Here are some of the most memorable shows recorded here at The Maidstone TV Studios between 1982 and 2002. Click here to see recent shows recorded over the past few years.
Fraggle Rock (also known as Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock or Fraggle Rock with Jim Henson’s Muppets) is a children’s live action puppet television series created by Jim Henson with the central characters being a set of Muppet creatures called Fraggles.
Fraggle Rock was co-produced by British television company Television South (TVS), the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, U.S. pay television service Home Box Office and Henson Associates. Unlike Sesame Street, which had been created for a single market and only later adapted for international markets, Fraggle Rock was intended from the start to be an international production and the whole show was constructed with this in mind.
C.A.T.S. Eyes is a British television series made by TVS for ITV between 1985 and 1987.
The series was a spin-off from The Gentle Touch and saw Jill Gascoine reprise her role as Maggie Forbes, having left the police force to join a private detective agency called “Eyes” based in Kent that is actually a front for a Home Office team called C.A.T.S. (Covert Activities Thames Section). C.A.T.S. Eyes was shown on Friday nights in the UK for its first series, before moving to a Saturday night slot for its second and third series. It was a ratings hit in the UK, regularly ranking within the top 20 throughout its run.
Coast to Coast was launched in January 1982 as TVS’ nightly regional news. The South East edition was originally produced and broadcast from the former Southern Television studios in Dover and by October 1982, from the purpose-built TVS Television Centre in Maidstone.
Originally presented by Vyvyan Mackeson, the launch team also included a number of former Southern Television presenters and reporters including sports presenter Mike Field (who presented the programme’s predecessor, Scene South East), Mike Fuller, Arnie Wilson and weatherman Ron Lobeck.
Mackeson left Coast to Coast after several months and was replaced by the Brighton reporter Mike Debens. Debens went on to become the programme’s longest serving main presenter, partnered on-screen by Merrill Harries, Mike Fuller, Cheryl Armitage, Anna Maria Ashe and Liz Wickham.
The final editions of the programme aired as an hour-long special on 31 December 1992, closing with a live performance of the programme’s signature tune by the Band of the Royal Marines.
CATCHPHRASE was one of the most popular programmes ever to be produced at TVS Maidstone. Production began in 1985 with the series making its debut on the ITV Network at the beginning of 1986.
Presented by comedian Roy Walker, two contestants, identified a familiar phrase represented by a piece of animation accompanied by background music.
The show’s mascot, a golden robot called “Mr Chips”, appeared in many of the animations.
Over 150 editions were made before TVS lost its franchise, and the series is still going strong today.
Number 73 (styled as No. 73) was a live Saturday morning show and ran from 1982 to 1988. The show’s stars included Sandi Toksvig, Neil Buchanan, Andrea Arnold, Kim Goody, Nick Staverson, Patrick Doyle and Richard Waites.
Upon winning the regional franchise TVS quickly set up a thriving children’s department. A team was put together with a strong background in theatre and drama, deciding to produce a Saturday morning show that differed from the usual Tiswas and Saturday Superstore formula. This show would feature actors in character as hosts, performing their own comedic storyline around the usual guests, music videos, competitions and cartoons.
Much of the show was improvised, and a whole week of rehearsals plus an extensive dress rehearsal on Friday preceded each live broadcast on Saturday morning. The red front door and Toksvig’s “Sandwich Quiz” is remembered by millions.
All Clued Up was a TVS quiz show based on the The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime. It aired on Sunday afternoons from 1988 to 1991 ably hosted by David Hamilton. Like the American show, two married couples competed to solve word puzzles, which led to a master solution.
Billed as a ‘high tech quiz show’, the set featured a giant alphabetic keyboard which the contestants used to select letters. Considerable cash prizes were offered providing the couples could avoid pressing the elusive and prize-crippling “stinger”.
Five Alive was TVS’s Saturday night comedy sketch show. It starred Brian Conley, Doon MacKichan, Peter Piper, Andrew Secombe, Joanna Brookes and Phil Nice. It ran for two series on the ITV network from 1986-1988.
Finders Keepers was a CITV game show based on an original American format of the same name. It was originally broadcast between 1991 and 1996, hosted by Neil Buchanan. A 2006 revival was hosted by Jeff Brazier.
The lucky winning team got to do the super search around The Finders Keepers house, constructed in studio two (studio five in 2006). They had to raid all 8 rooms in three minutes (increased to four minutes in later series); the more rooms raided, the better the prize!
Perfect Scoundrels was an early-90s comedy drama following the travelling exploits of two conmen, ripping off various unwitting people. The show’s main stars were Peter Bowles and Bryan Murray (also creators) including an enjoyable cameo appearance from Lulu.
Three series were Produced by TVS Television for the ITV network between 1990 and 1992.
Kelly’s Eye Was an ITV Comedy sketch and music series in which Matthew Kelly took a wry look at those unexpected, absurd & surprising situations arising in everyday life.
Produced at TVS Maidstone in 1985, the series featured contributions from Helen Atkinson-Wood, Jim Sweeney, Felicity Montagu and David Simeon as well as a performance from a well-known band.
