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Rainbow was a British children's television series, created by Pamela Lonsdale, which ran from 16 October 1972 to 24 March 1997. It was intended to develop language and social skills for pre-school children, and went on to win the Society of Film and Television Arts Award for Best Children's Programme in 1975. It aired five times weekly, twice weekly on Mondays and Wednesdays then Tuesdays and Fridays, and finally once weekly at 12:10 on Fridays on the ITV network.

Rainbow Titles.jpg
Created byPamela Lonsdale
Presented byDavid Cook
Geoffrey Hayes
StarringJohn Leeson (1st Bungle)
Stanley Bates (2nd Bungle)
Malcolm Lord (3rd Bungle)
Richard Robinson (4th Bungle)
Paul Cullinan (5th Bungle)
Peter Hawkins (1st voice of Zippy)
Roy Skelton (2nd voice of Zippy, voice of George)
Violet Yeomans (voices of Sunshine and Mooney)
Ronnie Le Drew (puppeteer)
Telltale (1st musicians)
Rod Burton (musician)
Jane Tucker (musician)
Matthew Corbett (musician)
Roger Walker (musician)
Freddy Marks (musician)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series27
No. of episodes1071
Production location(s)Teddington Studios
Running timeTypically about 15 minutes
(occasionally longer)
Production company(s)Thames Television
Tetra Films (1994–1997)
Original networkITV Network (Thames
Picture format4:3
Original release16 October 1972 (1972-10-16) –
24 March 1997 (1997-03-24)

The show had three producers over its lifetime – Pamela Lonsdale, Charles Warren and Joe Boyer.

The programme was originally conceived as a British equivalent of long-running American educational puppet series Sesame Street. The British series would be developed in house by Thames Television, and had no input from the Children's Television Workshop.[1]

After more than 1,000 episodes (a total of 1,071 episodes with 27 series), the series came to an abrupt end when Thames Television handed its ITV franchise over to Carlton Television on New Year's Eve 1992. Since then, it has gained cult status and continues to get frequent mentions on radio and television. A few DVDs have been produced, including one celebrating 30 Years of Rainbow.


Each episode of Rainbow revolved around a particular activity or situation that would arise in the Rainbow House, where the main characters lived. Usually, it would involve some kind of squabble or dispute between the puppet characters of Zippy, George and Bungle, and Geoffrey's attempts to calm them down and keep the peace.

The main story would be interspersed with songs (usually from Rod, Jane and Freddy, although guest singers would occasionally take their place), animations, and stories read from the Rainbow storybook, usually by Geoffrey. Some episodes would focus on a particular theme, such as sounds or opposites, and would consist mainly of short sketches or exchanges between the main characters, rather than a consistent storyline. Brief sequences of animated line drawings, made by Cosgrove Hall Productions, were included in many episodes.


Zippy and George at the National Media Museum

Rainbow featured the following characters, each with their own character style:

