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Why Don’t You . . . ?

1 9 7 8 – 1 9 9 5 (UK)

The full title of this Saturday morning summer show for kids was actually Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead – although the Radio Times originally billed it as Wdyjsoytsagoadslbi?

The first series, debuting on 20 August 1978 and shown during the summer school holidays, was a mix of jokes, play ideas and tricks based on viewer letters, rendered in the surreal style pioneered by Vision On.


It started life at BBC Bristol, but in later years was made by teams in different parts of the country, coming from Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester.

Central to the series were self-authored film reports from children at all sorts of work or play – doing a paper round, helping out at stables, even building their own hovercraft.

As a title, it was risky. Various groups of kids called things like the Belfast Gang, the Birmingham Gang, the Welsh gang etc would arrive every school holidays to suggest things which might be less boring than watching TV.

So what was more exciting to a child living in a run-down council estate than watching television? Football? Shoplifting? Setting fire to the local primary school? All good calls . . .

But no! The children on Why Don’t You honestly thought that making things out of sticky back plastic and old egg boxes was the best fun you could have without getting wet.

There were six weeks of school holidays looming during which – according to Why Don’t You – you could build up an impressive stamp collection or make an exhaustive study of local pond life.

You could form a bridge club and write to Omar Sharif asking for expert advice.

You could study traffic flows in your town centre and display your data on an overhead projector in your darkened living room before impressed contemporaries over squash and crisps.

But the best answer to the question posed in the title was “because I am seven years old and it’s the holidays and I can do what I like and you can’t make me!”

Judging by its viewing figures, most kids ignored the title.

Several of the children who appeared on the programme went on to have more substantial careers in broadcasting – such as DJ Gideon Coe and Ant McPartlin.