WOP! SURREAL, frenetic, semi-improvised short stories for kids told with almost psychopathic conviction by one-time comedian and latter-day soil-botherer TONY ROBINSON. No animation, no illustrations, no comfy chair, no big book on lap, just Robinson throwing shapes around a deserted house and garden while haranguing the camera with tales of short, corpulent Fat Tulip and neighbour Thin Tim. Other characters included stereotypical burglar Fred the Baddie, two long-suffering frogs called Ernie and Sylve, an heroic tortoise called Lewis Collins, three pernicious toads called Peter, Paul and Mary and a little white shell called Jim Morrison. Further down the obscure reference trail were Inspector Challenor and Gilbert Harding the sheep. Plots started from a simple premise – say, Fat Tulip baking a cake which swells up to engulf the house (“Get back, you horrible cakey thing!”) while a never-ending stream of washing machine salesmen with pink cheeks and bowler hats turn up at the front door – and went off from there, in all directions.
Sequel Fat Tulip Too broadened the locations to include a swimming pool, park, beach and cafe, but the rapidly busked bedtime story principle was the same. A preternaturally squelchy synthesised theme tune topped things off in perfect style. The unsung heroine was Robinson’s old school chum and co-writer Debbie Gates, who went on to pen more alfresco streams of lunatic consciousness including Revolting Animals and Jellyneck, this time with various folk including Morwenna Banks sharing the frenetic storytelling honours. Robinson went over to BBC to apply the anti-Jackanory method to, er, Jackanory, narrating Homer’s Odyssey and assorted Greek myths in the same winning style on authentic Mediterranean locations. Inspired.