BBC fought over Sooty getting a girlfriend because they might have sex

Saucy things, hand puppets

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The Independent Culture

The idea of giving Sooty a girlfriend proved so controversial in the Sixties that the BBC’s director general had to insist on a “no touch” rule, according to a new documentary.

Creator Harry Corbett wanted to introduce a female puppet to the hugely popular children’s TV show but producer Trevor Hill initially refused on the grounds that “sex would be creeping into the programme”.

The internal debate leaked to the tabloid press, who had a field day with headlines such as “No sex for Sooty!” and “Television bear denied nuptials!” before boss Hugh Carleton Greene intervened to allow it, on the condition that the toy lovers kept their hands off each other. 

Matthew Corbett, who took over from his father as Sooty, Soo and Sweep’s handler on The Sooty Show in 1976, told filmmakers: “My father was called into the head office and the director general of the BBC said he had made a decision. It was to be allowed but they must never touch.”

Finally, after much furore, Soo the panda was born in 1965. She was originally voiced by Harry’s wife Marjorie.

The documentary, Sooty Ungloved, premieres on Saturday in Guiseley, West Yorkshire, where Harry lived with his family for 35 years.

He died of a heart attack aged 71 in 1989, which is why profits from the screening are going towards providing a defibrillator for the area.