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Series / The Sooty Show

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Left to right - Soo, Sooty and Sweep
A perennial children's favourite in the UK, running from 1955 to 2004 under various titles and settings (it was The Sooty Show at BBC/Thames TV, Sooty & Co. and Sooty Heights at Granada TV, then finally Sooty), first on The BBC and later on ITV. A new series, entitled Sooty, began in 2011.

Created and presented by Harry Corbett, then by his son Matthew and now by long-time fan Richard Cadell, the show revolves the adventures (and misadventures) of a group of glove puppets:

  • Sooty, a small, naughty but lovable teddy bear who cannot speak above a whisper and is a dab hand with a magic wand (sometimes - when it goes wrong, Hilarity Ensues).
  • Sweep, a puppy dog who is dim-witted and naive and talks in an impossible-to-understand squeaking noise.
  • Soo, a female panda; the most grown-up of the group (though still not averse to a bit of mischief once in a while) and the only one who can speak.
  • Little Cousin Scampi, even naughtier than Sooty; a late addition (1991, didn't become a regular until 1992), he first made a one-off appearance but was brought back as a regular character.

Other characters have included:

  • Other puppets like Butch the bulldog and Ramsbottom the snake, who were regulars for a while but eventually disappeared, barring rare guest appearances.
  • Connie Creighton, a friend of the 'family' who also co-presented the Sooty stage show with Matthew.
  • Mo (from t'market), a regular customer during the Sooty & Co. incarnation, who always ending up selling Matthew something (sometimes conning him) rather than buying anything.

Sooty began as Harry Corbett's 'assistant' in his stage magic show in 1948 and soon became a hit in his own right. The BBC were impressed enough to give Sooty an appearance on a programme called Talent Night in 1952, and he then became a regular on the children's variety show Saturday Special. He was popular enough to be given his own show in 1955, and it ran and ran and ran. Sooty was soon joined by Sweep, later Soo and finally Little Cousin Scampi. Over time, particularly after Matthew took over (having already appeared frequently during his father's tenure), it changed from 'just' a puppet show into a kind of surreal Sitcom about the 'family' of puppets, with Harry/Matthew/Richard as a parental figure.

From quite early on Sooty was a big franchise, spawning toys, books, musical instruments, stage shows, games, educational videos and, of course, copies of the puppets themselves.

Some installments can now be seen in the U.S.A through a streaming service called Ameba TV. There is also an official YouTube channel, with mainly clips from the newest version of the show, and a second channel with official uploads of classic episodes.

