Rainbow: ranking the Bungles

It's time to answer the question that's tearing the nation apart: who was the best Bungle in Rainbow?

It may come as a surprise to anyone who doesn’t spend all their time thinking about Rainbow, but there were different Bungles throughout the show’s run. Each Bungle brought something different to the party and had their own unique characteristics, a bit like a Spice Girls made entirely of bears.

Here, then, are the Bungles ranked from worst to best, taking into account such qualities as hairiness, stupidity, and fondness for dressing up as Jane. Stay tuned for an exciting tie for first place, and also the bit where I talk about nipples.

Paul Nuttall (UKIP Bungle)

Everyone’s favourite comedy politician and Eddie Hitler lookalike had a brief imaginary stint as Bungle, according to an anonymous Wikipedia editor. Back in 2014, Nuttall’s page stated that he “was the original Bungle in children’s television show Rainbow”. Nuttall was forced to deny this, arguing that as Rainbow had started before he was born, he couldn’t have been the original Bungle. 

A likely excuse.

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Paul Cullinan (Singing Bungle)

Viewers of BBC’s The Voice in 2015 might have spotted a strange man at the auditions, claiming to have played Bungle in Rainbow. This was Paul Cullinan, and he was not really a real Bungle. Cullinan actually played this wrinkly, dead-eyed abomination in the 1996 reboot Rainbow Days:

This was Bungle in the same way I’m a size 12 – it sort of works if you Tippex some of the details out. In reality though, I’m a size 14 and this Bungle was a squeaky voiced sack of gravel with a complete lack of personality. I guess I don’t blame Cullinan for this, but he was definitely being economical with the truth on The Voice. What he really should have said was “I was that other Bungle on Rainbow Days. You know, the one no one remembers? The one who was Bungle in name only? The one that still makes Jenny break out in hives to this day?” He should have said that.

Richard Robinson (Reboot Bungle)

Thames Television lost their ITV franchise in 1992, causing Rainbow to come to an abrupt end. In 1994, however, Tetra Films came to the ‘rescue’ and gave us a gritty reboot, which is among no one’s favourite shows, ever. While I can’t fault Robinson’s performance, he was fighting a losing battle from the start, since the rebooted show was too different from the original to be considered canon. On a related note, I seem to have just invented the idea of ‘Rainbow canon’. I am the first person to ever have this train of thought, and I claim my £5.

The new Rainbow was set in a toy shop, and starred Bungle, Zippy and George as grown ups, now joined by a strange blue rabbit/dog named Cleo. In this universe, the grown up Bungle wears a bow tie, is in charge of the shop, and has no eyes.

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I’m not going to say anything else about this Bungle because I don’t want him to come round and steal my eyes.

John Leeson (Rat Bungle)

Let’s go back to the beginning of The Bungle Saga. The Bungle of 1972 was a world away from the fat hairy idiot we would come to know and love. The original Bungle had the appearance of some kind of rat bought from a charity shop, and was played by Leeson, who would go on to be the voice of Doctor Who‘s K-9.

The Bungle of series 2 is much more recognisable as ‘Bungle’, but the absence of a shoulder covering meant he also had a weird floating head thing going on:

Leeson’s performance laid the groundwork for Bungle’s later personality, in that he was a bit of a div. But Leeson’s Bungle was more of a curious child than the interfering, complaining sod of later years. A good steady start to the Bungle franchise.

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Stanley Bates (Classic Bungle)

When people talk about Bungle, this is generally who they mean; Stanley Bates played Bungle from 1973 – 1989. Imagine: 16 years of wearing that bear suit (on top of which you regularly wear a dress) and storming about breaking things and having arguments with people.

I think it’s fair to say that Bates created the ‘proper’ Bungle, building on John Leeson’s foundations and adding hissy fits, nipple grabbing and being obsessed with Jane into the mix. Bates’ acting turned Bungle from a curious child to a clumsy, lumbering oaf with a huge superiority complex.

Someone give this guy a medal, or at the very least a Rainbow badge.

Malcolm Lord (Classic Bungle: The Sequel)

Malcolm Lord worked as a puppeteer on Rainbow until the late 80s, when he accepted the Bungle baton from Stanley Bates. It is testament to his skill that, even now, I sometimes have trouble telling the two Bungles apart. There are a few differences; Lord’s Bungle tended to put more emotion into his lines (I am being 100% serious), but overall the two Bungles were pretty interchangeable, which was exactly how it should have been.

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One notable difference, though, is that Lord’s Bungle wasn’t constantly trying to sit next to, bother, or dress like Jane, as Jane left the show around the time Lord took over as Bungle. This was presumably to get away from her bear stalker. She would be replaced by Dawn Bowden as the ‘woman one’; there is no official ruling on whether Bungle fancied Dawn or not.

If you disagree with any of my Bungle choices, leave me a comment in rhyming couplet form, or meet me outside Kwik Save at 7 and we’ll have a fight.