1. Fun House
Pat Sharp’s house-o-fun blended gunge, ball pools, two hot twins and the most iconic haircut on TV into 25 minutes of giddy tomfoolery. It’s what retro dreams are made of – fast-forward two decades and we still think the go-karts look fun.
Unfortunately, we never got the chance to try and grab those “prizes to be won” – mostly because we never knew how to bloody enter. To this day, we still have no idea how the kids applied to be on the show… Any ideas?
Okay, we’ll be honest, Knightmare looked kind of terrifying. A Dungeons & Dragons cash-in full of British thesps hamming up the “Nasty!” dialogue, the “Where am I?” feeling of isolation and that audible heartbeat when under pressure – it’s like primary-school waterboarding.
And who wasn’t panic-screeching “Sidestep right! Sidestep right!” at their tellies when danger lay ahead? It was almost enough to put you off your tea.
Looking back, the randomness conjured up by CITV could be pretty odd at times, but we loved this interactive comic strip with a full audience and Dennis the Menace’s long-lost sister Daisy Dares looking particularly like a girl who knew how to have fun.
We also always assumed the gloved hands of The Handymen were attached to some kind of humans that would be fun to meet, but we only recently found out that Art Attack’s Neil Buchanan was the mute French painter Smarty Arty. In hindsight, a thin disguise, but they were more naive times.
4. SM:tv Live
Everybody wanted to be on this show, not just kids. Celebs were queueing up to appear alongside the white-hot Saturday-morning trio of Ant McPartlin, Declan Donnelly and Cat Deeley before they became the internationally renowned stars of today.
Mariah Carey, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham are just a few of the A-listers that managed to squirm their way into the studios. Sadly, unlike them, we didn’t have the contacts to make it onto the exclusive guest list for Dec and Cat’s wedding. Gutted.
5. Incredible Games
Forget Britain’s Got Talent and his Roald Dahl-like kid lit – David Walliams peaked in the mid-’90s when he played a humanoid lift on this often forgotten series. Walliams’ character played host to a series of puzzle and action games that a gaggle of pre-teens had to tackle to try to go ‘THROUGH THE ROOF’.
It was kind of the BBC’s answer to Knightmare, but failed to quite match CITV’s choose-your-own-adventure classic because it was always a bit too knowingly wacky. We still wanted to be on it, mind.
6. Get Your Own Back
Who could forget Dave Benson Phillips? A man so hyperactive he constantly sounded like he had just wolfed down three litres of fizzy pop, a big bag of crisps and seven Sherbet Dip Dabs.
While we probably couldn’t tolerate him as grumpy grown-ups, Phillips’s enthusiasm managed to mask the rather flimsy format of another gunge-tastic BBC game show. It certainly featured a lot of faffing around before we got to the good stuff: adults getting a proper slimy, Noel’s House Party-style gunging.
7. The Disney Club
It wasn’t just America that had a Disney Club. Yep, the UK had its very own Mickey Mouse show of youthful presenters every Sunday morning at 8am on ITV, in between episodes of Gummy Bears and Bonkers.
While Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera were launching their careers Stateside, our version saw Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates kick-starting theirs. We’ll leave it up to you to decide who got the better deal.
8. The Crystal Maze
OK, so this wasn’t exactly aimed at kids, with a general “office teams on an away day for management bonding sessions” vibe, but that didn’t stop us from willing a children’s version into existence.
Forget about winning money, we just wanted one of those crystals to take into school. (Our nan had an ornament that looked a bit like it, but it wasn’t the same.)
9. Live & Kicking
Presenter Jamie Theakston has said this is the best job he’s ever had – and having had a cursory glance at his CV, we’d have to agree. The ’90s really was a golden age of children’s TV, with Zoe Ball joining Theakston to front loads of ‘Oh my god, I need to have a go’ regulars like Run The Risk
Every weekend, we’d wake up and switch on the show for games, cartoons and performances from the likes of Will Smith and Cher. It was so consistently good, you were even able to make it through Trevor and Simon’s bits.
“Threeeeee, twoooooo, onnnnnnne…” Ah, Saturday nights wouldn’t have been complete without the tones of John Anderson, John Fashanu’s laugh and Jet trying to decapitate a fitness instructor from Aylesbury with her thighs.
Looking back, we probably wouldn’t have lasted ten seconds on any of the challenges – Hang Tough still looks like an arm dislocation waiting to happen – but we reckon we could take the Travelator…
*Does scary Wolf face*
11. Finders Keepers
When he wasn’t busy recreating the Leaning Tower of Pisa with nothing but a packet of Corn Flakes and some Pritt Stick on Art Attack, no to mention hiding away in Zzzap!, Neil Buchanan kept ’90s kids amused with this anarchic game show involving four kids taking turns to trash ‘mum and dad’s house’ to find clues and win prizes.
Attempts to recreate the fun at home led to a sudden increase in smashed mirrors and vases around the UK, much to parents’ confusion. If it was still on air today, the Daily Mail would probably be blaming it for ‘Broken Britain’.
12. Stars In Their Eyes
“Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be…” It still makes the hairs stand up on your arms. Every adult and child alike wanted to be on this show for the chance to sing like their favourite popstar – while dressed like a poorly paid tribute act on Blackpool Pier.
But no matter how poor the outfits, when contestants walked through those doors and re-emerged seconds later as a completely different person, it made Matthew Kelly seem like some kind of wizard. He was pretty much the Dumbledore of the ’90s.
13. Noel’s House Party
OK, so Mr Blobby was a bit of a weirdo who we wanted nothing to do with, and the gunge obsession filtered through to way too many other kids’ shows, but Wait Till I Get You Home was the kicker on this Saturday night extravaganza.
Basically an open ticket for kids to tell embarrassing stories about their parents to win prizes for themselves, it was the ultimate win:win situation.
14. Singled Out
Long before he was on EastEnders, Richard Blackwood presented this little gem alongside The Girlie Show‘s Sarah Cawood on Channel 5 – after Sunset Beach, before Daria.
While it was a dating show, so would have been a little inappropriate to appear on as a 12-year-old, we just wanted to go on to chant, “You gotta go!”
15. Top of the Pops
In the ’90s, everyone who was anyone in the music industry performed on this show, from Oasis to the Spice Girls to Mariah Carey.
And when the stars took to the stage, they’d literally be standing just a few feet away from the crowd.
If you were lucky enough to get chosen to be in the audience, not only would you be on national TV but you’d pretty much get to meet whoever was smashing the charts at the time.
And in the ’90s, the chart-toppers were actually talented, so this was a big deal.