Sooty provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: When "Mo from t'market" appeared, she would mention her nephew Duane (The Ghost) and the others (usually Matthew) would get it wrong, prompting her to say "Duane! As in Duane-pipe!"
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: Each different series had at least one episode where it was Sooty’s birthday, usually to coincide with a Milestone Celebration for the franchise. Sooty is sometimes said to be five years old, even when they acknowledge he has been around since the 1950s, but often his age isn’t mentioned. In The Sooty Show episode “Happy Birthday Sooty”, Matthew addresses this by confirming Sooty, like Peter Pan, doesn’t age.
  • Amusing Injuries: Sooty didn't just attack Harry and Matthew with a water pistol or a custard pie, he sometimes hit them with a hammer, sawed their fingers or left mousetraps for them to trap their fingers in!
  • April Fools' Plot: In the Sooty episode “April Foolishness”, Richard successfully avoids all of Sooty, Sweep and Soo’s pranks because they’re the same ones from last year, but after a series of mishaps involving his delivering his boss Mr. Slater’s car to an April Fools contest, he is branded the April Fool for the second year in a row and given a trophy and a Pie in the Face.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In "Safety First", there's a scene where it looks as though Sweep has been run over by a car. He hasn't, and Sooty and Matthew's reactions are Played for Laughs.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: In one episode of Granada's Sooty and Co., Soo challenges the others to make something useful from random bits of wood in one minute. Sooty makes a 'matchbox holder', Sweep makes a 'bone holder', and Scampi makes a 'bone holder holder'.
  • Brutal Honesty: Everyone exhibits this, but this is especially one of Soo’s main character traits, as she will rarely if ever sugar-coat things.
  • The Bus Came Back: The new series hosted by Richard Cadell mainly features just the three main puppets, although characters from previous incarnations of the show have made guest appearances. For instance, Butch and Ramsbottom appear as judges for a dance contest in an episode. And in another episode, Matthew Corbett reappears.
  • Butt-Monkey: Sweep often serves as this. Out of all the hosts the show has had, Richard Cadell is the biggest butt-monkey, enduring embarrassment and being at the receiving end of any slapstick hijinks in every episode.
  • Catchphrase: "Bye bye, everybody, bye bye." is said at the end of every episode.
    • Sooty’s Magical Incantation “Izzy Wizzy let’s get busy.” Although everyone says it but Sooty.
  • Cheesy Moon: Sweep believes the moon is made of green cheese in an episode of Sooty's Amazing Adventures.
    Sweep: At the moon, it's made of green cheese!
    Robot: You're right! It's made of green cheese, and it's very tasty, too.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Butch the Bulldog, introduced in the late 1960s, but axed in the 1990s.
  • Clip Show: Most of the episodes where it was Sooty’s birthday were also this, showing clips from over the decades.
  • Cousin Oliver: Cousin Scampi was this, appearing younger than the other three puppets, and added to give children someone else to relate to.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Harry's magic shows, and thus Sooty, would never have come about if he hadn't started going deaf - he could no longer play the piano in his band and so took up conjuring instead. (An operation later restored his hearing.)
  • Domestic Appliance Disaster: When Sooty and Sweep both get given jumpers that are too big for them, they try to shrink them in the wash but use too much soap powder and the laundry room fills with bubbles. Later, they didn't shrink, so they put them in the dryer but they shrink to itty-bitty size.
  • Drives Like Crazy: When Sweep ends up driving the van in the Sooty and Co episode "Speedy Sweep", due to him believing he can drive the campervan when in actuality he can't, something which was lampshaded by Matthew, he ends up causing chaos, due to a wasp in the van, which then leads to him being apprehended by a policeman. Luckily for him, it was All Just a Dream.
    Matthew: So naughty Sweep has taken the camper. The problem is, although he thinks he can drive it, the truth is, he can't! And he has another problem too: there's a wasp in the cab.
  • Earth Song: The episode "A Load of Rubbish" ends with Matthew and Soo singing about how they're "keen to be green" and tells the viewers not to litter and to help save the earth.
  • Fear Is Normal: In "Sooty's Magic Solutions"note , Soo admits to Matthew that she thinks that Spiders Are Scary after he accidentally scares her with a fake one. She says it's not really something to talk about, but Matthew tells her that it's not a shameful thing since people can have fears of all kinds of things.
  • Fleeting Demographic Rule: Richard reuses many of the plotlines from Matthew’s tenure on the show, presumably because decades have now gone by and today’s kids would be none the wiser.
  • Head Bob: Sooty, being The Voiceless, does this when whispering into any of the other character's ears (who then translate for him).
  • "Home Alone" Antics: The episode Home Alone Sweep has Sweep left home alone. He hears sounds outside and starts setting traps for the burglars. However, it turns out that the 'burglar' was actually Matthew, who ends up falling into all of his traps.
