Craig Charles: ‘I haven’t grown up much since I was five’

The Red Dwarf star and BBC Radio 6 Music presenter on his love of zany kids’ show The Banana Splits – and why he never dreamed he would work in TV

Growing up, me and my brothers would only really get to watch television on Saturday mornings. Our parents would be asleep after having worked late the night before, so we would have a few hours to ourselves as long as we kept quiet and didn’t wake them up. When they did get up, we would have to do our chores, and, during the week, as soon as the Coronation Street theme tune came on we’d be sent to bed, where we read our comics instead.

We got a black-and-white TV when I was six or seven and there was one show on Saturday mornings that I loved: The Banana Splits. I would just get lost in it – there were loads of different segments including a rock band dressed up as animals and then they would show cartoons like Arabian Nights, The Three Musketeers and one called Micro Ventures where they shrank this family into the size of ants so they would experience life from that point of view.

It was American – it felt really zany. The guys dressed up as the animals would do all kinds of stunts but you watched it for the cartoons, since there were very few cartoons on at that stage, apart from the Disney films. These were Hanna-Barbera ones and they always had a bit more edge than Disney. On the British side, I also remember watching Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, then there was Joe 90 – whose car I had as a toy – and there was Marine Boy, who could swim underwater with his oxygenated chewing gum. That was a great idea, it looked so cool.

Fleegle, Snorky, Bingo and Drooper of The Banana Splits.
Fleegle, Snorky, Bingo and Drooper of The Banana Splits. Photograph: Allstar/Hanna-Barbera/Sportsphoto Ltd

TV felt like something so beyond me growing up, though, since we only had a few channels and I had never imagined I might end up having a career through it. I wanted to be a footballer instead. I did end up doing a kids’ show early in my career called What’s That Noise, which was a music show on the BBC. It was trying to get kids into all different types of music, so we would have a choir, a death metal group and a rapper on, and at the end of the show they would all do a song together, a bit like what Later … With Jools Holland does. That tapped into my love of music, and the BBC asked me to do it since I was presenting on Kiss at the time.

When it came to my own kids, they grew up with American children’s television – shows like That’s So Raven, The Secret Life of Zack and Cody, Lizzie McGuire and Hannah Montana. I think the shows I used to watch have aged very well though, and I reckon kids would love them now. I can still watch the ones that were made between when I was five and 11 years old because I don’t think I’ve grown up much since then.

The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On at 6pm on 22 May on BBC Radio 6 Music.

Contributor

As told to Ammar Kalia

The GuardianTramp

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