Topsy and Tim 2.0: Generations have grown up on the books - now the twins are getting their own TV series

So what can the pair offer today's pre-schoolers, asks Will Coldwell?

After years of spirited fantasy, puppet shows and various incarnations of pot-bellied costume characters, children's television is getting a reality check. For the first time since its launch in 2002, CBeebies has decided to air its first live dramas.

The very first to be shown was Katy Morag, which premiered last Sunday. Based on the hugely popular series of books by Mairi Hedderwick first published in the 1980s, the programme depicts the adventures of a fiery-haired girl and her family on the fictional Scottish island of Struay. The show is already causing a particular stir in Scotland, but it is the second, which airs on Monday, that looks set to resonate most across the generations. And that's Topsy and Tim.

Since the first book appeared in 1960, more than 130 Topsy and Tim titles have gone to print, with more than 21 million copies sold. Written by Jean Adamson and her husband Gareth, who wanted to reflect the real-life experiences of children, each book describes a new moment for the eponymous twins, be it their first time camping or visiting the doctor. Now they will appear on television, played by two young actors (below) bearing the same zig-zag fringes that the characters have sported for more than half a century.

"I'd been asked before about doing them as an animation," says Kay Benbow, controller of CBeebies, who has commissioned 60 11-minute episodes of the show. "But I thought that bringing them to life with a real family and real scenarios could be really special."

For Benbow, realising Topsy and Tim as a live drama is an opportunity to show its audience a positive reflection of family life. "I'm hoping that they will connect and understand and see familiar things," she says. "Most people describe it as a positive, joyful show but it doesn't shy away from things that are big, such as moving house. Only by going through those ups and downs in life do you become a resilient person, and resilience is an important word for this show. It portrays children in a positive light, and the children are empowered."

Indeed, a sense of hope and optimism has been ingrained in Topsy and Tim since its conception during Britain's post-war revival. "It was not so terribly long after the end of the Second World War," explains Adamson, 84, who is looking forward to seeing the television adaptation of her characters. "And with all the rationing that had gone on, the wonderful 1960s were like life screaming back."

The Topsy and Tim television show will have two over-arching narratives. The first will be the twins moving house. The second will be starting school. "It's really mirroring a preschooler's life," says Benbow.

Although Adamson stopped illustrating the classic Topsy and Tim books in the 1980s (they are now illustrated by Belinda Worsley), she still thinks of ideas for new stories. The twins' adventures have always been influenced according to world events. For example, when holidays abroad became popular, Topsy and Tim promptly flew to Spain.

"Most of the stories are [about] what children always do, but there's a lot of technology now," says Adamson. "I feel I should have somehow worked that in but I haven't. I think there ought to be though. We ought to get the illustrator to scatter gadgets in the background."

Their adaptability, says Adamson, is because the stories are based in real life. "That was the gimmick, I suppose," she says. "Years ago when we decided to write a series and we were looking for a subject there was loads of lovely fantasy and animal stories and so on, but nothing with children in what was a wonderful life to us."

By commissioning two live dramas for the pre-school age group, it seems that CBeebies is continuing where Adamson left off. "There is a little bit of room for the wonders of life for the very young," says Adamson. "Because when you're two years old and begin to register stuff, it's all new and wonderful. There's a space for Topsy and Tim."

'Topsy and Tim' will appear on 11 November at 5.30pm on CBeebies Channel

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Books
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'