Back around 1991/2 my year group at school got to be involved in a maths educational programme for the BBC called Square One Television. This was originally an American show, but a UK version was made which borrowed some material from the American show, but filmed some original material as well.
There were three classes in my year group, and each class got to do something different. I think one class got to do a song of some description, but I never saw this one. One of the other classes got to do a sketch called “The Con”. This was filmed at my school, and I can remember them filming it. I later saw it on TV, and it was about a man who was trying to con people into thinking the socks that he was selling were much cheaper than local retailers, through the use of a graph with a misleading scale.
However, my class got the chance to go to the BBC’s studios at Elstree to film a segment there. Our segment was in a game show format, which was hosted by Helen Lederer. We were split into two teams – a blue team and a red team. Two people from each team had been pre-selected to actually play the game – I wasn’t one of them.
There were two main bits that we filmed. The first bit had Lederer sitting amongst the blue team, which was the team that I was on. As she was talking (about what specifically I can’t remember) a programmable electronic turtle came up to her and started beeping at her, and she then had a conversation with it.
Now, 11-year-old Karl was very excited at being on TV. And, yes, this could certainly be seen on camera, as I took any opportunity I could to open my mouth and say something. Not loud and obnoxiously, just the occasional line here and there. For example, at one point Lederer said something about it being best to avoid working with machines, and I said, “Yeah, I see what you mean...” Hey, I was giving the BBC some top quality material that they could use!
The main bit that they filmed was the game show itself. This took the form of each team programming one of these electronic turtles to navigate around an obstacle course. The mathematical part of this was judging the angles of the turns the turtle had to make, and the teams were given three options at each turn.
Once the turtles were programmed it was the blue team’s turn to go first. We got through the first two turns OK, but then we failed at the third and final turn. Then the red team went up, and they were victorious. I remember afterwards accusing one of the people representing the blue team of ruining it for us, but she said that they had been told to deliberately fail. This was because they were going to film a shot of the red team celebrating their win, which was considered fair as they had already filmed a segment with the blue team. At the time I didn’t believe her, but looking back it’s clear that she was right.
The day itself was very long. When we weren’t in the studio we got to wait in what’s called a green room, and, apparently, the room we were using was the same room that Grange Hill used. At the end of the day, for our efforts, the class got a book token, and we all got to keep the T-shirts that we had been given.
It was now just a question of waiting to see when it would be shown on TV. Unfortunately, it seemed that none of the teachers thought that it might be a good idea to tell us when the ones we were involved in were going to be shown (I presumed that they would have known), and so it was a question of chance if I were to catch our bits by keeping a close eye on the Radio Times.
I saw “The Con” sketch from one of the other classes, and then, eventually, I saw the bit with our class – I still have this on tape and have since copied it to DVD. However, in the programme that I saw the bit filmed with the blue team (which featured some of my best work!) wasn’t included. I wasn’t sure, but I thought that it might have been shown in another programme somewhere. However, to this day, I have never seen that footage (despite numerous searches on YouTube). I don’t know if it was ever used in anything. I don’t even know if it still exists.
But it’s possible that somewhere, deep in the archives of the BBC, there’s a tape of an 11-year-old Karl playing up for the camera...
Next Week: My Dad