  • Hypno Fool: In the Sooty and Co episode "Sooty's Magical Solutions", Sooty uses his magic wand to hypnotise Sweep and Matthew so that they're not afraid of the dark and birds respectively. However, when they hear a certain word, "Jodhpurs" for Sweep and "Congratulations" for Matthew, they begin to think they're a chicken and mouse respectively. Matthew acting like a mouse ended up scaring Mo off because she has a phobia of mice.
  • Ignorant About Fire: This show has an episode called "Hot Stuff", in which Sweep fails at practicing being a firefighter because he fails to locate the pretend fire. They later sing a song that defies this by telling the audience not to play with matches or fire.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Sweep's many relations once appeared, all indistinguishable save for the colours of their collars and having the same name with different vowels (Swoop, Swap, etc.)
  • The Kiddie Ride: A camper van ride by R.G. Mitchell from 1997. Sooty existed as a figure inside the ride, but the rest of the characters only appear as decals outside. It also engages the child in an educational match game while the ride is in use.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall - although the puppets are treated as fully living characters, Harry/Matthew/Richard will occasionally subtly acknowledge their puppet nature with little remarks like "not if I have a hand in it", or the following when Sooty is about to play a xylophone:
    Matthew: What are you going to play, then?
    Sooty: (whispers in his ear)
    Matthew: Rachmaninoff's Prelude in D Minor? What, on that thing? I didn't know I could do that. I mean, I didn't know that you could do that.
    • In The Sooty Show episode “Happy Birthday Sooty”, Matthew tells Sooty that “we were just pulling your leg” when he, Sweep and Soo were pretending to have forgotten Sooty’s birthday. Sooty whispers to Matthew saying that’s not possible. Matthew glances under the table where Sooty is and turns to the camera, muttering “Of course”.
    • In one of the newer episodes, when Soo is practicing ballet dancing, Richard remarks that he didn’t think she “had the legs for it” while smirking at the camera.
  • Long-Runners: Until it finally ended in 2004 it was the longest running children's TV show in the world (that's now Blue Peter).
  • Lost Voice Plot: In the Sooty & Co. episode “A Magical Voice”, Matthew gets a sore throat and loses his voice, so Sooty and Scampi build a magical voice box in order to bring his voice back. However, the spell goes awry and it switches everyone’s voices; Sooty and Sweep end up Suddenly Speaking, but Sweep gets Soo’s voice while Soo begins squeaking like Sweep.
  • Low Count Gag: In the episode "Amateur Dramatics", Matthew is surprised to see only two people in the audience as Soo had told him that there were twice as many people before. She says that previously there was only one person in the audience and now there are two, so technically there's twice as many. Later, when they walk out in the middle of the play due to finding it boring, Matthew is embarrassed at having the "whole audience" walk out on him.
  • Magic Wand: Sooty uses one.
  • Magical Incantation: Whenever Sooty is about to initiate a trick with his magic wand, he uses the rhyme, "Izzy wizzy, let's get busy!".
  • Nephewism: Scampi is Sooty’s cousin, whose parents are never heard from. This is much easier than making him Sooty’s son.
  • Nightmare Fuel: An in-universe example in Sooty and Co. — Scampi tries to scare Sooty and Sweep out of their camper van in order to win a bet, but the other two find his efforts more laughable than scary. That is, until Scampi gets his Boom Box and plays an already creepy song very slowly and backwards, with spectacular results.
  • No Fourth Wall: The characters always greet the audience, and are aware that they're being watched on television.
  • "No Peeking!" Request: In the episode "Fun Park" from the Sooty & Co. series, Matthew has the bus driver pull over so that Sooty can pee in a bush. Sooty, however, is just staring at Matthew because he doesn't want anyone to look at him. Matthew then covers the screen with his hand and tells the viewers to look away.
  • Not This One, That One: In the first episode of the Nineties series Sooty and Co., Sooty and Sweep take delivery of their miniature campervan. Matthew is to get his own vehicle, and is overjoyed to find his own full-sized luxurious campervan...only to find it was actually the bicycle behind it.
  • Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation: It is never made clear exactly what Richard’s job is at the amusement park. He just seems to do Mr. Slater’s bidding, whatever that may be in each episode.
  • Pantomime - several Christmas episodes involved Sooty and the gang putting one on.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sooty, Soo and Scampi's parents are never heard from. Sweep's circumstances are even more confusing, as his family has been seen and they appear to live together, so it's unclear why Sweep lives away.
  • Parental Bonus: Repeatedly. Prompted complaints from viewers in an episode when Soo pretended to be pregnant.
    • One episode saw the puppets almost getting arrested by the police for "driving a shopping trolley while under the influence of corn flakes".
    • A late episode had a Buddha statue being nicknamed 'Buddhy Jolly' for its beatific expression. The same episode also had Matthew injure his fingers on his left hand, requring him to heavily bandage them up. He then tells a laughing Sooty that "If it had been my right hand, you wouldn't be laughing. It would bring tears to your eyes....".
