His theory is that when you reach your early twenties you start becoming nostalgic about your youth and its icons. If you use catch-phrases from the shows you grew up with, put on characters' voices, say 'Beam me up, Scotty', or talk about Cliff Richard in Rik Mayall's voice, it's a bond against people older and younger than yourself. Is it a very late-flowering childhood? A last permissible look back at mid-puberty? Being a twentysomething himself, Dr Tony can verify the magnetic pull that the memory of Blue Peter still exerts, and the shared experience it conjures up.
My wife suddenly remembered that in her college days there had been a great Winnie- the-Pooh cult among people entering their twenties, which seems to mark her off in a book generation, as opposed to television-based Tony. But their theory was reinforced when she took our four-year-old son to a Fringe performance of Dougal and the Blue Cat, and found he was almost the only child there. The bulk of the audience was first-year-in-college age. Why were they at a performance of a Magic Roundabout story?
If Dr Tony's theory is correct, they were watching a video of their own growing-up, or going on a coach outing to their own youth, a bit like revisiting the old family home or school and seeing it in a new light.
'I'm part of the Scoobie Doo generation,' says Dr Tony seriously, to which I say nothing, as I can remember my own children watching Scoobie Doo avidly and I don't want to seem too, well, you know, old. My older children also grew up on The Magic Roundabout and later, The Young Ones, just as my lot soaked up the Goons, but they were not limited to new programmes - my son became a devotee of The Prisoner on its rerun, which I also had been addicted to in my youth. In fact, I still find, among my stacks of old videos, labels in his 1984 handwriting reading: The Prisoner, episode 46, DO NOT WIPE]'
Sometimes this all takes more serious forms. One year at Edinburgh, down at the Calton Studios, I came across a Dr Who Weekend Seminar. Nothing to do with the Fringe, it had been planned months before, in total ignorance of the festival. The Dr Who pilgrims arrived. They swapped old Dr Who annuals. They were, if I am not mistaken, addressed by Tom Baker. They had not the slightest interest in the festival. This was all their life.
I do not think I could go to a Prisoner seminar. In fact, when I think back to my early childhood, I cannot remember there being much television at all for children. All I can recall is a wonderful Wild West serial, about which my brother and I still reminisce, called The Cisco Kid, featuring the handsome Cisco Kid and his fat, funny sidekick, Pancho. (Quite advanced to have a Mexican-flavoured pair of heroes.)
Even now we can remember the final words of each episode when, before riding off into the sunset, Cisco would yell, 'Let's go, Pancho]' and Pancho would cry, 'Let's went, Cisco]' Pancho was later reborn as Manuel, the Spanish waiter, in Fawlty Towers, but in a sense all these programmes get reborn later. The Young Ones seemed strangely familiar to me when I first saw it - I finally realised it was a reincarnation of Hancock's Half Hour; both have four wacky people living together in the same flat for no very good reason.
If I had to guess what my four-year-old will remember in 20 years' time, I'd say it would be a bear. Either Rupert, or more likely his current favourite, Super Ted, the Welsh television teddy bear superhero, with his fellow characters Spotty, Texas Pete, Bulk and Skeleton. (Personally, I prefer Skeleton, the slightly camp, all-bone character who, on passing the bleached skeleton of a steer in the Texas desert, will hiss: 'Pull yourself together]' But I think he's meant to appeal to adults.)
If my son does forget Super Ted, he'll be able to rediscover him when he visits Edinburgh in 2007 and finds a Super Ted Revisited show on the Fringe.Reuse content