Worzel Gummidge (ITV, 1979-1981)/Worzel Gummidge Down Under (Channel 4, 1987-1989)
This is a children’s show featuring a popular character that has endured for decades. Worzel Gummidge was created by Barbara Euphan Todd in the 1930s, and he was a friendly but rather dozy scarecrow who featured in various stories. His first TV series was Worzel Gummidge Turns Detective as early as 1953, but this is the most famous one.
Worzel Gummidge returned to TV in 1979, with the stories now written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall. Worzel was played by Jon Pertwee, who appeared in various shows over the years, including Doctor Who of course, and he became fondly known for this role too. Worzel is a scarecrow created by The Crowman who magically comes to life on Scatterbrook Farm and has all kinds of adventures.
He also befriends John and Sue (a pre-Marmalade Atkins Charlotte Coleman). Worzel is rather dirty and smelly, and he also has the ability to change his head depending on his mood, some of these were unintentionally scary. His catchphrase was “a cup o’ tea and a slice o’ cake!”. Also featuring regularly was Aunt Sally, who was a doll, along with Saucy Nancy. Worzel would always fall over at the very end of the show. And in 1980 he even had a hit single!
There were four series and a Christmas special of Worzel Gummidge, that were shown at the weekend rather than on CITV. These did rather well, leading to a stage show, and a repeat run on Channel 4 in the mid-80s, and UK Gold. The first place that I remember seeing this series though was when it was repeated on Carlton Kids, a channel in the early days of digital TV. Oh yes, I did watch that channel. But the story doesn’t end there.
Because six years on from the final episode, Worzel returned to the screen, but now the stories took place in New Zealand. Apart from that, it was more of the same really. Worzel is still having adventures with Aunt Sally, running into trouble with The Crowman, and he befriends two more children, Mickey and Manu. There were two series of this, that were shown on Channel 4 on Sunday Mornings.
There were 53 episodes altogether in both versions of Worzel Gummidge, and all six series were recently released on DVD in a nine-disc box set, watching them again was an enjoyable experience. And as recently as last year Worzel returned to the screen again for some new stories that aimed to win over a new generation of viewers.