  • The presenter – at first David Cook, who was replaced in early 1974 by the best-known presenter Geoffrey Hayes. He would bring the other members of the Rainbow household to order or give them something to do. He acted as the symbol of adult wisdom, and rarely demonstrated overt affection to any of the three puppet characters, acting more as a carer/teacher than a father. There were infrequent mentions to his life outside of the Rainbow household, such as ex-girlfriends.
  • Zippy – loud and domineering, but usually very funny (albeit not to the other characters in the show). The puppet was originally voiced by Peter Hawkins and operated by Violet Philpott and later voiced by Roy Skelton – both were also well known for voicing Daleks and Cybermen in Doctor Who – and operated by Ronnie Le Drew. Zippy's mouth is a zip, and when he becomes too bossy or irritating, this would be zipped shut to prevent him from continuing: on at least one occasion he unzipped himself, though he appears unable to do so on other occasions. He broadly represented childhood self-centredness, "naughtiness" and extroversion.
  • George – a shy, pink and slightly camp hippo. He broadly represented sensitivity and introversion. (puppet; voiced by Roy Skelton and operated by Malcolm Lord, Tony Holtham and later Craig Crane). First appeared in 1973.
  • Bungle – (Also known as Bungle-Bonce, particularly by Zippy) a brown furry bear with a squashed face, who is inquisitive but also clumsy and usually complains a lot about the other characters, especially Zippy's antics. He broadly represented conformity. A Bear costume; played by John Leeson, Stanley Bates, Malcolm Lord, Anthony Pitt and Paul Cullinan.[2] Although unclothed most of the time, he wraps a towel around his waist after a shower and also wears pyjamas at bed time. The original 1972 costume resembled a wild brown bear, but in 1973 this was replaced with a new design resembling a teddy bear.
  • Rod, Jane and Freddy – a group of musicians who regularly featured on the show. When they debuted in 1974 they were 'Rod, Jane and Matt', Matt being Matthew Corbett (of The Sooty Show fame). Matt was replaced from 1977 by Roger Walker, before Freddy Marks in turn took over in 1981. When the series began in 1972, the regular singing trio were Telltale (see below) who were replaced in 1974 by Charlie Dore, Julian Littman and Karl Johnson.
  • Sunshine and Moony – optimistic sunshine (yellow with a red hat) and his more gloomy friend Moony (brown with a tuft of yellow hair) were the original 'stars' of the programme, but soon became little more than foils to the more popular Zippy; they were phased out by 1973, in favour of greater roles for Bungle and (especially) George. They were voiced by Violet Yeomans.
  • Telltale – a six-piece group who provided the music in the early days of the show being replaced by Charlie Dore and Julian Littman and then Rod, Matt and Jane.
  • Dusty - a sheepdog. Zippy's short-lived original sidekick for a handful of episodes circa Christmas 1972. Replaced by George for the 1973 series.
  • Zippo – Zippy's cousin, identical in appearance to Zippy but slightly brighter in colour, who would make the occasional guest appearance. Originally portrayed as an eloquent Frenchman, but a later episode depicted him as an American-accented rapper with loud, flashy clothing.
  • Georgette (a.k.a. Georgie), a cousin of George. Georgette is physically identical to George, except for her longer eyelashes and floppy hat.
  • Dawn – the next-door neighbour, played by Dawn Bowden, who was introduced in the show's later years, first appearing in 1990.
  • Aunty – played by numerous actresses, is the aunt of one of the characters, probably Geoffrey.

Generally speaking, George and Zippy represented two 'types' of child, George being the quiet and shy type, while Zippy represented the hyperactive and destructive type. Zippy often demonstrated a cynicism and wit that went beyond the "4th wall" and appealed to older viewers. George was usually vindicated, and Zippy got his comeuppance. While they were apparently young 'children' (aged around 6), Bungle was an older 'child' (aged around 8), and differed from them in being a costume rather than a hand puppet. Geoffrey's relationship to them was unclear, other than being a kind of mentor/teacher/carer (although he is referred to as 'Uncle' Geoffrey in at least one episode). The fact that he is always referred to as "Geoffrey" and never "Dad" may suggest that he is their professional carer, and that they live in an idealised, timeless "foster-home".

In 1989, Rod, Jane and Freddy left the show to concentrate on touring, pantomime appearances and their own separate TV show (which had run parallel with Rainbow since 1981). This meant that Dawn Bowden was introduced as a regular female character in place of Jane, while the songs were generally provided by guest singers, notably Christopher Lillicrap. The show would also often include guest stars, to make a change from Geoffrey telling all the lessons – this way, the characters would be told stories and lessons by a fresh face. Even so, Geoffrey was never completely eliminated and continued to act as presenter and "member of the Rainbow House" until the end of the programme in 1992.

Theme songEdit

The theme song for the show was actually a small part of the full version, also called "Rainbow" and written by Hugh Portnow, Hugh Fraser and Tim Thomas of the band Telltale, who regularly appeared in the first two series of the show. It was released by Music for Pleasure in 1973 with the B-side "Windy Day".

There have been several dance versions of the theme tune which have been released as singles. The dance act Solo had a minor hit in 1991 with a sample-free instrumental version of the Rainbow theme, while Eurobop released a dance version in 1993 featuring samples taken directly from the original theme as well as voice samples of the main characters, who appeared on several music TV shows to promote the single; a hardcore version entitled "Rainbow Vibes" by the Sonz of Bungle circulated on 12" vinyl in 1992 which sampled the theme tune over a chopped up breakbeat and featuring rave stabs. The most recent dance version, titled "It's a Rainbow!" and featuring the vocals of Zippy and George, reached the UK top 20 in 2002.

