British TV is rooted deep in our culture, and for children, it plays a vital role in their formative years. They teach kids about friendship, the world around us, how to tie our shoes, and style our girls’ blue jeans.
If you were a kid in the ’90s, cast your mind back to the TV that you used to watch — which show do you think had the biggest impact on you? What lessons did you take away from them? Perhaps now you have kids of your own and you find yourself comparing new shows to the ’90s classics.
New data reveals the ’90s British kids’ TV shows that have had the biggest impact, shaped our adult lives, and continue to entertain us even three decades later.
The research compiled a list of 306 British kids TV shows that aired in the ’90s, according to Wikipedia. An analysis combined scores based on the number of page views, edits, and editors each TV show’s Wikipedia entry had since its creation and in 2021.
The final score reveals the extent of their legacy, and the relevancy of these TV shows today.
Here, we jump into the top ten and discover which TV shows have stuck with us.
10. The Magic Roundabout
You’d be correct in thinking this kids TV show was originally a French creation. But its English production does more than just translate the original, and had an impact on British audiences. Due to the difficulty of translating from French, the BBC decided to create new storylines with new audio, reusing the original footage. The British version of the show ran from 1965 to 1992. The Magic Roundabout scored 20 out of 100 on the ’90s impact scale.
How old were you when you found out that Brum was a pun encompassing the name of the car, the sound it makes, and the city it’s set in? The little yellow car enjoys adventures around Birmingham, meeting friends and characters around the ‘Big Town’. Brum ran from 1991 to 2002. A new CGI version (a common theme with most ’90s kids TV shows) aired in 2016 as well. Brum scored 24 out of 100.
8. Mr. Men and Little Miss
Lovers of this mini-book series can rejoice. Mr. Men and Little Miss is also one of the most impactful kids TV shows of the ‘90s. Including such an impressive range of characters, you’re bound to relate to one of them. Who’s your favourite: Mr Bump or Little Miss Trouble? The TV show ran from 1994 to 1997. It scores 26 out of 100, securing eighth place.
Starting in 1999, Tweenies focused on four pre-school characters: Bella, Milo, Fizz, and Jake. However, the Tweenies weren’t just TV entertainers. In the early noughties, the group had a music career, achieving six UK top-40 singles. The characters featured on Top of the Pops and performed on a national arena tour. It’s no surprise that Tweenies secured seventh place with a score of 28.
6. Bob the Builder
Fixed at six, Bob the Builder is the man for the job. If that job is great British TV entertainer. Following Bob, the aforementioned builder, and his gang of lively work equipment, the group complete a range of construction tasks — while having fun, of course. Beginning in 1999, the TV show also hit the singles chart. In the noughties, Bob the Builder scored two number-one singles with ‘Can We Fix It?’ and ‘Mambo No. 5’. The TV show scores 33.
5. Postman Pat
The Royal Mail’s most famous deliverer is Postman Pat. Accompanied by his black and white cat, Jess, the duo delivered parcels and letters throughout the valley of Greendale and solved villagers’ problems. Proving the legacy of Postman Pat, the iconic original theme song was even updated in 2008 to reflect changes to delivery services! Airing from 1981 and throughout the nineties, Postman Pat scores 35 out of 100.
4. Blue Peter
We’ve all tried a craft, bake, or activity that we saw on Blue Peter. This kids TV show doesn’t just belong to the nineties, starting in 1958 and continuing to this day. The classic Blue Peter badge is still distributed to this day, with around 22,000 badges being given out annually. [JM1] Its influence has certainly lasted through the ages, scoring 36 out of 100 for its nineties impact.
3. Fireman Sam
Climbing into the top three, Fireman Sam is a nineties favourite. With an original run between 1987 and 1994, the firefighter’s adventures while serving the public have maintained popularity, even after all these years. Scoring 46, Fireman Sam continues to this day, updated through CGI. Of course, children of the nineties will always remember its original stop-motion format.
Teletubbies achieved international success, so children of the nineties across the world will likely remember its deep impact. Parents will most likely remember the plush doll being the top-selling toy of Christmas 1997, where its demand was so high that it sold out. It may shock you to learn that Jessica Elizabeth Smith, the actor who played the baby in the sun, is now 26 years old. With a score of 73 out of 100, Teletubbies is a staple of nineties kids TV.
1. Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends[JM2]
At the top of the list and securing its place as the nineties’ biggest kids TV show, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends scores 77 out of 100. Beginning in 1984, continuing throughout the nineties and beyond[JM3] . Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends teaches us about friendship, working as a team, and trains of course. The blue train with a face is now a national symbol, having inspired us as kids and continuing to inspire kids today.
If there’s one thing that Brits do well, it’s kids TV. While all are great in their own way, some will live on in our memories forever. For kids of the nineties, those memories will include the likes of Brum, Postman Pat, and Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.