Inigo Pipkin/Pipkins (partially found British children's puppet TV program; 1973-1981)
Inigo Pipkin, later called Pipkins, was a children's British puppet television program produced by ATV that originally aired on ITV from January 1st, 1973 until December 29th, 1981.
It was originally created to be a British successor to the popular American children's show Sesame Street. The show was based around a puppet maker named Inigo Pipkin who lived in his shop with his creations, such as Hartley Hare, George the tortoise, Topov the monkey and Octavia the Ostrich.
Death of Inigo
The show took a major turn after the actor who played Inigo, George Woodbridge, died of a heart attack in March of 1973.
As he had only recorded later episodes in the current season at the time, the writers hastily wrote into the script that his absence was due to Mr. Pipkin going on "a fishing holiday."
The following year at the start of the next season, the writers of the show voted against ending it at the height of its popularity with no real explanation. This resulted in the show taking a very different and rather brave turn that was unheard of at the time in children's programming. They had decided to work the death of Inigo into the program to explain his sudden absence, a first in children's television. This predated Sesame street's infamous episode on the topic of death by almost a decade.
The show was renamed Pipkins and direction was soon taken away from the adventures in the puppet shop approach. Pipkins was reworked as a show about the puppets living in a house instead of a puppet shop. This resulted in the building of a new set with interiors based around that of a kitchen, bedroom, and garden. The set is built from the ground up allowed the puppeteers to work standing up and move around more freely. The new set's design was modeled after that of The Muppet Show which was filmed at one of ATV's sets as well.
The show took a turn to the puppets starting an organization called "The Help People" who performed useful tasks for people, or just "anyone who needs a hand". In these episodes, the animals also learned about life, how to cope with various situations and learning as well as teaching valuable lessons. Taking Inigo's place was Inigo's assistant, Johnny (played by Wayne Laryea) who took over as the show's human host until 1978. This is where Tom (played by Jonathan Kydd.) replaced him until 1980. This was when Peter (played by Patty O'Hagen) took his position as the final host of Pipkins.
The show kept this approach until it ended in December 1981 after a very successful nearly-ten-year run resulting in 313 episodes. (often erroneously thought of as 333 episodes having aired)
The show had ended due to ATV losing its franchise for the Midlands ITV region and then being structured into what is known today as the Central Independent Television.
Many episodes of Pipkins that were recorded on 625 line PAL color videotapes, including the pilot of Inigo Pipkin, are completely missing from archives. Not to mention, the poor storage conditions of the tapes by ATV led to many of the tapes being badly damaged, or just completely destroyed due to deterioration and bad condition.
In total, 136 episodes survive out of 333 episodes in the collection, along with two incomplete episodes, leaving 197 completely lost.
Nigel Plaskitt, who provided the narration of the show - as well as the voices and puppet operation of Hartley Hare and the Tortoise - had videocassette recordings of 56 different episodes. Some of these were used for the limited DVD release in the UK. Thanks to Plaskitt's further efforts, he has located 21 additional episodes.
53 of the surviving 136 are privately kept in the personal ITV archives.
The list of the 56 recordings, the 21 episodes located by Mr. Plaskitt and a list of over 300 different episode titles and their air dates can be found on the "official" Pipkins website he owns, Pipkins.net.
- British Film Institute Screen Online page for Pipkins. Retrieved 04 Mar '20
- Official Pipkins website.Retrieved 04 Mar '20