Today I’ll be looking back at seminal but short-lived 80s kids’ show The Kitchin! I’m sure the show needs no introduction to many people, but I’ll give a bit of background for my younger readers.
The Kitchin! was broadcast between 1988 and 1988 on short lived satellite channel KIDZ PLZ, with repeats on BBC airing a few years later. The plot centred around an everyday kitchen, and the utensils that came to life when the owners were out. An interview with creator Malcolm Not stated that Kitchin! Was spelled as such to rhyme with ‘itchin’, due to “there’s always pepper in a kitchen, so we ran with that. But then we realised we’d got sneezing mixed up with itching, but the titles had already been done by then.”
The Kitchin! was a pioneering show, taking advantage of new computer technology to mix filmed footage with animation, creating a surprisingly realistic looking show. Most of the show was created on an Acorn Archimedes; the creators briefly attempted the same graphics on an Amstrad, but that blew up.
I can’t find any episodes of The Kitchin! online, but I have managed to get some screenshots from a VHS I found. Hopefully they’ll release it on DVD soon.
In the meantime, let’s revisit the main characters of The Kitchin!:
Whitebread was a worm in the shape of a loaf. He was the wise, calming influence of the group, often warning against various madcap schemes. He was heard to say “I told you not to do that you idiot!” at least once in every show. A rumour was started several years ago that, in one episode, Whitebread called someone a “fucking twat”, but these rumours have never been proven. T-shirts bearing Whitebread’s catchphrase were planned at one point, but the makers stopped bothering.
Patula, often known as ‘Pat’, was the mum of the group. While Whitebread advised caution, Patula was there to see to the cuts and bruises that had inevitably occurred by the end of each episode. Her caring nature was hindered, however, by her having no arms, so most of the time the best she could do was to say “there there” as the younger characters lay bleeding.
Sally and Peppa
Sally and Peppa were the show’s mischievous twins. Think Hugs and Tugs from Care Bears, except they were cruets. As they went through the day causing havoc and getting up to stuff, their respective salt and pepper would spill out all over, causing them to become tired. At the end of a couple of episodes, the owners of the kitchen would come back and demand to know where their salt and pepper had gone.
Sally and Peppa were the focus of one of the show’s ‘very special episodes’, in which Sally became empty due to not paying attention to her salt amount. This led Patula to give a talk on how you shouldn’t try to do too much, because you might die.
Not actually a character, nevertheless The Toaster was an integral part of the show: it was where the characters got their ideas. At the start of each episode, a note would pop out of The Toaster, with something to do written on it. Occasionally, the characters would go to The Toaster, only for bread to pop out. In these episodes, the Kitchin gang had nothing to do, so just sat around until the end credits. These episodes weren’t as popular as the others.
Fork Nell was a naïve, comic relief character. She was known for being gullible, and for going along with whatever ideas the utensils came up with. Usually, Sally and Peppa would drag her into their schemes, as she was taller and could reach things. In the interview linked above, Malcolm Not said: “I wanted to have a stupid, naïve woman one, because the show has to have a level of plausibility. Kids won’t go for talking kitchen utensils, but they won’t question a naïve woman one. That’s how they are. I know forks are male, but it was creative licence.”
Featured heavily in a lot of shows; the role of The Sockets was clearly an attempt at a PSA within the show. The utensils, particularly Sally and Peppa, were always being warned by Whitebread not to go near The Sockets, as “they will do you harm. Harm. Harm.”
In the episode NO!, Sally and Peppa persuade Fork Nell to stick her head in The Sockets, “to see what’s inside.” A fun piece of trivia for you: The main animator, Howard Malcolm, wanted to cut away to a comedy ‘BOOM’, something akin to the old Batman shows. But Malcolm Not overruled this, insisting that kids needed to learn. The end result generated 756 complaints.
As well as the main characters, various kitchen odds and ends were brought in for cameos. These included: Milcolm (a pun on Malcolm, which no one seemed to get), The Teabagging Crew (teabags who lived in a jar and had parties), and the Cup Mafia, who no one ever saw but the characters were always afraid of.
The Kitchin! was, in my opinion, way ahead of its time, alerting kids to the dangers of an everyday kitchen while still being entertaining and fun. I just wish I could find a recording of the theme tune, but I can’t so I’ll have to write the lyrics as faithfully as I can remember them:
“The kitchin, what a mess!
Only women wear a dress,
Watch the kettle, it’s nearly done,
In the kitchin, we’ll have fun!”