Looking Back At RAINBOW - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking Back At RAINBOW

Few television programs have captured the hearts and minds of British children as much as the enduring show, "Rainbow." From its inception in 1972 until its last episode in 1992, this program served as a staple of British children's programming, embedding itself within the cultural memory of millions.

The roots of Rainbow lie in the desire to create a television program that could bridge the gap between popular puppet shows and traditional children's television. Thames Television, the production company behind "Rainbow," sought to blend education and entertainment, reaching for the same heights as series like "Sesame Street," but with an unmistakably British touch. The concept was a simple yet unique blend: a house shared by a jovial host, a zippy zebra, a curious bear, and a bouncy hippo – an odd assembly, yet one that soon felt like family to countless viewers.

At the helm of this motley crew was Geoffrey Hayes, playing the character Geoffrey. Known for his warm smile and approachable demeanor, Hayes was the calming influence over his co-inhabitants: Zippy, George, and Bungle. The first was an orange puppet with a zip for a mouth, notorious for his loud and cheeky remarks. Then there was George, a shy, pink hippo known for his bashfulness and politeness. Lastly, Bungle, the oversized brown bear, always full of questions and wonder. Each puppet was carefully crafted to embody different personality traits, with Geoffrey acting as the supportive, guiding figure.

The voice talents behind the beloved puppets also deserve mention. The unforgettable voice of Zippy, provided by Roy Skelton, was marked by a distinctive nasal tone, while the soft-spoken George was beautifully delivered by the same Skelton, demonstrating his vocal versatility. Bungle was brought to life by various actors, with Stanley Bates's incarnation standing out as a prominent portrayal, remembered fondly for his amicable voice and warm characterisation. These actors, coupled with the puppets' personas, made for a remarkable cast that stood out amidst the numerous children's programs of the time.

The creators of "Rainbow" didn't confine themselves to the industry standard puppet shows of the time. They infused their production with a blend of live action, puppetry, and animated sequences. To further distinguish the show, each episode featured songs performed by a resident band, Rod, Jane, and Freddy, whose catchy tunes still ring nostalgically in the ears of the generation who grew up watching.

In terms of production, "Rainbow" was a logistically complex endeavour, in part due to the intricacies of puppeteering. Bungle, the largest puppet, required his operator to be fully enclosed within him. Operating Zippy and George, on the other hand, required mastery in puppetry and ventriloquism, especially considering that Skelton voiced both simultaneously, a testament to his incredible talent. The behind-the-scenes commitment to these characterisations, combined with imaginative scripting, brought an undeniable charm to the show, which captivated audiences.

Memorable episodes of "Rainbow" are too many to count, but a few stand out for their cultural resonance. "The Show Off," for instance, was an episode that revolved around Zippy's inflated ego, teaching children the importance of humility. Another significant episode was "Sounds," where Bungle's curiosity about noises led to an educational exploration of sounds and their sources. These episodes and many more encapsulated the ethos of "Rainbow," embedding educational content within entertaining narratives.

"Rainbow" was a massive success, consistently ranking high in viewing figures. It was so popular that at its peak, it was broadcast twice a day. Its viewership often reached several million per episode, a testament to the show's universal appeal.

As with many great series, the magic of "Rainbow" eventually found its sunset. However, its impact continues to echo through the decades. The ensemble of "Rainbow" — Geoffrey, Zippy, George, and Bungle — left indelible impressions on an entire generation of viewers. The performers themselves went on to varying careers, with Hayes appearing on other children's programs such as "Z Cars," and Skelton, apart from lending his voice to George and Zippy, famously provided the voices of Daleks and Cybermen on "Doctor Who."

In conclusion, "Rainbow" was not merely a show but a cultural phenomenon that successfully mixed entertainment and education in a unique format. Its unconventional characters, engaging stories, and memorable tunes made it a beloved part of British television history, a testament to the creative minds that dreamed it up and the talented performers who brought it to life. "Rainbow" may have faded from the airwaves, but its colors continue to shine in the memories of those who grew up under its spell.

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