Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, Captain Planet, Daria, Art Attack, Sailor Moon, Madeline…us ’90s kids enjoyed some quality TV in our day! But what about homegrown Australian shows? There were plenty of those as well. Hold onto your Tazos, we’re taking a nostal-journey through some of the best Aussie kids TV shows from the ’90s.
The Book Place
Channel: Seven Network First aired: 1991 Last aired: 2002 Theme song
The Book Place was an early morning educational reading show set in a bookshop. The hosts would read recently published kids books and sing songs (Ben Folds even made an appearance). Bookworm was the most memorable part of the show which is unfortunate because he is creepy AF.
Agro’s Cartoon Connection
Channel: Seven Network First aired: 1989 Last aired: 1997 Theme song
Agro was a rude, crude and lewd puppet who introduced Saturday morning cartoons and chewed the fat with his co-host (mostly Ann-Marie). If you don’t remember him being that inappropriate, check out the adults only clips for some eye-opening, cringe-worthy and sometimes giggle-inducing moments (5:02 love purse LOL).
Bananas in Pyjamas
Channel: ABC First aired: 1992 Last aired: 2001 Theme song
Before the new CGI abomination, there were the OG Bananas who didn’t give me nightmares. The show followed goofy bananas B1 and B2 in their daily adventures with their teddy bear friends Morgan, Amy, Lulu (the foreign one) and dodgy bastard Rat in a Hat. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking, B1?” “I think I am, B2!” “It’s munchy honey cakes time!”
The Adventures of Blinky Bill
Channel: ABC First aired: 1993 Last aired: 1995 Theme song
A classic Aussie cartoon with talking Aussie animals living in a small Aussie town dealing with Aussie nature. It’s a rite of Aussie passage to learn all the words to the theme song. There was also The New Adventures of Blinky Bill from the ’80s which was live action and terrifying. Also, Wombo looked more like a hobo than an old wombat.
Channel: Seven Network First aired: 1999 Last aired: 2000 Theme song
I was probably a bit too old to be watching this but Chuck was totally crush-worthy and I shipped him and Sarah. Loosely based on Huckleberry Finn, Chuck Finn was set in a fictional town in South Australia where Toronto-born Chuck and his friends try and get old paddle steamer The Tingalla Rose back in business.
Channel: ABC First aired: 1994 Last aired: 1995 Theme song
“There’s a rat, called Rattus, he’s the leader of the bunch. A cat called Modigliana, she’s fluffy but she’s tough!
Derryn, he’s a dopey dog. Mixy’s a muddled up, mixed up bunny!” The lyrics of theme song sum up the stars of the show perfectly. Four feral and mouthy animals (puppets) living in a backyard shed of uni students Leonard (like The Big Bang Theory‘s Leonard Hofstadter, he’s also a nice guy scientist with curly hair) and Robbie and their landlord Joe. Am I alone in thinking that there was some underlying sexual tension between Rattus and Modigliana? A short lived five-minute show called Feral TV followed up the series in 1995.
The Genie from Down Under
Channel: ABC First aired: 1996 Last aired: 1998 Theme song
Ahh the opal necklace. When you rubbed it, two Australian genies (Bruce and his son Baz) would pop out and say, “You’ve rubbed the opal in your hand, your every wish is our command!” Penelope Townes, a snobby British teenager, finds the opal in her attic and uses the genies for her own selfish gain (e.g. making herself look perfect on a camping trip while everyone else looks savage) but usually gets into trouble when she doesn’t word her wishes correctly. Mark Mitchell (Con the Fruiterer) as Otto Von Meister, the nasty and revolting Outback tour guide, truly stole the show. You can watch all the episodes here.
Johnson and Friends
Channel: ABC First aired: 1990 Last aired: 1995 Theme song
Johnson and Friends was basically the original Toy Story. A bunch of toys (adults in costume) belonging to an unseen boy named Michael would come to life when alone in the room. Johnson, a stuffed pink elephant, was the leader of the group which also included: McDuff, a silly concertina, Diesel, a blokey truck, Alfred, a hot water bottle who always complained (not technically a toy – maybe that’s why he was depressed?), Squeaky, a child-like robot and Victoria, Michael’s sister’s dinosaur.
Channel: ABC First aired: 1992 Last aired: 1995 Theme song
Based in an apartment complex, Lift Off followed the lives of a group of young kids who lived there. It also had some animation, puppetry (including Wakadoo Café) and documentary segments. If you remember this show, you’ll remember EC. It was a faceless, mute and ANIMATED rag doll, aka the stuff of nightmares. Also terrifying was Beverley the one-eyed plant.
