Classic TV Revisited: Roobarb And Custard


Cheapo, cult children’s show with a dark side

Energetic green dog called Roobarb, slothful pink cat Custard, wicked birds, wobbly animation and a dirty guitar/harmonica soundtrack.

A quality production, voiced by respected thespian Richard Briers, which appealed to both adults and children. Fondly remembered by many in the 30-plus age group. It’s also about to be repeated on five.

What was it all about?
The age-old rivalry between dogs and cats.

Not a shaggy dog story, then?
More about one hound’s bid to better himself in the face of adversity. Acid-green pooch Roobarb was forever retreating to his shed only to emerge with some useless invention after a frenzy of crashing and bashing.

Not to cruel pink cat Custard who ridiculed all his efforts. Two birds backed whoever was winning.

Plots were absurd.

For Example?
Roobarb puts on a show for the animals in the garden. But his ventriloquism is so appalling that they make cardboard cut-outs of themselves to act as an audience. The titles were also absurdist gems.

Such as?
When Roobarb Made A Spike, When Roobarb Was Being Bored And Then Not Being Bored, When It Wasn’t Thursday and When Roobarb Found Sauce.

Where did this curious canine creation bound from?
The fertile mind of Grange Calveley.

Man with a dessert fixation?
Just a fine, surreal mind. Roobarb was inspired by his black retriever.

A lone spirit?
He joined forces with director Bob Godfrey who went on to animate classics like Noah And Nelly In The Skylark and Henry’s Cat. He also won an Oscar for Great, a film he made about Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

TV debut?
Roobarb first bounded on to BBC1 in 1974 after two years in development. Monica Simms ordered 35 episodes which were made in a year.

Lavish production?
Hardly. While the wobbly animation was one of it most memorable characteristics, it was the result of no money to work with.

Calveley and Godfrey only got a small loan from the BBC and ended up using magic markers. Johnny Hawksworth of the Ted Heath band did the music.

Harmless fun or something more sinister?
Godfrey did compare it to Hancock’s Half Hour.

Come again?
“It has a basic angular structure,” explains Bob. “Roobarb is the Hancock figure, a kind of holy fool. Then there is Sid James’s character, an odious pink cat, and on the fence sit those lunatic birds, who will always go with whoever is winning.”