VHS releasesEdit

Rainbow (1972–1992) VHS releasesEdit

VHS Title Release Date Episodes
Rainbow (VC1050) 7 April 1986 Mystery Bag, Pirates, What Happened to Tommy Tucker?, Music (1) - Voice and Hands, Going to the Funfair
Rainbow - Rainbow Goes Camping (TV9920) 3 November 1986 Camping, Dancing, What's Wrong with Bungle?, King for a Day
Rainbow: Small World + Goes Out (TV8002 & TV8003) 5 October 1987 Small World (1), Caterpillars and Butterflies, Looking After Baby, Small World (2), Going Out to the Circus, Going to a Toy Museum, Journey on a Narrow Boat, A Visit to a Safari Park
Rainbow - Down on the Farm (TV9957) 5 October 1987 Down on the Farm, Daydreaming, Going Swimming, A Day in the Country
Rainbow - Christmas Rainbow (TV9987) 5 October 1987 Wrapping/Unwrapping, The Christmas Story, Rainbow Christmas Show
Children's Favourites - Volume 2 (TV8011) 1 February 1988 The Ugly Duckling (Compilation VHS with 'Button Moon' and 'The Sooty Show')
Rainbow - Stories and Rhymes (TV8026) 4 April 1988 The Hare and the Tortoise, Nursery Rhymes (1), Rumpelstiltskin, Nursery Rhymes (2)
Rainbow - Rainbow Christmas Pantomime (TV8042) 7 November 1988 Rainbow Christmas Pantomime, Decorations, A Cold Day
Rainbow - Monster Makes/Guess Who I Am (WP0002) 7 November 1988 Monster Makes, Guess Who I Am
Rainbow - Music (TV8057) 6 February 1989 Music (1), Music (2)
Rainbow with Rod, Jane and Freddy - Stories and Rhymes Volume II (TV8046) 10 April 1989 The Highwayman, Noah's Ark (Compilation VHS with 'Rod, Jane and Freddy')
Children's Favourites Vol. 3 (LL0032) 1 May 1989 Floating and Sinking (Compilation VHS with 'Button Moon' and 'The Sooty Show')
Children's Favourites Vol. 4 (LL0033) 1 May 1989 George's Secret Place (Compilation VHS with 'Button Moon' and 'The Sooty Show')
Rainbow - Music (LL0013) 1 May 1989 Music (1), Music (2), Music and Song
Children's Summer Stories (TV8060) 5 June 1989 Journey on a Narrow Boat (Compilation VHS with 'Button Moon' and 'The Sooty Show')
Rainbow - Rainbow Explores (TV8075) 16 October 1989 The Explorers, Ice and Snow, Mazes, Tracks and Trails, Outer Space
Children's Favourites: Bedtime Stories (TV8077) 6 November 1989 Whispers (Compilation VHS with 'Button Moon' and 'The Sooty Show')
Rainbow - Make and Do (TV8085) 5 February 1990 The Toymaker, Worried and Weary, Time and Space, Borrowing
Children's Holiday Favourites (TV8093) 4 June 1990 Family in the Garden (Compilation VHS with 'Rod, Jane and Freddy' and 'The Sooty Show')
Rainbow - Super Bungle and Other Stories (TV8100) 6 August 1990 Super Bungle, Geoffrey Babysits, No Accounting for George, Misbehaving
Rainbow and Rod, Jane and Freddy - Bumper Special (TV8114) 10 September 1990 Neighbours, Bungling Bungle, Practice Makes Perfect (Compilation VHS with 'Rod, Jane and Freddy')
Sooty and Rainbow (WP0025) 1 October 1990 Zipman and Bobbin (Compilation VHS with 'The Sooty Show')
Children's Club: Children's Favourites (KK0005) 4 February 1991 George's Secret Place (Compilation VHS with 'Button Moon' and 'The Sooty Show')
Rainbow - Big Time Video (TV8120) 18 February 1991 Keeping Tidy, Exercise is Fun, Planting Seeds, A Lazy Day, New for Old, Who Done It?
Rainbow and Friends- Friends (WH1026) 8 July 1991 Friends, Why Did You Do That?, The Birthday Cake, Changes
Rainbow with Rod, Jane and Freddy Video Fun Pack (TB0002) 5 August 1991 The Wall (Compilation VHS with 'Rod, Jane and Freddy')
Rainbow with Rod, Jane and Freddy Video Fun Pack Re Release (TB0002) 3 February 1992 The Wall (Compilation VHS with 'Rod, Jane and Freddy')
Rainbow - Zippy's Stories (TV8155) 3 February 1992 Naughty Zippy, Zippy Sets Them Up, Without a Voice, Something to Care For
Rainbow - Sing Song and Other Stories (TV8156) 3 February 1992 Sing Song, Taking Turns, I'm the King of the Castle, Surprise Surprise
Rainbow - Treasure Hunt and Other Stories (TV8163) 1 June 1992 Treasure Hunt, Safety First, Getting Organised, The Zippybread Man
Rainbow - The Seaside Show and Other Stories (TV8164) 1 June 1992 The Seaside Show, A Trip to Spain, Getting in a Muddle, Geoffrey's Big Occasion
The Christmas Collection (TV8165) 5 October 1992 Snow (Compilation VHS with 'The Sooty Show' and 'The Wind in the Willows')
Learn With Rainbow: The Invitation (WP0001) 5 October 1992 The Invitation, If Only We Hadn't
My Little Rainbow (ML0007) 1 April 1996 The Wall (Compilation VHS with 'Rod, Jane and Freddy')
My Little Rainbow: The Seaside Show (ML0016) 1 July 1996 The Seaside Show, A Trip to Spain
My Little Rainbow Christmas Special: Decorations (ML0029) 4 November 1996 Decorations, A Cold Day
Rainbow - Songs, Rhymes, Stories and Tales 2000 Rumpelstilskin, The Ugly Duckling, The Hare and the Tortoise, Sing A Long
Cult Kids Classics 2001 Naughty Zippy (Compilation VHS with 'Chorlton and the Wheelies', 'Danger Mouse', 'Count Duckula', 'Jamie and the Magic Torch' and 'Button Moon'
Cult Kids Classics 2 5 March 2001 Zippy is Tongue Tied (Compilation VHS with 'Jamie and the Magic Torch', 'Danger Mouse', Chorlton and the Wheelies', 'Count Duckula' and 'The Sooty Show')
Rainbow - Zippy Sets Them Up 2001 Zipman and Bobbin, Zippy's in Love, Hot Day, Zippy Sets Them Up, Bungle's High and Mighty Day, Zippy Wants To Be A Comedian, George's Secret Wish
Rainbow - Zip Up Zippy 2001 Lions and Tigers, Getting Organized, Same and Different, Who Done It, Rejected and Neglected, Social Behaviour (Self), Sympathy
"I Love Cult Kids" 2002 Detectives (Compilation VHS with "Danger Mouse", "Chorlton and the Wheelies", "Count Duckula", "Jamie and the Magic Torch", "Cockleshell Bay" and "Button Moon")
"Rainbow - My Mate Zippy" 2002 Zippy is Tongue Tied, Super Bungle, The Show Offs, Zippy's Cover Up Job, Night Out, The Singing Lesson
"Classic Kids Collection" 2002 The Zippybread Man (Compilation VHS with "Count Duckula", "Chorlton and the Wheelies", "Button Moon", "Jamie and the Magic Torch" and "Danger Mouse"
"Rainbow - 30th Anniversary Special 2002 The Birthday Cake, I Want to be a Popstar, George's Secret Place, The Explorers, Without a Voice, Outer Space

