Sunday, 21 December 2014

Orm and Cheep

Genre: Children's
Channel: ITV
Transmission: 03/10/1983 - 21/04/1985

The animal kingdom struggles to live in perfect harmony. Cats hate dogs. Wasps hate everyone. And birds can't help but gobble up worms.

But, you know what, there's proof that worms and birds can live together like ebony and ivory.

It's time to take a gander at Orm and Cheep.

When Animals Live Together

Cheep is a fluffy little bird who, after falling from his nest as a baby, fails to learn the basics of being a bird - namely being able to fly. On hand to rescue Cheep from the horrors of life at ground level is Orm, a friendly worm. Orm takes Cheep back to his subterranean home at the base of a tree where Cheep repays his kindness by not devouring him.

Together with their friends Snail, Mole and Mouse they deal with such testing situations such as cleaning the house, coping with floods and allowing Cheep the freedom to express his artistic talent. However, to add an extra dimension of urgency to these plots are enemies keen to establish the predator - prey relationship that Orm and Cheep have rejected.

These enemies are Crow, Cat and Rat who are all keen of filling their bellies with the protagonists.

Behind the Puppets

26 episodes of Orm and Cheep aired over two series between 1983 and 1985 on ITV and aimed at a preschool audience.

Orm and Cheep started to come to life when writer Guy Hallifax was introduced to designer Tony Martin who had an idea for a children's show. Guy Hallifax wrote a couple of spec scripts and they soon had a commission from ITV.

The puppets were created by The Puppet Company and the world they inhabited was a mixture of backdrops created by Tony Martin and bluescreen magic engineered by Derek Oliver.

The familar, cheery tones of Richard Briers provided the voices and narration for the series.

The show proved successful at the time with viewing figures hitting 7.15 million according to Guy Hallifax. This success led to the release of an annual and 6 tie-in books.

There was tension on the set for the first series as husband wife director duo Jan and Tony Martin were experiencing the breakdown of their marriage. Jan Martin was not involved the second series, but remains highly positive about her ex-husband's work on the series [1].

Five episodes were released on VHS by The Video Collection and a rip of this has found its way onto YouTube.

Turn up the Cutesy to 11

We had never heard of Orm and Cheep, but it's possible that we caught some of the second series. We decided to check it out on YouTube and see what the hell it was about.

We experienced the cutesy, saccharine theme tune and immediately turned it off. It was a like a nightmarish version of Orville's 'I Wish I Could Fly' and left a sickly taste in our mouth.

A few weeks later, we returned to grin and bear the theme tune to see what lay beyond.

First things first, we love Richard Briers and his narration is very engaging. The background music by Dave Greenslade is also very soothing and creates a dreamlike atmosphere.

The puppets, well they're a mixed bag. Orm and Snail are really cute puppets which stand out as being well designed, but others such as Cheep, Cat and Rat are rather ugly. It's an odd mix and doesn't really work - Cheep as a main character simply needed more work, as it is he appears to be a ball with feathers slapped on him in a rush.

Our main stumbling block is the cutesy cute feel of the show. The voices are far too drippy at times and all the protagonists are sickeningly nice. We couldn't help but wish they would be eaten up at times.

However, we're looking at it as an adult. Through a child's eye it would be viewed as an idyllic romp where the good guys win and the bad guys always get their comeuppance.

Although it's too schmaltzy for us, the actual look is very professional and Tony Martin managed to create a show which looks far ahead of its rivals and wouldn't look out of place in the modern age.

Sadly, for us, the five episodes on YouTube were enough, but if you loved it you may want to revisit. If not, it might keep your kids quiet for an hour, so try letting them have a watch.


No comments:

Post a Comment