7 Times the Teletubbies Made TV a Much Weirder Place
Ahead of the Teletubbies reboot on Netflix this year, refresh yourself on some of their weirder TV moments
As news emerges that Netflix is planning to reboot the Teletubbies this November, narrated by Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s Tituss Burgess, there have been mixed reactions. Some are pleased to see this ’90s favourite of kids’ TV – which has attained cult status over the years – returning once again, while others still find the show too creepy and psychedelic.
Regardless of how you feel about this children’s TV classic, the Teletubbies have certainly provided us with some weird moments over the years. Let’s activate our antennae and take a look at our tummy screens as we relive these surreal Teletubbies appearances “again, again!”
When an episode got banned
Back in 1997, one of the original episodes of the Teletubbies featured a section called The Lion and The Bear, in which a cut-out lion on wheels chases a cut-out bear on wheels (voiced by none other than British sitcom royalty Penelope Keith). The cinematography and music was deemed so unsettling that some countries found it unsuitable for children and subsequently banned it. The BBC had to create a revised version, but even that was still banned in the US.
When they were almost Christmas Number One
Back in December 1997, a jaunty remix of the Teletubbies theme song was released and topped the charts for two weeks, earning enough sales to be certified double platinum, and becoming the fifth bestselling single of the whole of 1997.
This resulted in the bizarre scenario of a fight for the sought-after Christmas Number One spot between The Spice Girls and… the Teletubbies. While sense prevailed and Too Much by The Spice Girls was 1997’s official Christmas Number One, it still resulted in a bemused Jayne Middlemiss having to announce ‘Eh-Oh’ by the Teletubbies as the headline song on Top of the Pops.
When they danced on Strictly
Back in 2015, Strictly Come Dancing urged viewers to ‘Do The Strictly’: essentially, learn a dance routine that goes along to the show’s theme song. For some reason, they enlisted the help of the Teletubbies to give a tutorial, the results of which you can see above.
Highlights include Tinky Winky being out of time throughout, La-La and Po sporting decidedly glitzy ‘dresses’, and the eery silence that lasts just a bit too long at the end of their performance.
When we discovered what the Sun Baby looks like now
The 2021 Big Fat Quiz of Everything had a mystery guest round where panellists asked a series of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions to decipher how the mystery guest is famous. It didn’t take long for them to work out that smiley-faced Jessica was the Teletubbies‘ famous giggling sunshine baby, much to Oti Mabuse’s delight. Inexplicably, this is then followed by someone in a La-La costume arriving on stage to dance while a slightly traumatised looking Jessica claps along.
The Big Fat Quiz of the 90s also featured two former Tellytubby actors as their mystery guest back in 2017.
When they appeared on Saturday Night Live
The Teletubbies have featured on SNL a few times, but back in 2018 they featured on a ‘Hip Hop Classics: Before They Were Stars’ sketch, where it was ‘revealed’ that rapper Rick Ross was originally the red teletubby.
When Tinky Winky was accused of being gay propaganda
Tinky Winky attracted the attention of US conservative activist and televangelist Jerry Falwell back in 1999 when the purple teletubby appeared on the show carrying a red handbag.
Teaming this with further evidence such as ‘He is purple – the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle – the gay-pride symbol’, Falwell asserted the programme creators intended him to be a gay role model and he was therefore ‘damaging to the moral lives of children.’
The BBC responded ‘Tinky Winky is simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag’, whereas the head of the show’s production company Kenn Viselman said Tinky Winky is ‘not gay. He’s not straight. He’s just a character in a children’s series. I think that we should just let the Teletubbies go and play in Teletubbyland and not try to define them.’
When they danced to Beyoncé on Britain’s Got Talent
Yes, you read that right. Earlier in 2022, the Teletubbies were reunited with their old record label owner Simon Cowell (who helped them get their 1997 number one), when they arrived on Britain’s Got Talent to audition. Their act consisted of dancing along to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies and One Direction’s Best Song Ever, much to the delight of the audience and judges.
Simon Cowell said ‘I feel quite emotional, we had a lot of success together… it’s like a reunion’, prompting a classic Teletubby ‘big hug’ moment (just to warn you, in case you haven’t watched the clip yet and are triggered by extreme cringe).
A reunion, and now a reboot. It looks like 2022 really is year the Teletubbies say ‘eh-oh’ once again.