Shortcake and sugarcubes!

T-Bag: Wonders in Letterland

"It's the 4th April 1985. It's 4.20pm. Picture yourself parked in front of the telly in your school uniform, refusing to do your homework and watching CITV. This is the day you first experience T-Bag, the brand new series that, to this day, evokes such fond memories. Now for the very first time, it's out to own on DVD... and it's still as fantastic as you recall!"

So goes the blurb for T-Bag, perfectly encapsulating why so many adults have been craving what is the best kids show ever made. The first series - Wonders in Letterland - has now been released twenty-five years after transmission, much to the joy of die-hard fans.

Debbie suddenly finds herself inside the board game she happens to stumble upon in the arcane Curiousity Shop, and wherein the megalomaniac witch Tallulah Bag - T-Bag - keeps her subjects from reading. The key to holding onto her power is "ignorance is bliss", she believes, and Debbie must find the missing letters scattered throughout the game to complete the legend that will oust T-Bag.

This really is a kid's show. It's hard to imagine anyone who didn't first enjoy it in the late '80s/early '90s sharing the same manic enthusiasm. I put on an episode whilst He Who Must Be Obeyed was in the room, and received some very odd looks. "What goes through your head when you're watching this?" he asked, thoroughly baffled.

That's the point. Watching T-Bag transported me back twenty years to simpler times, and I was thrilled to discover that I still loved every minute of Debbie's adventures. Sometimes going back to the TV of our youth is disappointing - ThunderCats, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Ulysses 31, all firm childhood favourites - left me cold. That same magic just wasn't there; they couldn't hold my attention the way they once did.

T-Bag, on the other hand, is live action, which seems to make all the difference. Elizabeth Estensen's titular villainess Tallulah Bag is a fantastic creation: wicked, deliciously over-the-top, and the funniest thing on the show. (Her constant demands for tea from put upon slave boy T-Shirt put me in mind of He Who Must Be Obeyed. If only I'd known that I'd end up dating an African version of "the old T-Bag"...) She's probably also the reason why this series would be so fondly remembered by gay boys - T-Bag is essentially a very camp, vicious drag queen.

The two children - T-Shirt, and our heroine Debbie - actually look, and sound, like real children, unlike the precocious stage school monsters clogging up our screens nowadays (who said child slavery was dead, eh, Will and Jada?) That I usually find children a huge bore (on screen and off), yet couldn't wait to get to the next episode of T-Bag, says a lot about the show's watchability. The second series, T-Bag Strikes Again, can't come soon enough.

The best thing about this long-awaited DVD release is that it will inevitably find its way into the homes of parents who loved T-Bag's machinations way back then, who now have children of their own. And that really is magical.


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