Cats' Eyes is a BBC schools TV series from the 1990s and 2000s, covering science for primary school pupils.
Scientific concepts explained for young children in a variety of captivating ways.
In each episode Alf, the friendly but not-too-bright pizza maker, and his friend Katie get up to something such as looking after a tortoise or digging a hole, which relate a scientific concept in a way familiar to children's experience. They sing a song about the science of what they are doing.
Two (puppet) alley cats, Jimmy and Jook, live on the same street Moggy Mews, taking food from Alf's shop. They observe what the humans get up to, making predictions and explaining what is going on through their cats' eyes.
Between visits to Moggy Mews are longer, specially filmed documentaries filmed all over the world with various presenters getting stuck into safaris, skydives and explorations as a starting point for scientific enquiry.
Alongside all of this are animations and, in the early episodes, mime sequences, all on the same science concepts.
The series was part of the BBC's £6 Million Primary Science project, launched in 1994 to replace all of its schools TV programmes for primary schools with a newly conceived scheme covering TV broadcasts for pupils and teachers, books and extensive teaching literature.
The private detective
When originally conceived the headline star of the series was veteran English actress Dora Bryan, playing a private detective, Dora, with an office in Moggy Mews whose investigative equipment and techniques contributed to the scientific basis of each episode.
However, Dora Bryan left the series after the first few episodes had been recorded in the spring of 1994, and her place was initially taken by veteran Scottish actress Janet Brown, playing private detective Janet, but then after the Changes in Materials unit the detective character stopped appearing and the Moggy Mews stories centred on Alf, Katie and the cats alone.
Within each episode one or two documentary films are shown, providing a real-world context to the scientific topic.
A range of presenters take on these documentaries, including Jenny Powell discovering wildlife in Kenya, Femi Oke meeting people in Jamaica, and Shauna Lowry in North America. Ginny Buckley also visits Africa and America, and Sheryl Simms investigates the Red Sea. Many of these presenters also have assignments in the UK, along with children's TV stalwart Dave Benson Phillips.
The documentary films had a wide appeal. When Cat's Eyes started the films were recommended for use with children with learning disabilities. Later they were re-used as part of the replacement series Science Clips. Various parts of Cats' Eyes were used in the DynaMo series targetted at home learners.
And between 1995 and 2008 clips about 2 to 6 minutes long were extracted and played as 'fillers' between scheduled schools programmes. Approximately 34 separate 'fillers' were created, and first shown on 19th September 1995.
Several early episodes of the series, first broadcast in 1994-95, were significantly changed for repeats from 1996 onwards.
Some of the Moggy Mews sequences were completely re-made, using new scripts by Chris Ellis featuring the puppets Jimmy and Jook but none of the human residents. The original songs, sung by Alf, Katie and co. and with lyrics by original writer Victoria Pile, can still be heard in the re-made episodes.
In addition to the four re-made episodes listed at the bottom of the episode list below, the episode Light and Dark was billed as being new in the 1996-97 annual programme guide for schools, and the episodes Senses and Movement were billed as new on the 1997 termly wallcharts for schools. But I don't believe these were actually changed since the episodes with original 1994 and 1995 copyright dates were still used in later years.
