Sooty: 'my night as a love puppet'

Sweep swoons and a senor woos Soo as stuffed toy discovers sex
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The Independent Online
After 44 years, Sooty has discovered sex. In next month's series of Sooty & Co - the first since the glove-puppet bear was bought for pounds l.4m by a Japanese-owned bank - he forgets his water pistol and struts his stuff with senoritas in a Spanish disco.

In the same episode, his friend Soo is snared by hunky restaurant-owner Antonio and driven off in his silver Lamborghini Espada. Only the mongrel Sweep fails to adapt to his chum Sooty's sophisticated new lifestyle: he gets one kiss from a senorita and faints.

"It's all in the best possible taste," insisted Sooty's puppet-master, Matthew Corbett, who received pounds 1.1m in the deal with the Guinness Mahon merchant bank in May.

But loyal, middle-aged Sooty fans, who grew up with the bear's childish tricks with Matthew's father, Harry, on BBC television in the Fifties and Sixties, will be wringing their hands - and calling Soo a bad lot for debauching the innocent bear.

Executives at the BBC and ITV have always had misgivings about Soo, introduced 12 years after Sooty's debut. The BBC insisted little bears did not have girlfriends and Thames Television issued an edict that the pair should not touch. More recently, Granada, which will show the new series, adopted a more liberal attitude. Sooty and Soo became like "kissing cousins".

But in the Costa del Sol, on his first-ever trip abroad, Sooty hits the high life as only a mute bear with no parts below the hips can. The senoritas are real people, filmed in a disco in Benidorm. Viewers will see Matthew preen himself in anticipation, mistakenly thinking it is he that the flirty females want to drag on to the dance floor. But they turn out to be Sooty fans. "Not you, grandfather," they tell him, "the little yellow bear." Meanwhile, assisted by television technology, Sooty and Sweep dance with voluptuous grown-ups while the incorrigible Soo leaves in the Lamborghini.

John Stephens, Sooty International's director of programmes and Granada's associate producer of the Sooty series, explained: "Soo is a bit vain. All the flattery goes to her head and then she's given the run-around - a bit like some English girls abroad, I'm afraid." Sooty did not take a fancy to any particular senorita, he said, and it was only Matthew who seemed worried when Soo was whisked away by the seductive Antonio. "The point about Sooty is that in the series he's an international star abroad, getting adulation from his many fans. He takes this in his stride - he's a bear about town."