    • There really aren't many more children's TV series that take such advantage of the inevitable parental demographic in this way and others. Particularly in the late '80s and through the '90s, where there were Special Guest appearances from people not likely to be commonly known amongst kids, such as comedians like Jack Dee, Paul Merton and Ronnie Corbett. One of the most well known guest appearances was when Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain appeared teaching Sooty and Sweep drumming..
    • There were increasingly frequent Breaking the Fourth Wall Aside Glance jokes from Matthew, such as this one when he was discussing his collection of cassette tapes:
      Matthew: I do like Gary Glitter, don't you?
    • In The Sooty Show episode “Cuddly Toys”, the machine Matthew is using to produce Sooty stuffed bears accidentally produces them with a series of deformities, including one with three legs, the extra leg right right between the other two, of course.
    • In the opening scene of “Sooty’s Christmas Ponto”, Matthew is crossdressing in his bedroom to prepare for a play he’s going to be in, while also narrating over the scene with a sly adult joke.
      Matthew: Well here’s something you don’t often see, a lady in my bedroom!
  • Perpetual Poverty: In both Sooty & Co. (where Matthew, Sooty, Sweep and Soo run a sort of thrift store that never turns a profit) and Sooty (where the main three puppets live with Richard in a mobile home, who works at an amusement park as a lackey to the mysterious Mr. Slater).
  • Phrase Catcher: Sooty's magic words "Izzy Whizzy Let's Get Busy!" (it would be a Catchphrase, were it not for the fact that he doesn't speak).
  • Pillow Pregnancy: In the Sooty & Co. episode, "Soo's Babies", having spent the day talking about babies and seeing human and animal babies, Soo decies to play a trick on Matthew by pretending to be pregnant, stuffing toy pandas in her dress. At first, Matthew thinks she's just put on weight, but then Soo displays all the signs of being pregant and pretends she's giving birth to baby pandas.note 
  • Ping Pong Naïveté: All of the puppets can switch between being immature and childlike to being far wiser than their stated ages would suggest. This is particularly obvious in relation to Cousin Scampi, as whenever he was around the puppets became more like adults in relation to him, while when he isn’t there and they are with Matthew, they are more like children.
  • Prejudice Aesop: In one episode, Matthew thinks that men are better drivers than women. He changes his tune when Soo wins against him in a car race.
  • Remake Cameo: In the recent Sooty show with Richard Caddell, a certain Matthew Corbett reappears in one entire episode as a van driver and chocolate thief. Lampshading ensues, with Matthew passing on the torch...or pie-in-the-face rather, to Richard.
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: Sooty is mute, and Sweep can only squeak, but they both have a lot to say. Matthew interprets for them.
  • Shout-Out:
    • An episode of the new show features Wacky Racing with go-karts, and stars Justin Lee Collins as Fred Firewheel, a Large Ham cheating villain racer. When one of his traps fails, he channels his best Dick Dastardly, shakes his fist and says "Drat! And double drat!"
    • A number of picture books can be seen in the area where the puppet characters live; one of them is a Spot the Dog book.
  • The Smurfette Principle: When Harry Corbett wanted to introduce Soo to the show as a potential love interest to Sooty, the executives rejected it because it would be “introducing sex” to the show. This was eventually leaked to the British newspapers, and public pressure forced them to allow Soo’s addition to the show. Since then the show is still very male-dominant, however.
  • Start My Own: In the "Sooty and Co." episode "Shop Keeping", Sweep decides to leave Sooty and Co. and start his own shop after being yelled at and insulted by Matthew.
  • Suddenly Speaking: An episode of the new series has Sooty briefly gain the ability to speak thanks to a genie, but his voice is so thunderously loud they quickly take the wish back.
  • The Talk: Matthew once tried very inexpertly to give it to Sweep (it didn't help that Sweep seemed to think 'the birds and the bees' was meant literally and there were props handy).
  • Toy Transmutation: One episode involves Sooty using his wand to turn Sweep into a toy dog and his toy frog into a real one, because Sooty was angry at Sweep for being noisy.
  • The Unintelligible: Sweep talks only in high pitched squeaks, and has to be 'translated' by other characters. However, his squeaks are clearly synched to a written script, and some longtime viewers of the show can understand him even without translation (you can even pick out a British accent in his squeaks without much trouble). A blooper was featured on The Kids From Alright on the Night where Matthew accidentally spoke one of Sweep's lines!
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Everyone.
  • The Voice: Richard’s tyrannical boss Mr. Slater is never seen on screen, and only heard yelling at Richard over the phone in an unintelligible and muffled voice.
  • The Voiceless: Sooty.
  • Voice for the Voiceless: Harry, Matthew & Richard. Soo when none of them are around to translate Sooty and Sweep.
  • Voices Are Not Mental: During "A Magical Voice", Sweep ends up trying out Sooty's voice box, thinking it'll improve his voice. When he tries it, the voice box ends up swapping both Sweep and Soo's voice together.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sooty


Sooty & Co: A Magical Voice

The beginning of the episode "A Magical Voice" shows that Matthew has lost his voice, and he explains it to Soo via a pen and paper.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / LostVoicePlot

Media sources: