And now back to 1987, and the other side of the world, for the first series of Worzel Gummidge Down Under. Well, that’s how it’s billed, but I’m fine with just thinking of it as six series of one program rather than four of one and two of another. Life’s too short. After Southern Television lost its franchise, the producers spent about five years nailing down a financing deal that allowed them to keep rights and control over their show, and they found that money in New Zealand. In his remarkable The Worzel Book, Stuart Manning draws a parallel to the way that seven episodes, and a bit of an eighth, of The New Avengers were made in other countries.
Actually, that’s a really good example, because the last four episodes of that show are technically The New Avengers in Canada, but nobody calls them that.
It’s so strange to think that this show was in production in 1987 and 1989, because I was tape trading then, and was curious about the show, which was very occasionally mentioned in Doctor Who Magazine, but thought of it, then, as something old, archive television instead of something that was still being made. Only Jon Pertwee and Una Stubbs continue from the original cast and there aren’t any titchy hooman kids yet. There’s a new Crowman, played by Bruce Phillips, who Worzel, beautifully, calls “Mister Zoo Neeland Crowman Sir.” The plot this time is a simple pilot for the new format: Aunt Sally gets sold to a folk history museum outside Wellington, Worzel finds his way into the plane’s cargo hold, and they have no idea where they are, except that it’s probably better than Americky and they want to go home.
The kid was in seventh heaven. He was obviously starving for some mangled wordplay and slapstick because he laughed like a hyena all through this thing. I am just a little bit skeptical how much I’m likely to love Worzel without all the great British comedians and recognizable character actors popping in, but I’m hoping the format gets bent a little and we meet some new weird friends and troublemakers. As long as our hero’s getting smacked in the head with a shovel, though, our son sees no difference in what came before.