You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Forgotten Teletubby

Most people with children of a certain age, or who occasionally listen to Jerry Falwell, are familiar with the Teletubbies. The Teletubbies are well known, cherubic products of the BBC - most likely the marketing department - who are always looking for something to top the massive Dr. Who and Ab/Fab sales.

The Teletubbies are known for their childlike behavior, their fondness for "tubby-toast," their ability to show videos on the screens embedded in their profoundly round guts (they are prime candidates for the British Health Services programs on juvenile obesity), and their intellectual resemblance to members of Parliament.

They are designed to be inoffensive, charming, and sickeningly-sweet characters who appeal to our children and all others who are mentally below the age of 10. One of three isn't bad I suppose.

The Teletubbies have triggered the occasional controversy. Tinky Winky is purple, sports a triangle antenna, and carries a handbag, which some people have suggested means he is a gay character. This is silly to anyone who realizes that not only are infant-like characters incapable of identifying with any kind of sexual orientation, but also that Tinky Winky was played in the programme by none other than Russell Crowe. In fact, Tinky Winky was frequently known to beat the otherTeletubbies with a phone if they interrupted his dates with Hollywood starlets. He kept the phone in the bag.

Dipsy also created a bit of a stir when people wondered whether his antenna was phallic in nature, or was a sneaky BBC attempt to give viewers the American version of the old two-fingered salute, the American version using the one very tall finger. However, this controversy was limited to our DOUI offices, and came to a close when Nuffy claimed that Dipsy was played by Mark Northover, and that the antenna was merely a projection of the large pole they used to keep the top half of the Dipsy costume from flopping over onto Mark and killing him outright.

Meanwhile, the other two well-known teletubbies, Laa Laa and Po, are almost completely without controversy, being the cute simpletons that they are.

However, it has come to my attention, that there was a fifth Teletubby, who appeared in the early BBC pilots for the programme, before he was sacked for making repeated advances of an "adult" nature to Po, Laa Laa, Dipsy, Tinky Winky, the director, the producer, the entire cast of Coupling, BBC Director Generals Sir John Birt and Greg Dyke, and HM Queen Elizabeth II. Also, this particular Teletubby reportedly showed up blotto on the set repeatedly, smelling of Glenfiddich, Watney's Red Barrel, and Brut (the aftershave, not champagne), and also was frequently found in the BBC halls without his "tubby-loincloth."

The name of this diseased, lecherous, alcoholic, dope-sniffing, Royal-propositioning imp?

Scum Scum.

Here is a picture of this consumptive, inveterate rascal from the original pilot of Teletubbies. Fortunately, they were able to talk him out of wearing the swastika armband, but his Hitler mustache is still plainly visible.

Scum Scum's story is a tragic, foul, desperate, and admittedly entertaining one. His rise was dramatically rapid, like the spread of venereal disease in a hippie commune. His fall was equally messy.

He was hired the day he arrived at the BBC's Television Centre in White City in 1994 to audition to play a puddle of gangrene in an episode of Coronation Street, which was a terrible shame as that programme is on ITV. However, he proved so talented at the audition that he was immediately typecast as runny, diseased effluent for the next few years.

He appeared on several programmes, including One Foot in the Grave (as a pustulent boil on Nick Swainey's bum), Only Fools and Horses (as a pustulent scab on Triggers' elbow), Harry Enfield and Chums (A walk on as pond scum), EastEnders (as DS Dougie Slade), and Match of the Day (as a pustulent bruise on Ryan Giggs' shin in a match against Leeds United).

The single-minded programmers of the Beeb could not keep Scum Scum down though, despite his propensity for lounging in the rubbish bins of the BBC Television Centre. Soon, he was tackling bigger parts: A giant jellyfish on The BBC 10 O'Clock News, a bit of aubergine on University Challenge and The Shadow Minister for Agriculture during Prime Minister's Question Time.

Finally, in 1997, his big break came when the BBC Children's department announced they were creating a series called Teletubbies. Scum Scum's naturally soft physique and his inability to properly form words (due to extensive tequila-inflicted brain damage) made him a perfect choice for a part... almost.

Teletubbies creator Anne Wood describes the situation thus in her memoirs, Mental: Life of a Teletubby Groupie:

"It was the second day of shooting the pilot, and already Scum Scum had shown himself to be quite different by biting the heads off of several of the rabbits we kept on set, and also by asking Po if she wanted to go away for the weekend to Shepard's Bush. At first we thought it was a bid for more attention, but he explained that he merely liked the taste of rabbit's blood and Po, who is red, reminded him of it. Also, he said that Shepard's Bush was a euphemism.

