When people remember the Wide Awake Club they think of Timmy Mallett hitting little children on the head with a foam rubber mallet, an image that comes not from the original Saturday morning program at all, but rather from the holiday weekday version of WAC, Wacaday. As one of the original trio of presenters on TVam's most successful Saturday morning children's program (after "Splat"), the Wide Awake Club (WAC for short) Timmy Mallett actually left during the first series to return to his nighttime DJ job and was replaced by Saturday morning stalwart Tommy Boyd. But when in October '85 TVam's one and only superstar, Roland Rat, who dominated the last half hour of their holiday lineup, jumped ship for BBC, a replacement show had to be found immediately. Manic Mallet was pushed back onto television and had to improvise his way through a half hour filled with cartoons, accompanied by Terry the Terror, a puppet character from TVam's Sunday morning show Are you awake yet (AYAY). Born out of desperation, the show began to hit it's stride the following summer, when Timmy brought in his pet cocketiel Magic to replace Terry and the unforgettable word association game called Mallet's Mallet began. You can imagine what parents had to say. Here was a grown man, wearing increasingly outlandish clothes, actually hitting children on the head with a giant hammer (even is it was made of Nerf) each time they gave a wrong answer.
Six times a year, during every school holiday, Wacaday would fill the airwaves during the last half hour (and later a full sixty minutes) of ITV's early morning programming TVAM. This meant the regular presenters could go home earlier during the holidays and any guest that happened to be on the sofa during the 'grown up' portion of the show, might be persuaded to join Timmy and Magic on their little set for some Q and A sessions. But as Mallett's popularity grew, he became even more loud and annoying (purpoisly). The nerdy V-necks, little bow-ties and round specs he wore in the early days had long been replaced by multicolored shirts, short pants and a collection of silly glasses that would have made Elton John foam at the mouth. Apart from making sure his appearance drew attention, Timmy treated the show as if it was just a silly radio job anyway, inventing catchphrases for every item, occasion or cartoon he introduced (at first, Go-Bots episodes were cut into five minute chucks to be shown daily, then their cousins the Transformers got the Wacaday treatment) as well as hand/full body movements to go along with each intro.
As every children's program must have some educational worth, the first couple of seasons saw Mallett learning to swim or surf or whatever past time they could film on the cheap, but as the budget increased, Wacadau started to feature travel documentaries of Timmy on holiday. Michaela Strachan of WAC Extra (the new, Sunday edition of WAC) joined up for a couple of summers (1987 and 1989 to be exact), but was eventually replaced by, of all things, a puppet version of that soft pink Mallet, introduced in 1990 (and named Pinky Punky by way of a competition). That same year, Timmy reached the top of the British charts with a cover of Bryan Hyland's "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" (as Bombalorina). This must have been another hit below the belt for Michaela, who's own singles failed to make an impact. When TVam went Kaput in 1992, so did Wacaday, and watching bits of it back on Youtube, I can finally understand the puzzlement my parents expressed when I insisted on watching it. Timmy is still out and about though, performing on cruises and parties and for anyone who will have him, waving his mallet around and performing his Bikini cover accompanied by a new pair of Bombalurina backup singers/dancers.
8 out of 10
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