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TV: B is for...

Barnaby

CAKE-resembling stop-motion ursine of Gallic extraction with pedantic nomenclatural obsession. Olga Pouchine’s once-literary bear Colargol became well-known to a generation of Watch With Mother watchers through redubbed stop-motion antics by another name altogether: Barnaby. And didn’t we know it. For at the slightest hint that a hat might possibly concievably drop somewhere in the known universe, he would burst into song reiterating that Barnaby The Bear was his name, and that he was never, ever to be called Jack or James.

Singing, you will not be surprised to learn, was high on the storyline agenda, with his thirteen-episode exploits taking in his brief employment as an operatic stunt-rider in a travelling show of freakishly talented animals, and something about him donning a cardboard beak to become ‘king of the birds’ or somesuch (OK, maybe something got lost in translation), and even in the midst of his seafaring excursion and sojourn at the North Pole, he could still be relied on to make with the ‘signature’ ditty whether anyone asked him to or not. And it wasn’t just limited to the English language version, as if anything has been learned from what little can be made out from any overseas presentations, the theme song had an invariable tendency to brag about his not that remarkable ability to sing ‘sharps and flats’.

Overseas viewers also got to see about a million further episodes (the Beeb presumably not considering it worth the financial outlay in getting Colin Jeavons, Percy Edwards et al to ‘do an Eric Thompson’ with any further episodes), boasting all kinds of hallucinogenic deviations into outer space and the wild west that were a source of untold confusion for hapless holidaying Brits chancing upon a French book about TV. And you didn’t even have to go abroad to be bewildered by him – for a couple of years in the eighties, by which time Barnaby had long since ceased chirruping about his naming, you could hardly move around ITV’s summer holiday schedules without bumping into either Canadian reworking ‘Jeremy’ (alright, don’t fucking start, pal), or its animation house stablemate Once Upon A Time… Man, which included a perplexing cameo by that all-too-familiar visage amongst its scary Bach-backed primeval opening burblings.

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