Andrew (Davenport - the programme's co-creator) told Scum Scum to lay off the rabbits and Po, but Scum Scum simply redirected his efforts toward other little mind games, such as publicly "watering the flowers", repeatedly hitting Dipsy on the head "for six" with a cricket bat, doing inappropriate thrusting dances when the local Ladies Auxilary visited, making prank phone calls to the Prime Minister, and surreptitiously changing out the kids' video segments with outtakes from Basic Instinct."

Clearly, Scum Scum was out of control.

The BBC Executive Office in Charge of Straightening Out Delinquent Juvenile Characters with Very Naughty Habits were sent to deal with Scum Scum but had to recuse themselves when they discovered that Scum Scum was in fact 57 years old. They were replaced by the BBC Executive Office in Charge of Straightening Out Middle-Aged Lechers, who were famous for their spectacular lack of success with Benny Hill, which occurred in part because he didn't work for the BBC at all.

The BBCEOCSOMAL immediately went to work, entering Scum Scum into therapy and issuing press releases linking Scum Scum romantically to Diana Rigg and Olivia Newton-John. Scum Scum was sent to Britain's finest psychiatrists and counselors, all of whom shortly thereafter developed some very interesting lesions.

After two months of intensive therapy, in which Scum Scum's self-esteem was carefully developed, his childhood carefully explored and analyzed, and his ravenous libido diminished through medication, he emerged back into society.

Two hours later he was arrested for lewdly propositioning the Junior Minister for Transport and his wife and beating their chauffeur with a Windsor Pan.

He got out on bail and returned to the set, only to find that the BBC had summarily dismissed him and replaced him with Clive Owen. When Owen didn't work out (and was replaced in succession by Tim Brooke-Taylor, Felicity Kendall, Christian Bale, and John Major), the BBC finally decided that four Teletubbies were enough and Scum Scum's career was in tatters, which admittedly matched his wardrobe.

He turned to the bottle after this dramatic setback. Unfortunately for Scum Scum, the bottle was empty, as he'd been drinking steadily since emerging from therapy, and had literally drained London and Surrey of alcoholic beverages. He then turned to drugs and briefly became involved in Scientology, which ended in scandal after he beat Tom Cruise and John Travolta with a life-sized statue of L. Ron Hubbard, after they referred to him as "a nasty Thetan."

While Scum Scum was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for this act, he failed to win, and his life spiralled further into a hell of tabloid rumours, Page 3 girls, car wrecks, shop openings with Lulu and Cliff Richards, tea parties with Sarah Ferguson and her gang of Weight Watchers toughs, celebrity episodes of The Weakest Link, and being stalked by Olivia Newton-John, who had become quite taken with the professions of love for her the BBC had released to the press.

His nadir came when he was accidentally mistaken for Dipsy at a Rod Stewart party in Glasgow. He was so shocked, he was unable even to commit an act of violence against the perpetrator -Fleetwood Mac guitarist and singer Lindsey Buckingham- and settled for urinating on Buckingham's Lamborghini and pointing out that Tusk was really crap.

He disappeared from public life afterwards. One rumour surfaced that he had his gender changed and was performing as Ashley Simpson. Another claimed that he was serving as President of Namibia and passed a law outlawing the Teletubbies -except Po- which made for some very unusual editing of the programme in Namibia. Yet another rumour claimed that he was the real killer O.J. Simpson is looking for and that his stint at the BBC was a ruse to escape detection.

None of these, with the possible exception of the Ashley Simpson rumour, is likely to be true. In fact, Scum Scum has more or less been a vagrant since his tragicomic fall from celebrity grace. People claim to have seen him from time to time in Trafalgar Square, trying to catch pigeons for food, or on Haymarket, panhandling for tickets to "Phantom." The most recent known photo of this wretched character revealed just how far he has fallen, which is the approximate distance from a wastebin to a sewer grating.

However, Scum Scum did leave his mark on society, and on several people biologically. He lived life unashamed and unafraid. Somewhere, he is out there wandering the streets, a ghostly reminder of the dark side of the blazing lights of success.

If you see him, run. He's a pretty nasty bloke when it comes down to it, and won't hesitate to do you for your money or a little entertainment if he's bored.


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