Rainbow is a British children's television series,
created by Pamela
Lonsdale, which ran twice weekly at 12:10 on Tuesdays and Fridays on the ITV network, from 16 October 1972 to 6 March 1992. It was intended to develop
language and number skills for pre-school children, and went on to win the
Society of Film and Television Arts Award for Best Children's Programme in 1975.
The programme was originally conceived as a British equivalent of
educational puppet series Sesame Street. The
British series would be developed in house by Thames Television, and had no
input from the Sesame
After more than 1000 episodes, the series came to an abrupt end when Thames Television
lost its ITV franchise at the end of 1992.
Since then, it has gained cult status and continues to get frequent mentions on
radio and television.Each episode of Rainbow revolved around a particular activity or
situation that would arise in the Rainbow House, where the main characters
lived. Usually it would involve some kind of squabble or dispute between the
puppet characters of Zippy, George and Bungle, and Geoffrey's attempts to calm
them down and keep the peace. The main story would be interspersed with songs
(usually from Rod, Jane and Freddy, although guest
singers would occasionally take their place), animations, and stories read from
the Rainbow storybook, usually by Geoffrey. Some episodes would focus on
a particular theme, such as sounds or opposites, and would consist mainly of
short sketches or exchanges between the main characters, rather than a
Rainbow featured the following characters, each with their own
- The presenter - a real person (first David Cook, then the best known
Hayes), who brought them to order or gave them something to do.
- Bungle - a
brown furry bear with a squashed face, who is inquisitive but also clumsy. (a
costume; played by John
Cullinan). The question regarding why Bungle always wrapped a towel around
his waist to protect his modesty after a shower, in spite of the fact that he
walked around nude for the rest of time, has never been addressed. (He also
donned pyjamas at bed time.)
- Zippy - loud and
domineering, who was actually a rugby ball (though with a body attached). (puppet;
originally voiced and operated by Peter Hawkins, then voiced by Roy Skelton - best known for
being the voice of the Daleks in Doctor Who) - and operated by Ronnie Le Drew. Zippy's
mouth was a zip, and when he became too
bossy or irritating this would be zipped shut to prevent him from continuing: on
at least one occasion he unzipped himself, though he appeared unable to do so on
- George - a
shy, pink and slightly camp hippo. (puppet; voiced by Roy Skelton and operated by Malcolm
Holtham and later Craig
and Moony - optimistic Sunshine (yellow with a red hat) and her more gloomy
friend Moony (brown with a tuft of yellow hair) were the original 'stars' of the
programme, but soon became little more than foils to the more popular Zippy;
they were phased out by 1973, in favour of
greater roles for Bungle and (especially) George.
- Rod, Jane
and Freddy - a group of musicians who regularly featured on the programme.
Originally known as Rod, Jane and Matt when they debuted on the show in 1974.
Matt's position being held by Matthew Corbett (of The Sooty Show fame)
and from 1977 by Roger
Walker, before Freddy Marks took over in 1980.
- Telltale -
a six-piece group who provided the music in the early days of the show being
replaced by Charlie Dore
and Julian Littman and then Rod, Matt and Jane.
- Zippy's cousin, identical in appearance to Zippy but slightly darker in
colour, who would make the occasional guest appearance. Originally portrayed as
an eloquent Frenchman, but a later episode depicted him as an American-accented
rapper with loud,
- Georgina (a.k.a Georgie), a cousin of George. Georgina was physically
identical to George, except for her long eyelashes and floppy hat.
- Dawn - the next-door neighbour, played
by Dawn Bowden, who was introduced in the show's later years, first appearing in
- Aunty - played by
numerous actresses, was the aunt of one of the characters, probably Geoffrey.
A few episodes also include some sort of a Geoffrey-type figure for Zippo
called Vince. He seemed to be some sort of a brother to Geoffrey.
Generally speaking, George and Zippy represented two 'types' of child, George
being the quiet and shy type, while Zippy represented the hyperactive and
destructive type. George was usually vindicated, but Zippy got his comeuppance.
While they were apparently young 'children', Bungle was an older 'child', and
differed from them in being a costume, rather than a hand puppet. Geoffrey's
relationship to them was unclear, other than being a kind of father figure
(although he is referred to as 'Uncle' Geoffrey in at least one episode) . Apart
from Jane and (in the early days) Sunshine, females rarely appeared on the
programme, despite some ambiguity concerning the often effeminate (and
permanently pink) George.
In 1989, Rod, Jane and Freddy left the
show to concentrate on touring, pantomime appearances and their own separate TV
show (which had run parallel with Rainbow since 1981). This meant that
Dawn Bowden was introduced as a regular female character in place of Jane, while
the songs were generally provided by guest singers, notably Christopher
Lillicrap. The show would also often include guest stars, to make a change
from Geoffrey telling all the lessons - this way, the characters would be told
stories and lessons by a fresh face.
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