|1.||(1)||Body Parts (1994)||19 Sep 1994|
|2.||(2)||Senses||26 Sep 1994|
|3.||(3)||Survival (1994)||3 Oct 1994|
|4.||(4)||Growing Up||10 Oct 1994|
|Types of Material|
|5.||(1)||Protection||31 Oct 1994|
|6.||(2)||Sorting||7 Nov 1994|
|7.||(3)||Building Materials||14 Nov 1994|
|8.||(4)||Waterproofing (1994)||21 Nov 1994|
|Light and Sound|
|9.||(1)||Light and Dark||16 Jan 1995|
|10.||(2)||Colour (1995)||23 Jan 1995|
|11.||(3)||Sound||30 Jan 1995|
|12.||(4)||Music||6 Feb 1995|
|Changes in Materials|
|13.||(1)||Freezing and Melting||27 Feb 1995|
|14.||(2)||The Effects of Heat||6 Mar 1995|
|15.||(3)||Bending||13 Mar 1995|
|16.||(4)||Giving Things Shape||20 Mar 1995|
|17.||(1)||Pushing and Pulling||24 Apr 1995|
|18.||(2)||Falling||1 May 1995|
|19.||(3)||Floating and Sinking||10 May 1995|
|20.||(4)||Natural Forces||15 May 1995|
|21.||(1)||Faces||22 May 1995|
|22.||(2)||Night Life||5 Jun 1995|
|23.||(3)||Health||12 Jun 1995|
|24.||(4)||Movement||19 Jun 1995|
|Plants and Animals|
|25.||(1)||Is It Living?||20 Sep 1995|
|26.||(2)||Flowers, Seeds and Plants||27 Sep 1995|
|27.||(3)||Animal Families||4 Oct 1995|
|28.||(4)||Animal Care||11 Oct 1995|
|Electricity and Magnetism|
|29.||(1)||Electricity Helps||1 Nov 1995|
|30.||(2)||Electric Shocks||8 Nov 1995|
|31.||(3)||Before Electricity||15 Nov 1995|
|32.||(4)||Magnets||22 Nov 1995|
|The Earth and Beyond|
|33.||(1)||Rocks||28 Feb 1996|
|34.||(2)||Sun and Water||6 Mar 1996|
|35.||(3)||Weather||13 Mar 1996|
|36.||(4)||Seasons||20 Mar 1996*|
|37.||(1)||Eating Plants||17 Apr 1996|
|38.||(2)||Life in the Water||24 Apr 1996|
|39.||(3)||Habitats and Humans||1 May 1996|
|40.||(4)||Litter||8 May 1996|
|Re-made and updated episodes|
|41.||Body Parts (1996)||18 Sep 1996|
|42.||Waterproofing (1996)||13 Nov 1996|
|43.||Colour (1997)||15 Jan 1997|
|44.||Survival (1997)||11 Jun 1997|
* - According to BBC records Seasons was first shown on Friday 9th February 1996. The scheduled Cats' Eyes episode on that day was an in-week repeat of Giving Things Shape, so Seasons may have been shown instead that day, by mistake. This is supported by the fact that, after Seasons was broadcast again in its proper place as the 4th episode in the Earth and Beyond unit on 20th & 22nd March 1996, there was an unusual repeat of Giving Things Shape on 27th & 29th March 1996 which hadn't been originally scheduled on the termly wallcharts but was added to the schedules in time for the weekly listings in the Times Educational Supplement.
The Movement episode is listed with an original broadcast date of 4th June 1997 in the BBC archive catalogue, but I can find no evidence that its earlier scheduled broadcasts on 19th & 21st March 1995 or 30th January 1996 were all cancelled, so this may be a typo.
Originally the Survival episode was shown 3rd in the unit on People and the Faces episode was shown 1st in the unit on Living, as listed above.
However from autumn 1996 onwards all transmissions and video releases of the series have seen the Faces episode switched to the People unit and shown as the 2nd episode in the series, and a re-made version of the Survival episode positioned as the 4th episode in the Living unit.
An additional short 5 minute programme introducing the series for teachers was shown as a filler between other programmes in Autumn 1994, including comments from the producer Lambros Atteshlis and various schoolchilden.
|1994-95||Autumn 1994, Spring & Summer 1995||Mon||10:25||BBC2|
|1995-96||Autumn 1995, Spring & Summer 1996||Wed||10:45||BBC2|
|1996-97||Autumn 1996, Spring & Summer 1997||Wed||10:45||BBC2|
|1997-98||Autumn 1997, Spring & Summer 1998||Mon||10:45||BBC2|
|1998-99||Autumn 1998, Spring & Summer 1999||Mon||10:45||BBC2|
|1999-2000||Autumn 1999 & Spring 2000||Wed||09:00 & 09:15||BBC2|
|Thu||09:00 & 09:15||BBC2||Repeat|
|2000-01||Autumn 2000 & Spring 2001||Thu||09:00 & 09:15||BBC2|
|2001-02||Autumn 2001, Spring & Summer 2002||Wed||11:35 & 11:50||BBC2|
|2002-03||Autumn 2002||Wed||11:50 & 12:05||BBC2|
Various scheduling strategies were used to broadcast all 40 episodes within the 28 broadcasting weeks of the school year., including a separate sequence of programmes on different days of the same week, and fitting in double bills on the same morning.
