Bradley Walsh discovers what happened to UK telly’s legendary puppets

One to Watch: tonight on ITV Bradley Walsh switches the chasers for puppets.

Bradley Walsh looks into the world of television puppets.

Bradley Walsh tells the story of Britain’s most famous puppet stars. They were once the big names of Saturday night TV, but what happened to the cuddly – and not so cuddly puppet personalities – when the limelight faded? Bradley discovers where they are now and brings together some of them for a very special reunion.

The hour-long special will including old favourites like green-bird Orville, who with the late Keith Harris had his own primetime BBC One entertainment series from 1982 to 1990. At the peak of their popularity in December 1982, the pair released the single “Orville’s Song”, reaching number 4 in the UK Singles Chart in January 1983 and selling over 400,000 copies in total.

Before his death in 2015 Keith and Orville continued to make occasional television appearances on shows such as Celebrity Big Brother, Little Britain, Pointless Celebrities and The Farm.

Orville with the late Keith Harris on Big Brother.

Also a huge personality in the 1970s was vicious Emu, who initially made his name on the entertainment scene appearing on shows such as ATV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium, before becoming a chat-show regular along with his human friend the late Rod Hull. The bird was notorious for goosing presenters and chat-show hosts including Michael Parkinson, Russell Harty and Larry Grayson. In the 1980s Emu toned down his grabbing antics and became a star of children’s television on both the BBC and ITV, peaking with his Central Television produced Pink Windmill Show. Emu returned with a new show, without Rod who died in 1999, in the 2000s.

Sooty, discovered on Blackpool’s North Pier is a small yellow and black bear who has a fondness for his magic wand and water pistol. He originally entertained live audiences with Harry Corbett from 1948 onwards, before making his television debut on the BBC in 1952. When Harry retired his son Matthew took over and his show switched from the BBC to ITV where he spend most of the 80s and 90s at Thames Television. Several other Sooty shows followed with the bear most recently seen on CITV with companion Richard Cadell. Sooty, along with later additions Su and Sweep, celebrated his 70th birthday earlier this year with a special event on the North Pier in Blackpool where his career began.

Sir Ken Dodd, last December at the Blackpool Grand Theatre, with Diddy Mint and his waxwork to mark his 90th birthday.

Emu with Rod Hull at the Pink Windmill.

Others also featuring in tonight’s wander down puppetry memory lane include Ken Dodd’s Dicky Mint, the most famous of the ‘Diddy Men’ a creation of the Merseyside comedian who died earlier this year aged 90. The Ditty Men first appeared in The Ken Dodd Show on the BBC and proved so popular they ended up with their own children’s series. The Diddy’s were later played by children themselves on Ken’s live stage shows and also on his 1970s ATV series.

Staying with ATV it was Saturday morning children’s magazine show Tiswas that propelled Spit the Dog to stardom. Along with handler Bob Carolgees the pair dodged buckets of water, gunge and children in the late 70s and early 80s. The pair went on to appear on the late night version of the show, OTT, but became part of family entertainment when they joined Cilla Black as co-hosts on weekend reunion and dreams-come-true series Surprise Surprise. The LWT produced series saw Spit and Bob part of the team for eight years. There was also the lesser remembered Cough the Cat.

There’s also a look at the posh Lord Charles and the saucy Nookie Bear as well as many more.

Bradley Walsh: When Dummies Took Over The World, tonight at 9pm on ITV, STV and UTV

Bob and Spit the Dog on Tiswas Reunited for ITV.

Our Top 10 TV Puppets:

1 – Sooty. To have lasted 70 years without speaking a word, this is a legend that will be unbeaten

2 – The Muppets, given their break by ITV in the UK when the states broadcasters were just left baffled by the madness.

3 – Emu. A bird that was brave enough to put his beak where many others wouldn’t in fear of a #metoo hashtag.

4 – Muffin the Mule. The donkey was a stalwart of the BBC, until ATV offered him big money to switch to ITV.

5 – Andy Pandy. We’d also tie-break 5 with his pal Loopy Lou. Let’s just hope she never found out her pay was less than his…

6 – Spit the Dog. Giving hope to ugly mutts all over the world.

7 – The Flower Pot Men. Bill and Ben, showing bush trimming love long before it was popular. And who doesn’t like a little weed?

8 – Hartley Hare. The bitch of Pipkins deserves to be remembered.

9 – Orville The Duck. Popular for so many years, despite his squeaky voice and terrible records. We preferred the naughty Cuddles the Monkey.

10 – Tingha and Tucker. Two of ITV’s biggest stars in the 1950s and 60s. The Koala’s had the biggest children’s fan club at their peak in the late 1960s.

Johnathan Kydd with Pipkins costars Topov the Monkey and Hartley Hare.
Share Button