The secrets of the longest-running children's show in Australia.

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Don’t pretend you haven’t thought about a career as a Play School presenter.

Cuddling Big Ted every day. Singing a song with Jemima. Knobbing around with pipe cleaners,  drawing faces on egg cartons and cutting paper with safety scissors. WHAT A JOB.

Except it’s actually one of the toughest gigs in TV.

How do we know? We sent Holly Wainwright, host of our family podcast, This Glorious Mess, behind the scenes on set.

This year marks the 50th year of Play School on Australian TV, so we wandered through the arched window to shake hands with Big Ted. We walked the path of Benita, John, Trisha, Monica, Eddie Perfect, and many more. And in this week’s episode of This Glorious Mess, we discovered exactly what goes into making the most iconic show on Australian TV.

Everyone wants this job.

Executive producer Jan Stradling told us the presenters need to not only be a “triple threat” (acting, singing and dancing), but they need to be engaging as well. And with auditions about twice every three years, it’s a tough gig.

From Simon Burke to Jay Laga’aia, to Brooke Satchwell and Offspring’s Deb Mailman, the Play School alumni are some of the most skilled actors in Australia.

Rachel Coopes is a  presenter, and it took her seven years to get the gig.  “I was just about green. Really, there is a degree of being fairly robust.” she said.

The toys are sacred (especially Jemima).

Play School is all about the toys, and most of them are still entirely original.   The original Big Ted was stolen many years ago and never recovered.  Legend has it that all of the toys used to be kept in a big plastic trolley bin until someone came along and decided that they needed to be in a more special place.  Now they’re all locked away in a display cupboard until showtime. (Or until journalists come along and want selfies, that is).


The piano playing is live, and the colour palate hasn’t changed in 50 years.

It’s one of the things that makes this show special: the format remains basically unchanged since 1966.  From the live piano, to the very strategic colour palate, it all ensures the heart of the show remains the same.  “A lot of it comes back to the hosts. We keep current and relevant but the format has basically remained the same.” Executive producer Jan Stradling says.

Noni with Humpty. Image via ABC. 

After you’ve done Play School, you can do anything.

“Most of the time, you are part of a show and then it ends and life goes on. But Playschool is iconic and longstanding.” Presenter Rachel Coopes told Holly.

Rachel Coopes with Alex Paps. Image via ABC

But “you can kind of doing anything when you do Playschool.” she says.

Find out more from our behind the scenes tour of Play School in the full episode of This Glorious Mess. Subscribe in itunes, or listen here.