Wednesday, 3 December 2014
26 The Sooty Show
First watched : Uncertain
We'll switch to ITV for a moment as the Christmas 1969 edition of TV Times is available to peruse - there's a very nice picture of Diana Rigg in a bikini in there - although I've only identified two shows that I may have been watching at that time.
The first was The Sooty Show which, like Tales From The Riverbank, was originally on the BBC, running from 1955 to 1967. It was one of the shows axed by incoming controller Paul Fox but was quickly snapped up by the infant Thames Television in 1968.
Sooty was the creation of Yorkshireman Harry Corbett ( no relation to the Steptoe and Son actor who added the "H" to his name to avoid this confusion ) who was the nephew of chip shop magnate Harry Ramsden. The original glove puppet was bought from a stall on Blackpool's North Pier in 1948; Corbett added soot to his ears and nose to make him more distinctive.
On the show Corbett was the perpetual fall guy; on the end of every mischievous trick played by Sooty and his mucker Sweep. Sooty was mute to all but Corbett who related what Sooty had whispered in his ear. Sweep could only communicate with high pitched squeaks. Corbett's ally was the female panda Soo who could speak normally and often brought her friends into line. Other puppets were introduced in later years but I'd tuned out by then. Besides the slapstick humour, Sooty was a budding magician who performed simple tricks with his wand. It was endearing, innocent fun.
Corbett suffered a heart attack in 1975 and as a result his son Matthew took over the show although Corbett charged him a hefty sum for the rights. Corbett senior continued performing in theatres until his peaceful demise in 1989,
This second incarnation of the show went down with Thames Television in 1992 but was soon resurrected by Granada as Sooty & Co, still with Corbett junior at the helm. Around this time there was a "World of Sooty" museum in Shipley ( near Corbett's birthplace ) which I saw signposted when I was walking the Settle-Carlisle Way in 1992. Charles Jennings gives a melancholic account of a visit in its last days in Up North. In 1998 Matthew Corbett himself retired and sold his rights to Richard Cadell who re-booted it as Sooty Heights. After a couple of further makeovers Cadell remains at the helm to this day and there's a movie out soon so Sooty seems indestructible.