It’s doubtful that if you lived outside the Yorkshire Television area in the 1970s that you’d have heard of The Laughing Policeman, unless, of course, it was in reference to the music hall song recorded by British artist Charles Penrose, published under the pseudonym Charles Jolly, in 1922.
Yorkshire’s laughing policeman though was none other than the only policeman any ne’er do well wouldn’t mind having their collar felt by, as he was certainly the most affable officer on the block; our very own Deryck Guyler. And let’s face it, Mr Guyler had plenty of experience playing a uniformed member of the constabulary, having appeared alongside the great Eric Sykes in Sykes And A… as PC Corky Turnbull for many years as well as turning up as a desk sergeant in The Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night.
For this particular uniformed outing though, Guyler was not on the lookout for bad‘uns, he was there to impart his knowledge to his youthful audience in YTV’s 15-minute lunchtime children’s series. A kind of alternative to Watch With Mother which at that time would be playing on t’other side. Officer Guyler would hold court outside R. Peels Television and Repairs shop, gently imparting his good advice on the importance of using zebra crossings, reminiscing about the Mickey Mouse watch he had as a youngster and then regaling the little ones with a rhyme about the events of his day.
There were also puppets! Right behind him in the shop window of the repair shop an assortment of colourful musically minded puppet cats, crows and foxes sung jolly songs such as Yummy Yummy Yummy and Tie a Yellow Ribbon.
There were two series of The Laughing Policeman, and for the second, PC254 moved location, finding himself on the beat in a residential area. Fortunately for him he could stop by young Adam’s house where there was an old-fashioned bioscope for viewing videos of the singing and dancing puppets.
The puppets, provided by Roger Stevenson were the ‘Bow Street Puppets’. Stevenson, who was born in Southport, England, was introduced to Puppetry at an early age when he saw a Marionette Show at the end of Southport Pier. In 1965, he was introduced to the Comedian, Ken Dodd and suggested that it might be an idea to create String Puppets of 'The Diddymen', the group of characters in Dodd’s radio show. In 1969, Stevenson was offered a series for Yorkshire Television, by the Director, Jess Yates, and this would lead to over 150 puppet programmes being made for YTV. The first series was Diane's Magic Theatre and Witch's Brew, Nuts and Bones and The Laughing Policeman followed this.
The scripts for the first series were written by Denis Gifford - writer, broadcaster, journalist, comic artist and historian of film, comics, television and radio, Gifford had the misfortune to be one of the writers on Morecambe and Wise’s ill-fated Running Wild series in 1954. He would later shake off that stigma, well – sort of, by writing for Junior Showtime (1973), devise the nostalgia panel show Looks Familiar (1970–87) and design stunts for The Generation Game.
For the second series Gerry Andrewes (The Flaxton Boys) took over the writing duties.
The director was Ian Bolt, who made more than 1,500 network TV shows and commercials, as well as the occasional pop video in the 1980s. Among the many programmes he helped bring to the screen were Pop Quest, Give Us a Clue and Through the Keyhole. In 1980 he won a Bafta for best documentary children's programme for The Book Tower.
Producer of the series was Peter Max Wilson, known for Junior Showtime (1969), Stars on Sunday (1969) and Charles Dickens' World of Christmas. Jess Yates, at that time, was the Head of Children’s Programmes for YTV.
Published on February 7th, 2023. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.