I am a Brit and proud of it (yeah, I’m a poet as well), and thus I am of the mentality that in general, British telly is better than American TV. British comedy is funnier, British dramas are more dramatic, British stuff is stuffier. There are good American shows, to be sure, but Britain has Doctor Who, Sherlock, Only Fools and Horses, Psychoville, League of Gentlemen, Being Human and many other endlessly delightful wonders.
I will say this in America’s favour though; their kids’ TV isn’t as fucked-up as ours.
America has Mickey Mouse. America has Donald Duck. America has Big Bird and Spongebob and Bugs Bunny. The UK? Well, I guess Doctor Who counts as a kids’ show…and…um. Sadly, a lot of our kiddie fare includes an array of horrible nightmare creatures, grinning puppets and cartoons so surreal Pink Floyd would be confused. Charlie Brooker’s entertaining How TV Ruined Your Life series once took a look at some of our islands’ kids’ shows just to point out how warped they were; examples included Fenella from Chorlton and the Wheelies (I’m not sure why Brooker highlighted her, I always thought she was a riot with her always-shaking head) and the slipshod puppets in Pipkins.
So yeah, the UK does have a lot of creepy creatures invading the airwaves while kiddies are watching (Candle Cove may have originated from this side of the pond) and I will highlight five unintentionally creepy creatures of kids’ British telly.
5) Zippy (Rainbow)
Rainbow is one of the more well-known British kids’ shows, intended to be the Transatlantic Sesame Street. The thing was it ended up being a mish-mash of Sesame’s more psychedelic sketches, the Adam West Batman series (they even did a spoof of said series in ‘Zipman and Bobbin’) and a fever dream with dementia (yes, dreams can have mental illness now. They can because I say so.) The scene transitions were these weird cartoons with mechanical sound effects, the props and sets were literally cardboard, and then we come to Zippy here.
Zippy was voiced by the late Roy Skelton, more well-known for voicing the Daleks in Doctor Who, but believe me when I say that’s the least scariest thing about him. Zippy shared a house with two other characters called George and Bungle, and these two made Zippy feel even more wrong. George was obviously a hippo and Bungle was obviously a bear, but it wasn’t at all clear what Zippy was, whether he was an alien, an imaginary friend, a Rugby ball or a giant pill. You’ll certainly need aspirin when watching this show.
Whatever he was, he had a zip on his mouth (whenever the other characters found him too annoying, they zipped him up to shut him up) that not only made him look like a gimp but raised further questions about his origins. What evolutionary process led to that zip? What advantage does that give him? Is he a GELF?
And would you believe there were times that he actually was creepier? There were two Rainbow spinoffs airing after the original show ended that gave him shoulders and two arms – his original design had only one arm – and making him look slightly more real made him look a hundred times more unreal. Then there was his appearance in the very first episode of Rainbow, where he looked like ET if he was an aborted fetus:
Also check out Bungle there; that’s not a kids’ show character, that’s a villain in a slasher movie.
4) Filbert (Wizadora)
Wizadora concerned the adventures of the titular woman training to be a wizard, and yeah, if your show’s premise involves someone tampering with the dark forces of Satan, there’s going to be something offsetting about it. Most of Wiz’s friends had something wrong about them – there was Tatty Bogle, a scarecrow that looked like Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz crossed with an insane hobo, Phoebe, a telephone that bore more than a passing resemblance to those face banks, but the worst of the lot was fucking Filbert up there.
Yes, one of the supporting characters in Wizadora looked like one of Audrey II’s faeces. With his eternal smile, bulging eyes and odd movements, Filbert’s design seems more appropriate for a villain than a supporting character – he wouldn’t look out of place as an antagonist in Doctor Who, something that turns people into plants or something. What’s worse about him is that he’s more or less a retard, speaking in squeaks and some unexplainable language. He’s pretty much Lennie Small in puppet form, as evident here:
Filbert likes plants as much as Lennie loved small animals, it seems, as when his “pet plant” dies, Filbert plum acts like it’s the end of the world. He even asks Wizadora to use her magic to bring the plant back to life (she can’t, which makes her a pretty shitty wizard. I mean, how are you going to raise an army of zombies if you can’t even resurrect a stupid plant?) And he cries while smiling. That fucking smile. Maybe he’s sad about his plant dying because it didn’t outlive the entire human race like he wanted.
3) Mr. Noseybonk (Jigsaw)
This fellow also got a shout-out on the aforementioned How TV Ruined Your Life, and he certainly deserves it more than Fenella. Jigsaw was supposed to be about puzzle-solving, so Noseybonk was an appropriate character, since he’s pretty much a puzzle himself.
Why does he look like one of the killers from The Strangers crossed with American McGee’s Mad Hatter? What’s with the tux he always wears? How many cases of missing children could be attributed to him? Why are the plants he grows in this clip shaped the way they are?
And boy does he look excited to see them grow.
And in this clip we see him turning a group of schoolchildren into his zombie slaves, and…oh god…that there’s more than one of him. There’s probably a whole race of Noseybonks infesting the world, controlling our children’s brains. Slenderman has competition.
2) Every Fucking Character in The Magic House
I think the number one rule for writing children’s entertainment should be NEVER EVER EVER CALL YOUR MAIN CHARACTER ‘UNCLE’ SOMETHING ESPECIALLY IF THAT ‘SOMETHING’ IS WIGGLY. Case in point, the main character of The Magic House is called ‘Uncle Teapot’ and is called that by people who can’t be his nieces or nephews, which is just wrong. He’s called that by an OAP for fuck’s sake. If I ever met someone who wished to be addressed as ‘Uncle Teapot’, I’d call the police immediately.
I guess Uncle Teapot had an excuse to be called that; he was a giant talking teapot. A teapot with a rubbery face and eternal smile. Like Filbert, he wouldn’t stop smiling, even when he was upset, and neither would his friends. An entire house full of Gwynplaines.
They were all grinning household objects the lot of them, and the way they acted was no less disturbing. Uncle Teapot asks his magic wishing well HG Well (get it) to help the garden grow, and Well gives Teapot some magic water, which Teapot uses too much of. HG Well starts off being kind and friendly, but turns into some sort of Old Testament God when his warning isn’t heeded and Uncle Teapot ends up creating giant plants. The other characters later have a garden party, fair enough, but begin it with some sort of pagan dance as if they are trying to appease the Wishing Well God. I wonder if the episode where they sacrifice virgins and engage in blood orgies has ever been aired.
1) Raggety (Rupert)
I am convinced people in my country seriously have issues when it comes to puppets. We have the devilishly grinning Mr. Punch, those freaks in Pipkins, and who can forget that bastard Mr. Flibble? Just look at this:
That’s not an intro, that’s a brainwashing tool used on Alex DeLarge.
Rupert was based on the iconic stories about a little white bear that got into adventures with his friends Bill the Badger and Podgy the Pig. Somewhere along the way there was Raggety, a Gollum-esque sprite which calls to mind faerie lore; he even steals away a baby so he can take care of it. As if that wasn’t enough, he bares an eerie resemblance to that monster from Parasomnia.
Thankfully, he was a little less creepy in the Nelvana 2D animated series where he basically just resembled a cute alien, but then he was redesigned for a 2006 series…
HG WELL IS LORD