1 9 5 7 (UK)
1 9 6 2 – 1 9 6 6 (UK)
1 9 6 8 – 1 9 7 0 (UK)
220 x 15/30 minute episodes
Dancing blank-faced pig puppets Pinky and Perky were created and controlled by Czechoslovakian refugees Jan and Vlasta Dalibor (pictured below right) who smuggled themselves into Britain in 1948.
Jan was a painter and sculptor and Vlasta an actress. “I had always been interested in puppets,” recalled Jan, “and Vlasta suggested I make some puppet pigs because the pig is a symbol of good luck in Czechoslovakia. I came up with twin boy pigs – Pinky, who wore red, and Perky, who wore blue”.
Since most of the shows were in black & white, the only sure way to tell them apart was that Perky was the one who wore the hat.
The porcine duo with high-pitched voices became longtime TV favourites with their amusing cabaret of marionette struttings to contemporary pop music.
The sound emanating from the snouts of the puppet pigs sounded uncannily similar to playing a Little Jimmy Osmond record at 78 rpm, yet during the 60s they were amazingly successful.
The early programmes originated from the BBC’s north of England studios, and their additional BBC TV series were Pinky and Perky’s Pop Parade (1960), Pinky and Perky’s American Journey (1963), Pinky and Perky’s Island (1967) and Pinky and Perky Times (1968).
Pinky and Perky ran their own television station, PPC TV, where they were joined by Jimmy Thompson. Other human partners were Roger Moffat, John Slater, Brian Burdon and the outsize Fred Emney. Notable human guest stars included Michael Aspel, Stratford Johns (in Z Pigs), Freddie and the Dreamers and Henry Cooper.
Their theme tune was the catchy We Belong Together, and they even introduced a group called The Beakels (pictured below) which – as their name implies – consisted of a fab four with huge beaks.
Other regular puppet characters included Ambrose Cat; Horace Hare (the spitting image of comedian, Ken Dodd); Basil Bloodhound; Morton Frog; Conchita the Cow (with her long eyelashes); Bertie Bonkers the baby elephant and the sultry Vera Vixen (who looked like a cross between Eartha Kitt and Basil Brush), plus a seemingly endless supply of mice.
Pinky and Perky even conquered the US themselves, making six appearances on the prestigious Ed Sullivan Show and doing a year at the gaming capital of the world, Las Vegas.
The BBC actually banned Pinky and Perky in 1966 for being too political. The Dalibors had planned a programme titled ‘You Too Can Be a Prime Minister’ but, fearful of any political content with a general election approaching, the BBC decided to postpone transmission until after polling day. There was such a public outcry, however, that they promptly reinstated it.
Jimmy Thompson couldn’t understand at the time what all the fuss was about: “All that happens is I stand for election, have cabbages thrown at me, and when I eventually arrive at Number Ten, I find Pinky and Perky already there”.
Jan Dalibor recalled: “Ironically, when ‘You Too Can Be a Prime Minister’ was finally shown, it attracted more viewers than Harold Wilson‘s party political broadcast which was on ITV at the same time”.
After a defection to Thames in 1968 Pinky and Perky finally retired from the nation’s television screens in 1970.
The voice of Perky, Michael John, passed away in 2004. John also performed on The Black & White Minstrel Show, sang with The Mike Sammes Singers, backed Shirley Bassey and Judy Garland and sang on the Oliver! (1968) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) soundtracks.