Rainbow (1994-1995) VHS releasesEdit

VHS Title Release Date Episodes
Rainbow - New Friends and Other Stories (TV8185) 11 April 1994 New Friends, The Customer Is Always Right, Bungle's Blues, All Together Now, Zippy Learns His Lesson
Rainbow - Abracadabra and Other Stories (TV8186) 6 June 1994 What Goes Up Must Come Down, Abracadabra, Breakfast at Rainbow's, Where Did You Get That Hat?, Big, Bigger, Biggest
Rainbow - Bungle's Birthday and Other Stories (TV8187) 8 August 1994 Sugar and Spice, Sneezes and Wheezes, Ping-Pong Perils, Bungle's Birthday, A Small Cat... Astrophe
Rainbow - Three Green Bottles and Other Stories (WP0034) 3 October 1994 The Clock Struck One, The Animals Went in Two by Two, Three Green Bottles, The Wheels on the Bus


Although the original Rainbow ended with the loss of Thames's broadcasting licence in 1992, Tetra Films (an independent production company created by Thames's children's department) revived it for ITV in January 1994 and 1995 (two series, 33 episodes in total). The new version of the show departed from the original format, centred on the slightly redesigned puppet characters – without a presenter – running a toy shop. A new character was introduced, a Scouse-sounding blue rabbit named Cleo (voiced by Gillian Robic). Geoffrey Hayes said that he heard the news of his 'sacking' from the tabloids, rather than from Tetra: "I was shocked really, and for a couple of days I thought it was just me who had been dropped. But then Rod, Jane and Freddy had already left and of course Roy had now been dropped too. The guy playing Bungle – he was history, as was the puppeteer doing George; only Zippy's puppeteer was left. Ronnie Le Drew who also voiced Zippy for the new Tetra series; I discovered later, had auditioned for it. Bungle looked different too, though Zippy and George looked much the same".[3]

A second revival, in 1996, saw a return to something like the original format in a series of short 10-minute shows entitled Rainbow Days, presented by Dale Superville, which ran to only one series of 12 episodes. Both were produced in association with HTV. A comic based on the latter series, also titled Rainbow Days, ran for a handful of issues in 1997.

Episodes of the original Rainbow, dating from the early 1980s, were shown sporadically on the UK satellite TV channel Nick Jr. (and/or its sister channel, Nick Jr. 2) in the late 2000s as part of its Nick Jr. Classics reruns. A previous repeat run took place on UK Gold (now Gold) from its launch in November 1992 to 1994; these were mostly from the last three years of the programme (without Rod, Jane and Freddy).

The "adult" versionEdit

In 1979, the cast and crew of Rainbow made a special exclusive sketch for the Thames TV staff Christmas tape, sometimes referred to as the "Twangers" episode. This sketch featured plenty of deliberate sexual innuendo (beginning with Zippy peeling a banana, saying 'One skin, two skin, three skin, four...' before being interrupted), and was never shown at the time (as it was never intended to be screened to the general public.) The cast later sang "The Plucking Song".

The clip became famous after being aired on Victor Lewis-Smith's Channel 4 programme TV Offal (1997) and was referred to as 'the pilot episode' in order to fit into the regular programme segment "The Pilots That Crashed"; however, the clip clearly was not a pilot, as Geoffrey Hayes was not a regular presenter until the series itself was a year old. The clip became widespread with the increasing popularity of the Internet, first as an e-mail attachment and later via online video websites such as YouTube. This has led to many erroneous claims that the episode was publicly broadcast as a regular episode.[citation needed]

TV Offal also broadcast some very risqué material featuring Hayes, Zippy and George as guests on a variety programme hosted by comedian Jim Davidson in the 1980s; the sketch in question featured former children's TV presenter Tommy Boyd asking a question about Adam and Eve. Boyd and Davidson used some profanities in the sketch, along with some innuendo from George (presumably again not intended for broadcast like the above), and Zippy exclaimed to Geoffrey an expletive phrase quite out of character from his children's television persona. (Incidentally, the said footage appeared uncut on Thames Television's 1984 Christmas tape.)

Comedian Bobby Davro also parodied Rainbow as a comedy sketch in his own TV series in the early-1990s, playing the part of Geoffrey alongside exaggerated versions of Bungle and the puppets, which contained some mild sexual innuendo. Davro had appeared in a regular edition of the show, in which he performed impressions of the characters in front of them.

While never explicitly adult, most interviews featuring Zippy and George since the show's demise commonly portray them as somewhat more edgy in terms of personality. For example, in an episode of SMTV Live, they call Bungle an 'idiotic, blundering creature'.

Episode listEdit

International BroadcastEdit


  1. ^ "History". 19 March 2002. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  2. ^ Moses-Lloyd, Rachel (10 January 2015). "The Voice returns for 2015 – with a new judge, and Bungle from Rainbow". South Wales Evening Post. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  3. ^ Anderiesz, Mike (2002). Climbing High: Life Under the Rainbow Exposed. Boxtree. pp. 122–123.

Further readingEdit

  • Mike Anderiesz, Climbing High: Life Under the Rainbow Exposed (Boxtree, 2002).
  • Tim Randall, Rainbow Unzipped – The Autobiography Published on 1 October 2009 by Headline Publishing Group (ISBN 9780755319763).
  • The A to Z of Classic Children's Television by Simon Sheridan. (Reynolds & Hearn books, 2004, reprinted 2007)

ISBN 1-903111-27-7. Features a chapter on the series and interviews with Jane Tucker and Pamela Lonsdale.

External linksEdit