1 9 6 2 – 1 9 7 0 (UK)
Australian producer Reg Watson was working for ATV, the ITV franchise holder for the Midlands, when he brought back a pair of stuffed koala toys from a trip to his homeland.
One of the studio staff waved them around behind Jean Morton, then a continuity announcer, while she was broadcasting.
The positive viewer response led to glove puppets of the koalas being made. A 15 – 20-minute series was created around them – joined by Willie Wombat, Katie Kookaburra, Ermintrude Emu and Kiki Kangaroo – which aired five days a week before afternoon children’s programmes.
The show became a massive success. When The Tingha and Tucker Club was formed it attracted 750,000 members until ATV were eventually forced to close it as they were unable to cope with the volume of mail they were receiving. There were huge annual meetings of Tingha and Tucker Club members.
On one occasion, at Woburn in Bedfordshire, Lew Grade (later Lord Grade), Chairman and Managing Director of ATV, was bemused to see thousands of children rushing around apparently with their fingers up their noses. They were, in fact, giving the Tingha and Tucker Club secret sign: ‘index finger on bridge of nose’.
The original toys were eventually replaced by puppets, with one of the puppeteers (Peter Harris) going on to direct The Muppet Show, as well as creating arguably the ultimate kids show, Tiswas.
In the late 1960s, there was a Sunday series, called The Tree House Family, which had a religious tilt and featured Tingha and Tucker and other characters like Willie the wombat reading bible stories.
In 1970 the show was finally cancelled and soon after Tingha and Tucker were stolen from a store cupboard at ATV and have never been seen again – so keep an eye on Antiques Roadshow for a dodgy looking geezer with some old Koala puppets.
Unfortunately, like so many old TV shows, very few tapes of the original series have survived.
“Auntie” Jean eventually became head of programme correspondence at ATV and its successor, Central Independent Television, which took over the ITV Midlands franchise. She died on 26 May 2012, aged 91.