Friday, June 5, 2020


Traditionally, the month of June inductees into the Television Crossover Hall of Fame has either been a series of pairs (to reflect the Gemini motif) or puppets because -# well… because I like puppets.

Now with the added Friday Hall of Famers to bolster the membership, Toobworld Central doesn’t have to choose one over the other each year.

Because we ran a memorial induction on Monday the First, we’re using the first Friday Hall of Famer spot for the monthly showcase.  And we’re siding on the side of puppetry to kick things off….


From Wikipedia:
Roland Rat is a British television puppet character. He was created, operated and voiced by David Claridge, who had previously designed and operated Mooncat, a puppet in the Children's ITV television programme ‘Get Up and Go!’ Claridge worked for Jim Henson, then the second series of ‘The Young Ones’. Claridge would later operate and voice Brian the Dinosaur for BBC's ‘Parallel 9’; create and direct ‘Happy Monsters’, a preschool series for Channel 5; and shoot a CGI series, ‘Mozart's Dog’, for Paramount Comedy.

Roland lives beneath King's Cross railway station in The Ratcave and also in Ratcave Two under the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles. He has an infant brother called Little Reggie and had a relationship with a guinea pig called Glenis. His colleagues include dour Welsh technical whizz Errol the Hamster and over-enthusiastic self-appointed "number one ratfan" Kevin the Gerbil, who is from Leeds and loves pink buckets. Claridge actually provides voices for all the main characters: Roland Rat, Errol the Hamster, Kevin The Gerbil, Little Reggie, Fergie the Ferret and Roland's father Freddie, as they often appear on screen together. Roland's car 'the Ratmobile' is a bright pink 1953 Ford Anglia.

Roland Rat first appeared on 1 April 1983 (Good Friday) on the ailing breakfast television network TV-am, and is generally regarded as its saviour, being described as "the only rat to join a sinking ship". After a couple of months on TV-am, Roland took the audience from 100,000 to 1.8 million. Roland was launched at TV-am by Children's editor Anne Wood to give kids entertainment during the Easter holidays.

Initially, Roland was featured as the host of ‘The Shedvision Show’, ostensibly broadcast from a wooden shack on the roof of TV-am's studios. On the strength of this, Roland was soon given a regular slot every morning introducing cartoons for younger viewers.

Arguably Roland Rat's golden age on TV-am was the period from summer 1983 until summer 1985. During this period, Roland and friends would feature in a half hour episode transmitted on school holiday weekdays on TV-am from 9.00 am. The school summer holidays of 1983 and 1984 saw ‘Rat on the Road’ in which Roland and Kevin would spend each week in a different town of the United Kingdom. One notable highlight during this period was the visit of Austrian racing driver Roland Ratzenberger who appeared on the show in a motor race against the Ratmobile ending with Ratzenberger's car being sabotaged by his near-namesake.

On 3 October 1985, he transferred to the BBC, for a three-year contract, which ended up being extended to six years. Roland said, "I saved TVam and now I'm here to save the BBC."

Roland made a number of series during his time at the BBC, most notably ‘Roland Rat the Series’, a chat show set in Roland's sewer home, now converted into a high-tech media centre called the ‘Ratcave the show’ would intersperse the chat show segments with a storyline involving some sort of situation "behind the scenes".

Roland also made two spoof drama series, ‘Tales of the Rodent Sherlock Holmes’, in which he played Holmes with Kevin as Dr Watson, and ‘Ratman’, a ‘Batman’ spoof with Kevin as his sidekick, "Pink Bucket Man". During Christmas 1985, British Telecom operated a free "ratphone" number on 0800 800 800 where fans could listen to Roland's prerecorded Christmas message.

Roland would also host the children's game show entitled ‘Roland's Rat Race’, where child contestants answered general knowledge questions in a race car setting.

In the late 1990s he made a series for Channel 5, called ‘L.A. RAT’, which featured Roland and friends living in Los Angeles. In 2003 Roland was a guest presenter for ITV children's ‘CiTV’.

Roland appeared on ‘Big Brother UK’ several times, his first being 2004 in a task that involved the housemates playing a version of 20 Questions in order to guess the identity of various celebrities.

In December 2007, Roland Rat appeared on a puppet special of the ‘Weakest Link’ hosted by Anne Robinson which was originally broadcast on Friday 28 December 2007 at 18:00GMT on BBC One. Roland reached the final round with Soo from ‘The Sooty Show’ which went to sudden death after initially drawing with four points each. Roland ultimately lost out to Soo's superior wisdom in the tense final standoff.

Roland appeared in the fourth episode of the second series of ‘Ashes to Ashes’. This appearance was anachronistic, as the show is set in 1982 whereas Roland did not debut until the following year.

On 11 February 2010, whilst making an appearance on BBC's ‘The One Show’ to answer a question about how children's programmes have changed over the years, Roland Rat spent so much time joking about the presenters (Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley) that Adrian ended the interview before he answered the question.

I could be wrong about what delineates a TV series the UK, but from the Wikipedia entry above, it looks as though Roland have at least thirteen entries to his qualifications.

So welcome aboard another sinking ship, Roland!  Enjoy your stay in the Hall and have fun hanging around with the other puppet members… no strings attached.

Sorry about that….

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