Motormouth was a Saturday morning children’s television series that was produced in Maidstone and transmitted live across the ITV network for four series. Replacing No. 73, it ran from 1988 – 1992 and starred Neil Buchanan, Tony Gregory, Julian Ballantyne, Caroline Hanson, Andrea Arnold, Gaby Roslin, Steve Johnson and Andy Crane.
In September 1992 What’s Up Doc? replaced the show, being broadcast live from Maidstone, like its predecessor.
Originally part of Coast to Coast, Airmail was TVS’s version of the BBC’s Points of View. Each week Jill Cochrane presented viewers’ letters and comments to the programme makers. Viewers were also invited to request clips from previous TVS productions for a stroll down memory lane.
James Montgomery and Veronica Charlwood opened up an Arcade (actually a fictional setting meticulously created by TVS designers in Maidstone’s studio two) showing off a variety of arts and crafts to TVS viewers.
Dramarama ran from 1983 to 1989 and was a CITV drama slot which most of the ITV companies contributed to. The idea for the show was conceived by TVS’s head of children’s Anna Home and utilized a plethora of new talent, many of whom went on to further success in their field.
A Beetle Called Derek was an environmental magazine programme presented by Andrea Arnold, running for three series between 1989 and 1991.
Two series of Talking Animal were produced between 1984 and 1985 in which international zoo vet David Taylor and Andrea Arnold discussed the various myths that surround popular animals and the environments in which they live.
Do It was set in the offices of The Belstow Weekly, a small local paper in southern England. Reporter Sheelagh Gilbey, bored with the humdrum life of being an admin clerk, decided to create an exciting free supplement for kids. The result was a magazine called Do It which showed children how to make and do all kinds of bizarre and unusual things including jewellery made from glue and plaster-cast hands. Neil Buchanan worked in the loading by and was often reprimanded by the editor for leading Sheelagh astray.
Worldwise was a Children’s quiz show in which two teams would compete to circumnavigate the world on a giant electronic map by answering questions and performing observational tests. Prizes would also be awarded for landing on randomly chosen destinations on the faux flight path.
Networked on ITV from 1985 to 1987, it was hosted by David Jensen, Emma Freud and Bharti Patel.
Highway (transmitted on Sunday’s between 1983 and 1993) was presented by Sir Harry Secombe and featured mixture of hymns and chat from various locations. Guests sang religious songs, gave readings or talked about their lifestyles and spiritual feelings.
TVS’s answer to Tomorrow’s World was presented by Micheal Rodd running from 1982 to 1985. It was on The Real World that TVS broadcast the first 3D television pictures in the UK. Michael was ably assisted by co-hosts Sue Jay and Jackie Spreckley.
Kieran Prendiville presented this networked ITV documentary celebrating 50 years of Butlin’s Holiday Camps. Transmitted in 1986, there were contributions from Roy Hudd, Ted Rogers, George Melly and Mike Reid.
Art Attack was a multi award-winning show that ran for nineteen series from 1990 – 2007 (making it one of CITV’s longest running). All but one of the series were produced in Maidstone as well hundreds of others for countries all around the world.
The main aim of the programme (presented throughout by Neil Buchanan) was to show that you “don’t have to be a great artist to be a great artist”. Recurring character The Head (an animated stone bust performed by celebrated puppeteer Francis Wright) would pop up after each Art Attack to recap Neil’s instructions and then present his own effort, which had inevitably gone amusingly wrong somehow.
Recorded in studios two and five for most of its life, the Big Art Attacks were recorded in various Kent locations.
How 2 was an informative children’s programme produced by TVS between 1990 and 1991, and Scottish Television from 1992 to 2006. The show picked up the reigns from original show How which was produced by Southern Television up until 1981 when the company lost its franchise.
Each episode began with the presenters (Fred Dinenage, Gareth Jones and Carol Vorderman) all raising one hand and saying “How” simultaneously (playing on the Native American greeting). Common topics covered included science, history, mathematics, and simple puzzles.
Henry’s Leg was a children’s drama based on the popular children’s novel by Ann Pilling, adaptation by Roy Russell. The series was produced by John Dale and directed by TVS stalwart Michael Kerrigan.
Henry Hooper loves collecting junk but the discovery of a false leg from a store mannequin spells trouble. The local gangsters also have an interest in the lost limb and trouble abounds.
Recorded on location, the scene were Henry finds the infamous leg was shot outside Curry’s in Central Faversham, Kent.
Navigate to The Maidstone Studios, Vinters park, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 5NZ. We’re just off the M20, Junction 7 sign-posted Maidstone. Find us on Google maps.
London Gatwick: 40 mins
London Heathrow: 60 mins
Folkestone/Dover: 35 mins
The nearest train station is Maidstone East (there are two train stations in Maidstone). Trains depart from London Victoria and London Bridge. From London St Pancras it’s 19 minutes to Ebbsfleet International station where we can organise for Production staff and crew a mini bus or car to pick up or drop off. A small charge applies and will need to be pre-booked.
London Bridge : 45 mins
London Victoria : 55 mins
St Pancras to Ebbs Fleet: 19 mins, plus 20 mins by road.
Ashford Int: 20 mins