In 1972, the ITV network expanded its daytime broadcasting hours and the Independent Broadcasting Authority commissioned four of the main ITV companies to each provide a series of interest to pre-schoolers, as an alternative to the successful US import Sesame Street. From this commission Thames Television came up with Rainbow, Yorkshire with Mister Trimble, Granada with Hickory House, while ATV’s contribution would be Inigo Pipkin.
Inigo Pipkin was first shown on New Year's Day 1973. When the show started, the main character was an elderly puppet maker called Inigo Pipkin (hence the original title), played by George Woodbridge. The puppets were his creations, and over the course of the first series, viewers saw Inigo bring to life Hartley Hare and the Tortoise (a.k.a. George) played by Nigel Plaskitt; and Topov the monkey, Pig and Octavia the ostrich, all played by Heather Tobias.
However, Woodbridge died suddenly from a heart attack in March 1973, while recording of the second series was still taking place. Inigo Pipkin was not recorded in the order it was transmitted, and Woodbridge had only completed taping of the latter episodes. The scripts for the episodes that would be broadcast first in the transmission run, i.e. those that Woodbridge had not managed to record, were thus hastily rewritten, with Inigo's absence explained by his being away on a fishing holiday.
In 1974, in a first for children's television, the death of Inigo was worked into the programme, predating the Mr Hooper episode on Sesame Street by nine years. From this episode onwards, the show was renamed Pipkins and Inigo's assistant, Johnny (Wayne Laryea), took over. The direction of the programme had to change; from here on, the show ceased to centre around a puppet workshop and the characters became the 'Help People', helping anyone in need of a hand. In "Death of a Goldfish", they replayed the episode except by acting on behalf of the death of a pet. Topov the monkey and Johnny discussed why the goldfish died and why do people die?
Johnny left Pipkins around 1978, to be replaced by Tom (Jonathan Kydd), who moved on in 1980, his place taken by Peter Potter (Paddy O'Hagan). In later years Sue Nichollsmade regular appearances as the Pipkins' neighbour, Mrs Muddle. The name was somewhat ironic as she was always a calming, self-assured presence around the puppets.
The familiar workshop set was replaced in 1979 (in the story "Moving Out"), with new interiors based around a kitchen and backyard. The new set was built up from ground level to enable puppeteers to work standing up and to move around more freely, modelled on the methods used by The Muppet Show which was also filmed at ATV's Elstree Studios. (Thats the reason why the puppets move so awkwardly in the earlier episodes.
In common with other 1970s shows, several Pipkins episodes recorded on 625 line PAL Colour Videotape — including the very first Inigo Pipkin — are missing from the archives (poor storage of former ATV master colour videotapes has led to the loss of many shows), and not even any 16mm Black & White Film copies of the lost episodes exist.
Out of a total of 333 episodes, only 135 have survived. 198 episodes no longer exist in any format, while two others exist on 625 line PAL Colour Videotape only as incomplete copies (possibly due to videotape damage caused by poor storage). Nigel Plaskitt — who provided the show's narration, as well as voicing and operating Hartley and Tortoise — made off-air domestic videocassette recordings of around 56 episodes, now the only format in which these are known to exist, and some have been used for the DVD release in the UK.
All Found Episodes (The ones recovered by Nigel Plaskitt) ==
Ep.# Ep. Title Date aired Description::
|x||All That Glitters|
|x||Why Can't Teddy Go Home?|
|x||Topov The Lookout|
|x||Catching The Mood|
|x||Hartley And The Lamp|
|x||Uncle And The Marrow|
|x||The Royal Atronomer|
|x||The Haunted House|
|x||The Bird Watcher|
|x||The Toy Makers|
|x||The Laughing Bag|
|x||Tortoise The Fastest|
|x||A Day With The Scrapman|
|x||The Glove Puppet|
|x||Topov And The Bananas|
|x||Hartley The Leader|
|x||Bertha and Hartley Clean Up||1973-07-04|
|x||An Old Glass Door|
|x||Johnny's Flat, Hartley's Office|
|x||On The Canal|
|x||Hartley the Pig|
|x||Borrowing and Lending|
|x||Love Thy Neighbour|
|x||Odd One Out|
|x||The Grass is Greener|
|x||Tom and the Circus|
|x||On the Canal|
|x||21st Century Pipkins|
|x||A Writer's Tale|
|x||Mrs Muddle Remembers|
|x||Hartley Hare in Conversation|
|x||An Old Glass Door|
|0 x||Hartley And The Dog||1977-11-20|
|0 x||Death Of A Goldfish||1977-12-08|
|1 x 1.0||The Glove Puppet||1976-11-18|
|1 x 1.0||Tom and the Circus||1980-09-16|
|1 x 2.0||The Drum||1976-12-22|
|1 x 2.0||Love Thy Neighbour||1980-11-04|
|1 x 3.0||Hartley the Leader||1977-04-08|
|1 x 3.0||Borrowing and Lending||1981-01-06|
|1 x 4.0||Cowboys||1977-09-26|
|1 x 4.0||Hartley the Pig||1981-02-24|
|1 x 5.0||The Grass is Greener||1980-05-13|
|1 x 5.0||Odd One Out||1981-12-29|
|2 x 1.0||Bertha and Hartley Clean Up||1973-07-04|
|2 x 1.0||Let's Make an Opera||1978-09-13|
|2 x 2.0||Hartley's Teeth||1975-10-28|
|2 x 2.0||Mrs Muddle's Puppet Show||1981-09-22|
|2 x 3.0||Topov and the Bananas||1977-02-28|
|2 x 3.0||The Plant Growers||1979-04-11|
|2 x 4.0||Catching the Mood||1977-09-29|
|2 x 4.0||Hartley the Conjuror||1980-05-20|
|2 x 5.0||Hartley and the Lamp||1977-11-04|
|2 x 5.0||Cheering Up Tortoise||1981-11-17|
|4 x||Gnome Sweet Gnome||1978-10-16|
Most Sought After Episodes
The Glove Puppet (Partially found)
Probably the most notable episode of the found Pipkins tapes is the one about the glove puppet, which the title shares the same name. Hartly says that, "You know, you can be naughty with a glove puppet," which is why this episode is so notable. However, a lot of parts of the overall episode are lost, though the episode was found to exist.
[Update] The episode is complete and on YouTube https://youtu.be/7PySDoBklXw
Death of a Goldfish (Lost Completely)
Death of a Goldfish was also another really notable episode, where a pet goldfish has died and everyone is devastated. This episode is a really well known from people who have seen the show, but no real episode footage is online.
[Update] The episode does survive (Thanks to a domestic recording done by Nigel Plaskitt) https://youtu.be/khtQH8XoeRQ
Pipkins Pilot (Lost Completely)
This episode is wanted just because of the facts its a pilot episode. Not much is even said about this episode, other than the fact that it was supposed to share the same plot as "Bertha and Hartley Clean Up", which is the first episode of season 1. Its unknown weather the this aired episode is the pilot or an altered version.
Sophie the Cat (All clips/Episodes displaying her as a character Lost)
Sophie the cat, voiced by Anne Rutter in the series as been cut from all clips in found episodes for no clear reason. Not even are there any still screenshots of this puppet online. The only information we have been able to find is who voice acted her, and some basic information. That's it.