them, they somehow get transported back in time to a Christmas of Sir George's youth, the hall is transformed with decorations, family, laughter, warmth and the ghosts remember what Christmas is about. Something of course goes wrong and they end up doing an exorcism on a tree to calm the mood in the 19th Century household, the family calms down and the ghosts are happy they've helped. BUT the episode ends with the grandeur and warmth of Christmas fading away and the hall returning to it's present state of neglect where the ghosts stand silently in the dust and gloom. Then credits roll. -That's a Christmas episode!! It's heartbreakingly sad! And I don't know if it's because I'm a masochist but I absolutely love that about this show. Even the final episode, clearly written to finish the series ends on a not completely happy note. 18th Century fop Fanny watches a former friend banish the other ghosts out of the grounds, he has to make the decision to basically kill his only friend in order to get his family back. The final credits play as you see the ghosts walk back to the hall. There is no reconciliation scene! I often wonder if Fanny knew the other ghosts were on their way back or if he thought he was going to be then forever on his own, it's absolutely tragic!
Now I have to confirm that yes this programme is wonderfully funny and joyous, but for me it has real heart and human feeling because of the underlying tragedy.
I sometimes wonder if I think about the Ghosts of Motley Hall too much. A friend of mine drove me to Borwick Hall- where they filmed it- a few years ago, we jumped over the fence and had a picnic in the grounds. When I am rich I will buy it and live there.