The series was also shown overnight as part of the Learning Zone on BBC2, with each unit of four, 15 minute episodes repeated over an hour, between 19th September 1995 and 24th August 2003. Overnight broadcasts during the summer holidays were intended for a home learning, general audience.
The series was shown in the Class TV schools broadcasts on the CBBC Channel in spring and autumn 2003.
The documentary clips continued to be shown as fillers between schools programmes on BBC2 until around 2006, and on the CBBC Channel until 2008.
|Starring||Rowland Rivron as Alf|
|With others including||Tony Aitken, Jack Chissick|
|Animation voices||Brian Bovell, Alistair McGowan|
|Mime artist||Uri Roodner (1994)|
|Presenters||Dave Benson Phillips|
|Written by||Victoria Pile (1994-96)|
Chris Ellis (1996-97)
|Music by||Richard Vranch|
|Designers include||Adele Marolf, Maggie Carroll, Judith Mead, Ken Ledsham, Peter Findley|
|Education officer||Shelagh Scarborough (1995-97)|
Su Hurrell (1995)
Samina Miller (1996-97)
|Location producers/directors||Peter Brown, Hazel Graham, Sarah Miller, Amanda Mooney, Howard Reay, Emma Robertson|
|Studio producer||Andrew Chater (1994)|
Peter Boisseau (1995-97)
|Studio director||Peter Boisseau|
|Primary Science Project editor||Robin Mudge|
|Executive producer||Frank Flynn|
|Producer||Andrew Chater (1994-96)|
Nicci Crowther (1997)
|Series producer||Lambros Atteshlis|
Notes booklets were printed for each term of broadcasts, including separate booklets for the 'Nightschool TV' overnight repeats. They contain programme information, activity suggestions, worksheets and links to the National Curriculum.
Video Plus Packs
Video Plus Packs were large plastic boxes containing a video tape of BBC schools TV programmes, edited together with new 'Video Plus' branding, an A4 booklet of teachers' notes, and pupils' materials.
In the case of Cats' Eyes a set of 5 Video Plus Packs was released, each containing two units of programmes, teachers' notes, and a pair of relevant Find Out About books.
The packs were released in 1996-97 and so contained the re-made rather than original programmes. The intention had been to release all of the 40 prevailing episodes in this way, but in fact only 38 episodes were released in these packs, with the episodes on Rocks and Sun and Water omitted and the unit on The Earth and Beyond described as Weather with its remaining episodes on that topic and Seasons.
The packs were sold as:
- People and Living, ISBN 0 563 37608 2
- Materials and Their Uses, ISBN 0 563 37607 4
- Plants, Animals and the Environment, ISBN 0 563 37603 1
- Electricity, Light and Sound, ISBN 0 563 37604 X
- Forces and Weather, ISBN 0 563 46274 4
Find Out About Books
A series of Find Out About children's books on science for 5-7 year olds were published as part of the Primary Science project, similar to the BBC's Factfinders series of books for older children.
The topics covered include Animals, The Body, Changes, Electricity, Environment, Light and Sound, Plants, Pushes and Pulls, Rocks and Weather.
The Primary Science project also provided an age 5-7 'Teacher's Manual' on science teaching generally, in a yellow ring binder. An 'Assessment Pack' was later released to supplement this, designed to fit in the same ring binder.
Sources & References
- BBC Learning Zone Programme Guides 1997-2004.
- BBC Programme Catalogue online (no longer available)
- BBC Schools Annual Programme Guides 1994-2002.
- CBBC Class TV schedules released directly by BBC Learning.
- Haigh, Gerald (1994) '£6m added to scientific equation' in Times Educational Supplement 23 September 1994. p.26
- Radio Times listings. London: BBC.
- Times Educational Supplement television listings, 1994-2000.
and recordings of various episodes With thanks to Ben Rigsby.
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