Why Don’t You? or Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead? was a BBC children’s television series broadcast in 42 series between 20 August 1973 and 21 April 1995. It was originally broadcast in the morning during the Summer school holidays and once was shown during the weekday evening children’s TV slot around 4:45 to 5:45. Later it went out during the Easter and Christmas school holidays although it was also broadcast once on Saturday mornings.
The format consisted of groups or “gangs” of children responding to letters from viewers who wrote into the show suggesting games, ‘makes’ and days out. Typically these were arts-and-crafts activities or games and magic tricks children could learn to impress their friends.
Created by producer/director Patrick Dowling at the BBC’s Bristol studios, Russell T Davies was later at one time a producer and director for Why Don’t You…? before going on to greater fame as writer of Queer as Folk and producer of the 2005 revival of Doctor Who. Under Davies’s direction, the format of the series shifted from magazine show to drama, with plots frequently centring on harebrained young Welsh presenter Ben Slade and his increasingly elaborate inventions. Slade was the longest serving presenters in the show’s 22-year run.
The 1972 pilot for Why Don’t You was filmed in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire with a team of children from Valley Road Primary School. From its inception in 1973, the gang’s studio had been based in Bristol, and it resembled a dusty basement. However, from 1980, the show also featured gangs from other parts of the United Kingdom, and these shows were made by the respective BBC regional centre, although all were broadcast nationwide. The first “alternative” gangs came from a barn in Scotland and a church hall in Belfast, followed by a seaside café in Cardiff. As the 1980s continued, all four studio settings were abandoned and the gang became based in other UK locations.
Presenters of the show included some familiar faces now, but unknowns at the time-
- Ben Slade aka Benjamin Rory Slade
- Gideon Coe
- Alexandra Fletcher
- Anthony McPartlin
- Pauline Quirke
- Andy Crane
- Daniel Evans
If you were a child of the 80s, this was must watch TV.