T-Bag is a witch-like character who appears in a number of television programmes which ran from the mid-80s to early 90s on Children's ITV. Written by Grant Cathro and Lee Pressman, each season has a different title and features a single story told over several episodes.
From 1985 to 1989, the original T-Bag is Tallulah Bag, played by Elizabeth Estensen. In 1990, Elizabeth Estensen left the show and Tallulah was destroyed attempting to kill T-Shirt and Sally Simpkins with a spell which they reflected back onto her. She was subsequently replaced by her sister, Tabatha Bag, played by Georgina Hale. Coincidentally both actresses now have roles on the ITV soap Emmerdale.
Both sisters obtain magical powers by drinking tea made from the 'High T-Plant' and both are incapable of brewing it properly themselves and require an assistant or 'Tea Caddy' to do it for them. In return for his help, T-Bag shares her magical powers with her assistant T-Shirt and he serves as her sidekick. T-Shirt (Thomas Shirt) is played by John Hasler throughout the series, starting as a small child in the early seasons, and growing up on screen until he towered above Georgina Hale by the time the final season ended in 1992. In the early episodes, he worked in a toy shop and was re-acquired by T-Bag in the first episode of each season. In later episodes, however, the toy shop, and references to T-Shirt's supposed normal human life between series, were dropped, and T-Shirt is presented as T-Bag's constant companion, part harassed surrogate son, part household servant.
T-Bag and T-Shirt's magical powers, (rather limited, owing to cheap 1980's special effects) mostly consist of conjuring objects out of thin air when needed, sending objects elsewhere and teleporting across time and space instantaneously. T-Bag triggers her teleport ability by clicking her fingers, T-Shirt finds finger clicking too difficult and blinks instead.
The premise of each season involves various items hidden across time and space with T-Bag and the heroine both trying to find them. Debbie Carter, played by Jennie Stallwood is the heroine of the first three series. Diana Barrand took over for season four as child television presenter; Holly Anna Jones. Kellie Bright, who later appeared in The Upper Hand and The Archers, played Sally Simpkins in seasons five and six plus a Christmas special. In T-Bag and the Rings of Olympus, the heroine is the Goddess Athena's handmaiden, Polyzena, or Polly, played by Natalie Wood. In T-Bag and the Sunstones of Montezuma, Archeologist's daughter; Penny Hunt is played by Evelyn Sweeney. Typically, each episode also features two non-regular cast members to progress the story.
The scattered items are either needed by the heroine in order to defeat T-Bag or are needed by T-Bag in order to carry out some evil plan to take over the world and are scattered across time and space in the first episode of each season to prevent T-Bag from acquiring them. Each episode then consists of the contest between T-Bag and T-Shirt on one side, and the girl on the other, to acquire one of the magical items.
Each episode has a different setting in which the magical item is hidden, usually either historical periods; such as ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, Renaissance Italy or Elizabethan England. Or settings from folklore or literature; Tom Sawyer's American South, Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest, or a French Foreign Legion station in North Africa which owes something to Beau Geste. Sometimes historical figures such as Napoleon, Leonardo da Vinci or Queen Elizabeth I make a guest appearance. Thus, there is an educational element to the show, although these settings and characters are always treated lightly rather than with great accuracy.
The early series were loosely based upon the good vs. evil theme, Tallulah being the more sinister of the sisters. Typically, the final episode features a return to the setting of the first episode, the magical items re-united, a last minute struggle over the possession of them; often with T-Bag briefly gaining possession through trickery and T-Bag's defeat by the girl; often with the aid of T-Shirt, who tends to switch sides. The comic aspects are usually dropped and T-Bag becomes a much more sinister character as she seems on the point of achieving her dreams of world domination, only to be thwarted at the last minute.
The later series were designed to have a lighter tone. Tabatha; a ridiculously vain, self-deluded character, having had enough of being the 'good' sister, wanted to try being the 'evil' one for a change but was comically incompetent at it. She tended to get an amusing comeuppance at the end of the episode and T-Shirt was far more sympathetic towards her than to Tallulah. This theme lead to the last season; "Take Off with T-Bag", which features T-Bag merely looking for clues to track down her birthday present and no one attempting to beat her to it. T-Shirt's young cousin Tow Ling, played by Bea Julakasiun, also featured and T-Bag became a purely comic character.
|Title||Year of broadcast||Series on IMDb|
|Wonders in Letterland||(1985)|
|T-Bag Strikes Again||(1986)|
|T-Bag Bounces Back||(1987)|
|Turn on to T-Bag||(1988)|
|T-Bag's Christmas Cracker||(1988)|
|T-Bag and the Revenge of the T-Set||(1989)|
|T-Bag's Christmas Carol||(1989)|
|T-Bag and the Pearls of Wisdom||(1990)|
|T-Bag's Christmas Ding Dong||(1990)|
|T-Bag and the Rings of Olympus||(1991)|
|T-Bag's Christmas Turkey||(1991)|
|T-Bag and the Sunstones of Montezuma||(1992)|
|Take Off with T-Bag||(1992)|