|Country of origin||UK|
|Running time||22 minutes|
The Saturday Banana was a Saturday morning children's television show produced by Southern Television for ITV and presented by Goodies star Bill Oddie. Oddie also wrote and sang the theme tune. The series began on 8 July 1978, running through the summer and continuing up to December, with a Christmas Special.
According to a TV Times interview with presenter Bill Oddie when the show was aired, it was to have been named The Saturday Bonanza, but was renamed due to poor handwriting being mis-read.
Saturday Banana was shown by several ITV stations including Anglia, Border, HTV, LWT, STV, Southern, Westward and Yorkshire. For its first run, the series was available to ITV companies at the same time as the popular Tiswas, so whether the viewer saw Tiswas or Banana was up to their regional ITV station. For the series' second run in 1979, only Southern and Anglia broadcast the show while most other regions screened Tiswas.
As was a common practice within television at that time, the policy of Southern TV was to wipe any videotape recording of contemporary non-news programming, due to the high cost of videotape. Children's shows were often wiped as it was thought they would have little future value, and consequently little remains of Saturday Banana on broadcast quality master tape. However the final episode before Christmas, 1979 remains in its entirety along with a sequence from 1978 which features Bill talking to George Chakiris, a discussion of fruitbats, some snake and toad sequences and presenter Bill Gamon briefly chatting to then chart toppers Darts. A 'chart rundown' is also shown, with clips of the top ten played while the camera pans over the young audience members. A second edition exists in the Wessex Film Archive, in mediocre quality, copied from a domestic video recording.
The programme was broadcast live from Southern Television's Northam, Southampton studios, with occasional film inserts. The show took over from Our Show, another Saturday morning kids' programme, and Susan Tully, one of the young hosts of Our Show, came to Southampton and stayed with Banana.
Presenters wore bright yellow T shirts with the Banana logo, and metal circular badges, firstly on yellow backdrops, then mass-produced on red backdrops, were issued to both guests and the child audience chosen from local schools. For the programme, Southern Television built a giant yellow, peeled banana, which they placed in front of their studios, and which often featured in opening titles and in the background of any item where the cameras were taken outside the building. Around six opening title sequences were pre-recorded, backed by Oddie's theme song, including a one-off Christmas Special sequence.
Items featured on the show included a weekly chart rundown, with guest pop groups miming their latest hits, then being interviewed after being forced to slide down half of the main interior set. Children could also write-in with their 'dream activities', which show researchers would attempt to grant. One such feature saw Bill Oddie wrestle a small child in a side-sealed square filled with a foot of mud-coloured 'gunge'.
Saturday Banana featured a version of the children's television game show Runaround, made famous by comedian host Mike Reid, later to star in BBC's EastEnders. But for Banana, one of the programme researchers who doubled as a presenter, Bill Gamon, hosted the madcap quiz.
On one show, West Side Story star George Chakiris, then starring in 'Passion of Dracula' in a London production at the Queen's Theatre, opened the show by being driven, in a horse-drawn hearse, across Northam Bridge (by the studios), bringing startled drivers to a virtual halt.
- Saturday Banana (The Wacky World of UK Saturday Morning Children's Television) Accessed March 2008
- (Guest presenter Chris Balcombe's IMDB profile) Accessed December 2009