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The BBC was sending children on an outward-bound course.SM: TV was opening with a gag about the presenters' pants.Its hosts, Zoe Ball and Jamie Theakston, were credited with giving children's television some street cred and with giving hungover students of both sexes someone to lust after.A rival programme was commissioned by Children's ITV boss Nigel Pickard – about whom, more later – and after a wobbly start, SM: TV Live established its own identity and its own fanbase.Saturday morning is "kids' time off", says Pickard, so there won't be any more interviews with Mo Mowlam or Richard Branson.And judging by Monday's press preview, this was a shrewd move.Can Behr really muster sincere enthusiasm when she's chatting to a giant hamster puppet?
The child goes home with nothing, Ant gloats, and Dec invites the following week's contestant to "wipe that smirk off his face". L&K's replacement, The Saturday Show, begins next week, and if it doesn't have Ant and Dec, it does have the nearest thing: it was commissioned by the new-ish head of Children's BBC, Nigel Pickard. It gives things an edge for the viewers, and for the producers. The goal for us is to come up with a true alternative to SM: TV."Pickard, a 20-year veteran of children's programming, stresses "the long-term view" – The Saturday Show could take six months or more to gather its audience.Just a week ago, Auntie Beeb was interviewing two bronze-medal-holding British athletes.A channel-flick away, a silicon-enhanced WWF wrestler was plugging her pay-per-view spectacular.I remember when Sarah Greene would treat everyone on Saturday Superstore – including celebrity guests – as if they'd just wet themselves on their first day of primary school.Nowadays, children's TV presenters are more likely to be cool and ironic, which is just as condescending.