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Pipkins/Inigo Pipkin (1973-81)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Pipkins/Inigo Pipkin (1973-81)
ATV for ITV, 1/1/1973-29/12/1981
336 x 15/30 minute episodes in 10 series (combined), colour
Producer Michael Jeans
Writers include Susan Pleat
 David Cregan
Directors Michael Jeans
 Dorothy Denham
 Pembroke Duttson

Cast: George Woodbridge (Mr Inigo Pipkin); Wayne Laryea (Johnny); Charles McKeown (Charlie the Dustman); Jumoke Debayo (Bertha); Jonathan Kydd (Tom); Paddy O'Hagan (Peter Potter); Sue Nicholls (Mrs Muddle). Voices: Nigel Plaskitt (Narrator/Hartley Hare/Tortoise/Mooney); Heather Tobias (Pig/Topov/Octavia); Lorain Bertorelli (Topov/Octavia); Elizabeth Lindsay (Topov/Octavia); Diana Eden (Mrs P); Anne Rutter, Alex Knight (Pig)

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Fun exploits with the animal residents of 'Pipkins': Pig, Topov the monkey, Tortoise, Octavia the ostrich and last, but definitely not least, Hartley Hare

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Inigo Pipkin (ITV, 1973) was one of four pre-school series launched for 1972/73 lunchtimes. While dealing in simple cognitive concepts like shapes and colours, it also specialised in social interaction and exploring the big questions that fill the inquiring minds of toddlers.

Inigo Pipkin the puppetmaker was a portly grandfather figure, whose puppets had lives of their own. Among them was Hartley Hare, a vain, loud and often sulky puppet whose own bad behaviour was intended to mirror the worst excesses of the target audience.

Mr Pipkin actor George Woodbridge died five weeks into making the second series - that an episode was given over to explaining Mr Pipkin's death demonstrates the series' realism. With the series retitled Pipkins (1974-81), assistant Johnny ran the shop as an agency, helping people in all kinds of strange ways.

The foibles of characters such as greedy Pig, Topov the inquisitive monkey and the increasingly camp and outrageous Hartley (once going as far as to mimic Mae West: "Well show me, big boy!") were suffered by a succession of adult assistants who would try to answer the puppets' often difficult questions. Rather than use the mediated 'windows' of Play School (BBC, 1964-88), the Pipkins staff went out into the real world to visit schools, hospitals and dentists to help reassure and prepare children for such experiences.

The show had an urban style similar to that of the American Sesame Street, its rather run down workshop located among ordinary backstreets and the casting of black actors like Wayne Laryea and Jumoke Debayo reflecting its Birmingham origins (even if the series was taped at ATV's London Elstree studios).

Innovative and sometimes hilariously funny, the series ended with ATV's restructuring as Central Television in 1982. Producer Michael Jeans next made the very different Let's Pretend (ITV, 1982-89), with Central production relocated to Nottingham.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. Plenty to do (3:43)
Complete episode: 'The Toy Makers' (14:44)
Children's Puppets and Animation
Children's TV in the 1970s
Pre-school Television