Teletubbies making a comeback

The Teletubbies are back, and social media is buzzing.
The Teletubbies are back, and social media is buzzing. Photo: AP

The Teletubbies - those mysterious creatures with televisions in their tummies - will be returning to the silver screen, with the BBC ordering 165 new episodes.

While there may not be much competition to be the most popular program starring tech-enabled huggable aliens, the show was a commercial smash hit and is a cultural phenomenon still going strong today.

Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po cavorted across screens in 120 countries and were translated into 45 languages for 365 episodes from 1997 to 2001.

Producer DHX Media’s president Steven DeNure said technology and kids' television has changed dramatically since then.

“It is a pre-school show that has a very gentle introduction to technology in a relatively indirect way,” DeNure said in a statement. “The Teletubbies always had a relationship with tech for little kids, among other things a screen on their bellies and a vacuum cleaner as a best friend.”

Gentle it may be, but the show was not without controversy, ranging from national debates about the messages the show sends to the more absurd conspiracy theories.

The most memorable was when a United States televangelist accused handbag carrying Tinky Winky as a concealed gay role model, and Poland’s watchdog for children’s rights declaring and then retracting her opinion that the show should be investigated on similar grounds.

It's likely a homosexual character would draw less condemnation these days but other issues raised may return.

Critics have decried the constant repetition and cautioned against the sing-song, barely verbal way the characters communicate given the target market are still learning how to speak.


The show sparked a nasty fight between television consultants at the World Summit on Television for Children in 1998, where the new show was criticised for dumbing down kids television globally and being uncomfortably commercial.

Beyond pushing a liberal agenda, conspiracy theories have flourished in the past 13 years within wiki communities such as Reddit and CreepyPasta.

Whether the Teletubbies are genetically engineered slave cast, part of a hyper-drugged dystopian future or the projections of a deranged mind, most theories are sparked and spurred on by the fact the characters, species and world they live in are without back stories.

Theorists also obsess over the lack of control the Teletubbies have over their lives, their constant smiles and particularly the apparently ominous Magic Pinwheel which activates the screens in their bellies.