Channel: Network Ten/ABC First aired: 1994 Last aired: 1999 Theme song
Heartbreak High was a spin-off of the 1993 movie The Heartbreak Kid starring Claudia Karvan and Alex Dimitriades. It was set at Hartley High, a fictional public high school in Sydney, and was based on the lives of the students. It was fairly gritty and covered issues like eating disorders, shoplifting, racism and teen pregnancy. They loved their use of Aussie slang and some genius compiled every mention of the phrase “rack off” here. Obviously every teen girl had heart eyes for Drazic who made eyebrow rings and loud shirts sexy. To see Heartbreak High return to our screens, sign this change.org petition!
Channel: ABC First aired: 1959 Last aired: 1999 Theme song
As one of the longest-running kids TV shows in Australian history, Mr. Squiggle is an Aussie icon. He was a marionette from the Moon with a pencil nose which he used to create drawings from squiggles sent in by viewers. Aside from the female assistant, other characters include grumpy Blackboard whose catchphrases include “Hurry up!” and “Upside down!”, Rocket (with a pencil nose shaped hole), Gus the snail who had a TV set as a shell and Bill the steam shovel who liked to tell jokes.
Channel: ABC First aired: 1998 Last aired: 1998 Theme song
You’d be forgiven for not remembering this one as it only had one season and didn’t have a huge viewership. Melanie, a British schoolgirl wins a trip to Australia in a competition and discovers she has a double called Minty who is an Aussie soap star (both roles played by Angela Kelly). The two swapped places and because of their different talents, they’d constantly get themselves into trouble. I was all for the relationships the girls had with Cameron and Shane.
Channel: Network Ten First aired: 1994 Last aired: 1997 Theme song
Ocean Girl set the scene for futuristic sci fi kids shows in Australia. It was about an alien girl named Neri (who was major hair goals) who lived alone on an island and had special abilities (like super-human strength and swimming long distances) that she used to help her friends at the underwater research facility ORCA. There was a cartoon reboot called The New Adventures of Ocean Girl in 2000.
Channel: ABC First aired: 1966 Last aired: Still airing Theme song
Play School is the longest-running Australian kids show for good reason. So many childhood memories are linked to this show and its iconic theme song that opens with “There’s a bear in there!” The original windows that we looked through have been replaced but every ’90s kid knew that picking either round, square or arch was the best part of the show. Although the rocket and flower clocks and catchy songs (On the Ning Nang Nong and Der Glumph are standouts) were definite highlights. Also, the toys (Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima and Humpty) and presenters (Benita, John, Noni, Trisha, George, Monica and Angela) were ultimate squad goals.
Channel: ABC First aired: 1997 Last aired: 1997 Theme song
The unfortunate thing everyone remembers about Plasmo is that the grumpy character Coredor had a face that looked like a vagina (not that we realised that at the time). Aside from him, there were two cute pink claymation aliens Plasmo and Parsty, their dog Nik-Nak and a helmet-wearing mechanic with a lisp called Brucho. Best part of every episode was when they’d say good night to each other at excruciating length (skip to 2:04 for classic Coredor).
Ship to Shore
Channel: ABC/Nine Network First aired: 1993 Last aired: 1996 Theme song
I used to wish I was a Ship to Shore kid. They always seemed to be having so much fun running around the fictional Circe Island without parental supervision, having adventures and causing trouble. Kelvin Crump was a redheaded, flannel-wearing scheme-hatcher who caused grief for Hermes Endakis, the lunatic security guard who rocked a stylish beret. Fair to say the theme song is one of the best in the list.
Round the Twist
Channel: Seven Network/ABC First aired: 1989 Last aired: 2001 Theme song
Every kid read Paul Jennings short story books in the ’90s. They were strange and often fantastical tales that usually ended with a twist (my personal fave is A Dozen Bloomin’ Roses from Quirky Tales). Round the Twist was based on several of these stories and featured the Twist family (Tony, Pete, Linda and Bronson) who moved into a lighthouse in the fictional seaside town of Port Niranda. You can visit the family home aka Split Point Lighthouse in Aireys Inlet, Victoria. Fun fact: Linda from Season 1 (Tamsin West) sang the theme song.
Channel: Nine Network First aired: 1995 Last aired:1995 Theme song
Spellbinder was one of those awesome after school mini series (like Search for Treasure Island) that left you dying for more at the end of every episode. A boy called Paul accidentally finds a parallel universe and naturally locates and becomes friends with an attractive blonde girl there named Riana. Her world is run by The Spellbinders who wear power suits that were cool and high-tech at the time but now just look like black wetsuits covered in Nutri-Grain-shaped pieces of plastic. Most memorable character goes to Ashka – the best baddie with the most voluptuous red hair. Fun fact: Ryan Kwanten was in the sequel series Spellbinder: Land of the Dragon Lord.
Honourable mentions: Mulligrubs, Vidiot, The Wayne Manifesto and Silversun. Also, I think Aussie kids game shows deserve their own post so don’t worry about mentioning A*Mazing.
Did I skip your favourite Aussie TV show? Let me know what I missed in the comments below!
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