Children's TV programmes in the 1950s were generally unsophisticated affairs by today's standards, but one show, a puppet series called The Adventures of Twizzle (ITV, 1957-58 - 52 episodes), helped launched a company which in less than a decade permanently altered the face of children's TV.
Twizzle was made by the newly-formed AP Films, an independent production company formed by Gerry Anderson, Arthur Provis, Reg Hilland Sylvia Tamm. The fledgling outfit had originally intended to make cinema films, but the expected offers of work failed to materialise and, with mounting debts, AP Films couldn't afford to be choosy about its commissions.
The approach from author Roberta Leigh to film 52 scripts aimed at children's TV was not what the company had in mind, especially as Twizzle was a puppet series. To make matters worse, the budget was minuscule. But AP Films was in no position to turn away work. Reg Hilllater said: "We didn't do the puppets because we wanted to. We did them because we had to."
Twizzle, a doll who can extend his arms and legs, runs away from a toy shop in the opening episode, to avoid being bought by a particularly nasty little girl. Our hero's ability to 'twizzle' provided the core of each week's adventure. For example, when Chawky, the white-faced golliwog, inflates the tyres on his tricycle so much that it floats away, Twizzle stretches his limbs to bring it back down.
For all its lack of refinement, The Adventures of Twizzle proved a success, spearheading a new breed of programme aimed at the 6.00 to 7.00pm slot - an hour which had previously seen ITV and BBC temporarily cease broadcasting so that mothers' could get their children to bed. When the 'toddlers' truce' was lifted the search was on for programmes to pack the vacant hour; Twizzle helped fill the vacuum.