1 9 5 0 – 1 9 5 6 (UK)
Approx. 110 x 60 minute episodes
Debuting on 25 November 1950, this fortnightly Saturday afternoon variety show (it alternated every other week with Telescope) was the first such show designed especially for the short-trousered crowd and was initially presented by puppeteer Humphrey Lestocq (“Goody goody gumdrops”) and his obnoxious wooden companion, Mr Turnip (pictured above) who addressed Lestocq as “HL”.
Over the seasons, the bill included the animated Hank Rides Again (a kind and carefree cowboy and his buck-toothed hoss, Silver King); Box of Tricks with magician Geoffrey Robinson; Room For Music with Steve Race on the piano; The Sooty Show with Harry Corbett; and – in his TV debut – Rolf Harris (with Willoughby, an easel that sprang to life).
Also featured on the show was the pioneering British Sci-Fi serial Stranger From Space – featuring human teenager Ian Spencer (Brian Smith) and his Martian friend Bilaphodorus (Michael Newell) – known as “Bill” – who had crashed his spaceship on Earth.
Seeking help from Professor Bernard Watkins (Richard Pearson), who is working on an atomic rocket project, they succeed in helping Bill to return to Mars, where he discovers that the Martian leader, Gorgol (Valentine Dyall), is planning an invasion of Earth.
In the second series, pilot John Armitage (John Gabriel) and radio specialist Pamela Vernon (Isabel George) help overthrow the evil Gorgol.
Other segments at various times included Can We Help You?; Mr Lumber’s Shop (a four-part story starring John Le Mesurier); Full Fathom Five; In Search of The Shadow; Magic and Mischief; Big Top; Lost Property; Colonel Crock; Write It Yourself (a play-writing competition); Out Of The Blue; Secrets of the Centuries and The Highwayman’s Bargain.
The show was devised and produced by Michael Westmore. Among the writers were Peter Ling and Hazel Adair, who later created Crossroads.
Humphrey Lestocq (HL)
Mr Turnip (Puppeteer)
Mr Turnip (voice)
Hank the Cowboy (voice)
Kathleen St. John
Professor Bernard Watkins