When I was a kid one of my dream jobs was to be the host of Play School. Or, the host of any kids show really. Humphrey and Romper Room (why didn’t they ever see Amity in the looking glass?) would have been fine too. Because let’s face it, it would be a cool job and how hard could it be to have fun, act like a kid and get paid for it?
So, back in 2002, when I heard Play School was casting new hosts I was on the phone before you could say, ‘There’s a bear in there.’ I was convinced this was the job for me and before I even had an audition was considering which colourful, but comfortable outfit I would wear each day. After my audition was confirmed I was sent the script and eagerly tore open the package. Sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Hah, I could do that in my sleep! Read a short story to the camera. Easy, peasy! Then do half a page of dialogue, which I presume they have autocue for anyway. It is in the bag!
On the day I chose an outfit that was sensible and not too showy and nervously drove to the iconic ABC studios, to realise my fate as a Play School presenter. Walking in to the studio it felt like I was like stepping back into my childhood. All the toys I’d grown up with were there, Beg Ted, Little Ted, Jemima and Humpty, alongside the arch window and the Play School clock. I was given a few instructions and as I took my place on set I politely asked where to look for the autocue. After all this was TV, that’s what they do! However the director chuckled and informed me there was no autocue. Not only that, there were no re-takes, they did every episode live to tape. Which means it’s performed as though it’s live and you carry on regardless of any stuff ups, despite the fact that no one is there watching. All of a sudden it dawned on me that those moments when the presenters get the giggles aren’t left in for the parents’ entertainment, it’s because they can’t stop. Right…now it doesn’t seem quite so easy.
Twenty minutes later I walked out of the studio with a whole new respect for Play School presenters past and present. It’s not easy at all! There is a reason most of them are NIDA graduates and accomplished actors and that they make it look easy is a skill in itself.
A group of those actors recently got together to celebrate the 45th anniversary of Play School, an iconic Australian production that has played a huge role in most of our childhoods. Ask most people who their favourite hosts were and they’re sure to give you a name without a second thought. For me it was Benita and Noni, I still remember seeing Noni in an adult TV show and it not feeling right to see her act so differently!
These days we all know too much TV isn’t great for our kids, but there are some quality kids shows that are wonderful for their learning and development and Play School is certainly one of them. It is also nice that in a world so different from the one we grew up in, some things are still the same.
Needless to say I didn’t get the part that day and have yet to fulfil my ambition of being a Play School host. However, these days I get to live out that fantasy every day in my own home. I am just yet to find anyone to pay me to do it.
This post originally appeared on Essential Baby.
What were your favourite kids TV shows as a child? Have you ever auditioned to be a TV host? Who were or are your favourite presenters?