Blue Peter Moves North – 26 September 2011
When it was announced that Blue Peter was to be one of the first BBC shows to be broadcast from the new MediaCityUK site in Salford, there were mixed reactions. Most prominently, there were fears that the programme – now over fifty years old – would change beyond recognition. The Blue Peter garden at Television Centre was to be modernised on one of the complex’s roofs. One of the faces of the show was to change, after Andy Akinwolere declared that he would not move north. There were even worries that the pets – a lifelong staple fixture of the show – would not be part of the new format.
Eager to see exactly how different Blue Peter had become, I tuned into my first episode for years (save for the ‘Goodbye W12’ show), and was pleasantly surprised. The show’s theme was still Barnacle Bill – albeit a new, remixed version (though there’ve been far worse renditions in the past). Barney the dog was still on-screen, and presenter Helen Skelton gave a nod to the rumours by saying, "He got here before we did". Unfortunately, the garden still needs to be landscaped, so I doubt viewers will see much of it until the spring.
Over the years, Blue Peter presenters have arrived in the studio in everything from a giant trolley to a double-decker bus. Likewise, today’s programme saw Helen arriving by RAF helicopter, and Barney Harwood coming in by jet-ski. This sequence had been pre-recorded and edited, allowing for the incorporation of aerial footage of the new MediaCityUK site, and its surrounding area.
As for the show’s main content, it was apparent that the refreshed programme was trying hard to engage the children of today. Following last week’s claim that 10 percent of under-tens have a smartphone, the main film saw Barney and guest presenter Pollyanna Woodward making apps. It had a very Gadget Show feel, not just because of Pollyanna’s presence and the challenge, but the rivalry between the two presenters to get the favour of the panel. It’s thought that there’ll be a number of guest presenters like Pollyanna throughout the series, with Saira Khan lined up to present cake-sale tips for the appeal, Bake A Difference.
Although the new studio is greatly smaller than any they used at Television Centre, I hope Blue Peter bosses will use the courtyard area where the helicopter touched down frequently.
Of course Blue Peter‘s changed since ‘my day’, but, in spite of fears over its future, it still remains a brilliant programme, and I hope it will continue to be in the schedules for years to come.