Up above all other series, Rainbow's flying high

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The Independent Online

Bumptious Zippy could have loudly predicted it - the show Rainbow has been voted the best-loved children's television programme of yesteryear.

The classic kids' show starring puppets Zippy, Bungle and George, alongside presenter Geoffrey Hayes, came top in a poll of 1,000 people aged 25 to 45, who were asked to select their favourite programme from early childhood (when they three to six years old).

The Magic Roundabout, recently turned into a feature film, came a close second in the survey, commissioned to mark the launch of a new magazine aimed at pre-school children, CBeebies Weekly.

In joint third place were Mr Benn, the cartoon about a bowler-hatted gent who enters magical worlds via a fancy dress shop and Playschool, the BBC stalwart starring Big Ted, Little Ted, Jemima and Humpty.

Also in the top 10 were Bagpuss, The Wombles, The Clangers, Trumpton, Button Moon and Camberwick Green.

Launched in 1972 as ITV's answer to Playschool and Sesame Street, Rainbow ran for 20 years with the catchy theme tune: "Up above the streets and houses, rainbow flying high".

Dr Tanya Byron, the clinical psychologist on BBC3 parenting show The House of Tiny Tearaways, said: "Rainbow was a bit psychedelic. There were these larger than life characters like Zippy who was annoying and a bit rude but he was obviously the naughty character which children quite liked.

"It was fun, it was innocent, it was all about being smiley and happy and singing songs and bright colours. The best programmes are the ones that relate to children on their own level. The design of a programme and its colours are also important."

Andrea Wickstead, editor of CBeebies Weekly, said: "Rainbow had a lot of humour and it was a cosy little environment.

"The fact we all remember those programmes so well shows how important children's programmes are and how they stay with us for ever."

Today, children's programmes such as Boogie Beebies are more fast-paced, Ms Wickstead added. "There is much more interaction with the television. Children are encouraged to get up and move about and watch in a much more active way."

Pamela Lonsdale, the original producer, devised a show for Thames TV based around a bear called Rainbow, whose name was changed to Bungle.

The programme aimed to make pre-school education fun, basing each episode around a different theme and introducing new songs, words and numbers.

Bungle was joined by Zippy, an orange puppet with a nasal voice and a zip for a mouth and George, a gentle pink hippo.

The first presenter, David Cook, was replaced after a year by Hayes, a young actor who had appeared in Z Cars, who went on to front the show for the next two decades.

Judi Dench, Una Stubbs, Molly Sugden and Roy Kinnear all appeared on Rainbow telling short stories. Another early addition to the line up was musical trio Jane Tucker, Rod Burton and Matthew Corbett, who later left to become Sooty's minder.

In 1980, Freddy Marks joined Tucker and Burton and together they wrote material for a separate, spin-off show, Rod, Jane and Freddy.

When Thames lost its franchise in 1992, Rainbow was dropped. It was briefly revived without Hayes in 1994 and again in 1996 as Rainbow Days.