Review for Pipkins: Volume 4
I first saw the incredibly scraggy (arguably charmingly so) ‘Pipkins’ about five years ago when Network released an episode on one their fantastic ‘Look Back to the 1970’s’ compilations. I recall being relatively astonished at the show’s unapologetically low-budget look and feel.
Using what look like charity-shop soft toy cast offs, prodded and pushed into life by clearly visible coat-hanger sized wires or puppets loosely constructed from old loo rolls, the series was successful enough to run for eight years with a total of some 333 episodes, many of which 198 were cruelly wiped or presumed lost. To give you a yardstick by which to measure the show’s production values, it actually manages to make ‘Animal Kwackers’ look positively sophisticated.
This popular pre-school ATV show started as ‘Inigo Pipkin’ in 1973. I was living in the USA at the time and it certainly didn’t make its way there and by the time I returned to the UK in 1974, I would have been far too old to be watching baby stuff like this. But I guess anyone born in the late 1960’s through to the mid 1970’s in the UK might have fond memories of this show.
Despite its appalling production values it certainly has a period charm. Ranging from 1973 to 1981, with this volume focusing more in the middling period (1976-79), there are some great seventies hair-dos, flared jeans and cheesecloth shirts to enjoy as well as a gentle, period charm that oozes that decade.
The many ‘puppet’ characters in Pipkins (had a very wide range of accents and voices, from the terribly posh like the buck-toothed scruffy star of the show, Hartley Hare through to pure black-country (Pig) and cockney (Topov, a creepy monkey) , making it a refreshing change to the plummy BBC TV shows of the day.
The show originated at a time when ITV were beginning to pad out their daily broadcasts a bit so four regional pre-school shows were commissioned – Rainbow, Mister Trimble, Hickory House and Inigo Pipkin. Thames Television’s Rainbow remains perhaps the most fondly remembered though ‘Pipkins’ probably comes a close second.
When it was shown on January 1st 1973, it featured an elderly puppet maker called ‘Inigo Pipkin’ although he sadly passed away, as old people do, shortly thereafter – leaving a name but no puppet-master. So the series shifted gear, took a note from ‘Rainbow’, and introduced young male presenters to drive the show instead.
This volume (Volume 4) is another random selection featuring episodes throughout its run rather than being ‘Series 4’ so you get various presenters here. Some episodes having been preserved only via personal off-air recordings) so the picture quality is very variable. They are all in colour though and perfectly watchable, despite looking a bit ragged, and it’s great that Network have been able to release them.
Many retro TV nostalgia freaks will be delighted with this collection. For me, despite not having seen it when it aired, it’s time-capsule quality was enough to make it a fun watch and it’s a show that succeeds in entertaining adults as well as pre-teens with its occasionally knowing humour – very much in common with ‘Rainbow’.
Many fans will think of the character of Hartley Hare as the star of the show and his squeaky, slightly camp old man’s voice is certainly a regular feature, along with his buck tooth and mis-matched and unanimated eyes.
If you’re a fan and want to know more then it’s well worth visiting the official Pipkins website here.