Teletubbies (BBC2, 1997-2001)
For many years there was a morning slot on BBC1 or BBC2 that featured shows for younger viewers (not to be confused with the similar See-Saw slot). It usually consisted of Play School (and this was the only show in the morning in BBC2’s earliest days). This was then replaced in 1988 by Playbus/Playdays, and after this ended, it was replaced by another show that would become very successful.
Teletubbies is one of those shows that doesn’t much explanation really because it remains popular, but it is rather bizarre. I’m sure that you don’t need reminding of the main characters, but of course there was the purple Tinky Winky, the green Dipsy, the yellow Laa-Laa, and the red Po. Which one was your favourite? They would often get involved in some rather strange adventures, this definitely was a show that was full of hugging and learning.
One of the most memorable features of Teletubbies was when their antenna would make a TV picture appear on the screen on their stomach, usually featuring people taking part in an activity. After this, they would all say “again, again!”, and the exact same sequence would be shown in full for a second time. They would often do other things including a dance, having an adventure (guest starring the voice of the guy off Mike And Angelo), and they also all had their own individual extra, such as Dipsy’s hat.
Along with all this, when you start to add in things like vacuum cleaners that seem to have a mind of their own, chairs that made honking noises, a rather strange looking sun, and too much custard, you have the makings of something that really stands out. Although I’m sure that they thought they had a hit on their hands, by the end of 1997, less than a year after the show launched, Teletubbies had become a cultural phenomenon.
There was a huge amount of merchandise including figurines of all the characters, VHS tapes containing lots of episodes, Radio Times and TV Times covers, several awards were won, and newspapers covered every detail as if it was hugely important (well I’m sure it was). Suddenly people of all ages were watching the show (and, yes, me included), it was parodied by just about every other TV show going, and this all led to something rather surprising.
The theme music to Teletubbies was released as a single in 1997, and it went on to become the Christmas Number One (curiously it followed the “Perfect Day” charity single as a chart-topper meaning that there were two BBC-backed Number One singles in a row). It became a million seller, but I remember that radio stations didn’t seem to be fond of playing it, how could they ignore such a masterpiece?
Although I don’t think that it was ever shown as part of the CBBC afternoon strand, there were a lot of editions of Teletubbies made, and it then went on to be repeated endlessly on CBeebies. In more recent years there was a somewhat inevitable revival of the show, meaning that today’s youngsters could finally say “eh-oh” to these remarkably enduring characters.