Tiswas was one of the first Saturday morning childrens television shows - in fact it started quite a trend! It was very, very long running and has most definitely entered into the national consciousness. It actually ran from 5 January 1974 to 3 April 1982. 8 years!
Tiswas had a very loyal following not just with children, but also with students and parents. In fact it says something about its popularity based on its former presenters that are still working today! Chris Tarrant was the main presenter, but then there was Lenny Henry, Frank Carson, Bob Carolgees. And even the future Dr Who – Sylvester McCoy!
The nonsense word “Tiswas” is reported to mean: "Today Is Saturday, Watch And Smile". The show was very anarchic and had some very iconic features – like the Phantom Flan Flinger, Spit the Dog, and “Swap shop” where viewers could swap one thing they own for something someone else owned.
There were of course many cartoons and filler bits to to programme, mostly performed by comedians. In fact the format for the show was pretty much used for almost every other Saturday morning kids show – Going Live, Motormouth, Magpie. Only Number 73 tried something slightly different with it’s tightly rehearsed characters and fabricated sit-com feel.
Tizwas actually spawned quite a few off shoots. The show O.T.T. (over the top) was created as a kind of Tizwas for adults, and was on much later. Hosted by Tarrant and some of the other people from the show it features up and coming comics like Alexei Sayle and Helen Atkinson Wood.
The show was certainly a strong brand, and idea! You can’t mention it to anyone of that era without them going into a misty-eyes look of nostalgia for Saturday mornings in front of the TV watching Chris Tarrant before he became a millionaire!