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Bagpuss (1974)

Courtesy of Smallfilms

Main image of Bagpuss (1974)
Smallfilms for BBC
13 episodes (colour)
Written byOliver Postgate
ProducerOliver Postgate
 Peter Firmin
DrawingsPeter Firmin

Voices: Oliver Postgate (Bagpuss, Professor Yaffle), Sandra Kerr (Madeleine), John Faulkner (Gabriel)

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Old cloth cat Bagpuss and his friends rescue and mend the items that Emily brings to their shop.

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The fondness with which this series is recalled - it has scored highly in any number of nostalgic polls - seems to confirm that television for the very young is at its most successful when dealing in repetitive, reassuring motifs. Each episode is confirmation of the series' format - every week events are largely the same.

In a succession of sepia-tinted photographs, a little girl called Emily (actually Peter Firmin's daughter Emily) brings to the Bagpuss & Co shop an item she has found. The forlorn item is placed before Bagpuss and friends, who wake up to guess what the object is or used to be. As the worker mice set about restoring the item, one or two songs and stories speculating on the item's origins punctuate the format. The item cleaned up, it is placed in the shop window for its owner to one day collect - just in time for Bagpuss to fall asleep - "And of course when Bagpuss goes to sleep all his friends go to sleep too."

Some marvellous characters - the sleepy cloth cat himself, the mischievous mice always trying to get a rise out of pompous old bookend Professor Yaffle, the folk singing duo of rag doll Madeleine and banjo-playing toad Gabriel - and imaginative designs, such as the 'marvellous mechanical mouse organ' and the toy mill that appears to make chocolate biscuits from butterbeans and breadcrumbs, are the series mainstays. The whole thing is shot through with Postgate's whimsical altruism - rather nonsensically it is the story of a shop that doesn't sell anything.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. The mill (5:40)
Complete episode: 'The Mouse Mill' (14:11)
Production stills
Smallfilms studio tour
Children's TV in the 1970s
Children's Television
Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin