Believe it or not, once upon a time there was more to PBS than live on-air fundraising. For a full 25 minutes, PBS paused its desperate pleas for support to air one of Britain’s most well-loved preschool television series: “Teletubbies”. Produced from 1997 to 2002, “Teletubbies” focused on the lives of four Teletubbies — imaginary humanoid creatures with television monitors in the center of their chubby stomachs. Teletubbies live in the “Tubbytronic Superdome” in Teletubbyland and enjoy playing like typical preschoolers. The rising and setting of the Teletubbyland sun, a giggly baby face, marks the beginning and end of each episode.
Although a cognitive psychologist designed “Teletubbies”, these chubby fleece mutants seem more like products of a particularly disturbing hallucinogenic experience. Episodes often feature unpredictable bizarre events. For example, during one episode, a carousel suddenly lands in the meadow, and a teddy bear proceeds to tap dance atop the platform. Repetition of meaningless nonsense phrases further contributes to the show’s psychedelic quality. Yet strangely, these exact characteristics attracted a loyal following of college fans, precursors to today’s Bronies.
In my opinion, the best part of “Teletubbies” was not the kaleidoscopic patterns and curious events. Rather, I believe the Teletubbies’s fascinating eating habits take the cake, or more accurately, take the Tubby Custard. Despite Teletubbyland’s unpredictability, you could always count on the consistency of the Teletubbies’s mealtime ritual. Teletubbies had two meal options: Tubby Custard or Tubby Toast. A light up machine dispensed Tubby Custard into the Teletubbies’ special bowls. The Tubby Toaster produced Tubby Toast from circular bread slices, imprinting each with an adorable toasty smiley face. Of course, the Teletubbies’s messy eating habits meant that half of their food always ended up on the floor. Fortunately, Noo Noo the slurpy vacuum had the pleasure of slurping up all the congealed custard and toast waste. Without Noo Noo to clean up the food mess, the most abominable bachelor pad could not have surpassed the Tubbytronic Superdome in messiness.
Admittedly, my little brother and I figured out the best and dorkiest way to enjoy Teletubbies’s. One day after school, our mom surprised us with bowls that resembled the Teletubbies’s custard bowls. For my brother and me, the bowls did not derive their novelty from their relationship to the “Teletubbies”. Instead, we loved the bowls for their ingenious design. Tubby custard bowls had built-in straws, making them ideal for cereal consumption. The built-in straw effectively provided the best possible way to finish the extra milk leftover in the bowl. Naturally, my brother and I then concluded that we should watch “Teletubbies” while eating from the Teletubby custard bowls. Honestly, the bowls added an entirely new dimension to our “Teletubbies” experience.
Now replaced by newer children’s shows, “Teletubbies” has largely become a thing of the past. Occasional “Teletubbies” references still appear in pop culture, but most of the allusions focus on Jerry Falwell’s claims that Tinky Winky’s purple coloring and use of a handbag are hidden homosexual symbols. Unfortunately, Falwell’s outlandish accusations often draws people’s “Teletubbies” discussions away from sharing mutual feelings of nostalgia and instead directs people’s attention towards potentially divisive topics. Hopefully, in time people will overlook any related controversies and simply enjoy reminiscing about “Teletubbies” itself.