Tuesday, 9 June 2015
160 Watch With Mother : Bagpuss
First watched : 1974
A-ha! Not much chance of anyone forgetting this one which is at or near the top of any poll of favourite kids' TV shows that have been conducted in the past 20 years.
Bagpuss I think was the end of the line for me as far as Watch With Mother went; in fact the branding was dropped that same year. It was also the last entirely new Smallfilms production that I watched. Of course at nine ( at least ) I was long in the tooth for it anyway and was only watching when sick or on holiday but it was engaging enough not to be an irritant like Rainbow for example.
Like Pogles' Wood before it , Bagpuss is seeped in nostalgia, set in a ( presumably zero-rated ) shop populated by antiquated objects that exists only to enable their original owners to reclaim them. The "shop" was run by a girl called Emily ( only seen in sepia-stills featuring Peter Firmin's real-life daughter Emily ) who provided the motor for the story by depositing a broken object in the shop. Once she'd departed , the old cloth cat Bagpuss would come to life and direct other characters such as Gabriel the musical toad, Madeline the rag doll and Professor Yaffle , a woodpecker bookend, in mending the object and telling its backstory often in song.
The series did recycle ideas used in Pogles' Wood and The Wombles but it was done with great charm and you'd need a heart of stone not to feel a pang as Postgate closed the show with the lines "Even Bagpuss himself, once he was asleep, was just an old saggy cloth cat , baggy and a bit loose at the seams. But Emily loved him ". You can't sum up the enduring affection for an old toy better than that.
As usual only 13 episodes were made and it stopped being run regularly in 1987 but the memory endures.