What is the most sinister TV programme ever made? Ghostwatch? Threads? Thriller? Dramarama? When Jonathan Ross & Russell Brand phoned Arthur C. Clarke and called him a ‘Mysterious World Muppet’?
Scarily not. From all available evidence, the most sinister TV programme ever made would appear to be a long-forgotten ITV lunchtime effort named Sara & Hoppity.
Hailing from the days of crumbly flickering monochrome, this nightmarish tale of a disobedient girl and her demonic clockwork doll was the work of Roberta Leigh, better known for collaborating with Gerry Anderson on all those early shows with pierclingly-sung songs that sound like weapons-grade ‘twee’ and also the bafflingly over-lauded Anderson rival Space Patrol, and was apparently once considered suitable viewing for the impressionable young. From the look of it, it should never have been considered suitable viewing for anyone at all. Consider, if you will, the following factors:
- Sara & Hoppity themselves. Just look at them. They’re like some kind of attempt to recreate the Test Card out of sinister junk shop purchases by someone who had never paid any proper attention to it in the first place, and then had their memory wiped, but could never escape the shivering primal experience of girl-and-doll-derived terror.
- The fact that Hoppity is some kind of possessed ‘devil toy’ found inside a ‘Goblin Ring’. Two decades later, you could have got a best-selling Video Nasty out of that.
- The various reasons that the show ran into trouble, which included the characters making unsupervised use of scissors, putting spinach in their pockets, throwing spinach on the floor (make your bloody mind up!), using of the term ‘li-lo’, being frightened of the cellar, suggesting that a character was ‘gay’ for not liking trains, vomiting in a sink(!), and when a soldier swore on Threads, all of them frowned over with some intensity by ITV bigwig Joan Elman, whose near-murderous hatred of the series is truly alarming to witness.
- The quite alarming lyrics to the decidedly pre-Politically Correct Fat Boy’s Song
Hardly surprising, then, that you never seem to get anyone reminiscing over Sara & Hoppity. In fact, they’ve probably spent the intervening years trying vainly to forget.