Worzel Gummidge returns to TV

BBC One is bringing Worzel Gummidge back to screens in two hour long films, inspired by the classic books of Barbara Euphan Todd.

“Mackenzie’s widely adored and multi-Bafta award winning Detectorists was a grown up love letter to bucolic England and with Worzel he takes a similar approach to English folklore, rural rites and the magic of childhood. His visionary and fundamental reinterpretation of this classic is that rare and special achievement – a BBC One family friendly comedy.” – Shane Allen, Controller Comedy Commissioning at the BBC

Mackenzie Crook writes, directs and stars as Worzel Gummidge the BBC today announced. The ‘modern adaptation’ will invariably be compared to the ITV version of the 1970s which remains a fondly remembered production from Southern Television and starring Doctor Who actor Jon Pertwee in the title role. Other stars of the classic series included Una Stubbs and guest stars such as Barbara Windsor, John Le Mesurier and Joan Sims. However it isn’t the first time the BBC has produced the story.

In 1953 BBC Television aired Worzel Gummidge Turns Detective featuring Frank Atkinson in the lead role. Other adaptions have included several of the stories illustrated for BBC storytelling series Jackanory in the 1960s. While Jon Pertwee’s interpretation will unlikely be beaten, the Beeb have wisely opted not to take any inspiration from his portrayal which was first seen in 1979 and last broadcast with new episodes in 1989, instead producing an entirely new version taken directly from the novels.

The first 60 minute episode, The Scarecrow Of Scatterbrook, sees two young strangers arrive in the village of Scatterbrook. It’s not long before Susan and John encounter Worzel Gummidge, the Scarecrow of Ten Acre Field. Their world is sent spinning into confusion when they realise Gummidge comes to life. The only person more shocked is Worzel, when he discovers that the children are not in fact fellow scarecrows but humans.

Their worlds should never commune but fate has conspired to create an extraordinary union. The seasons have stopped and the harvest hasn’t arrived. The rhythm of the natural world is out of kilter and this unlikely trio must try to put it right. Magic, mystery and mayhem unfurl.

The second episode, The Green Man, welcomes another mysterious arrival to Scatterbrook. The Green Man is the creator of scarecrows and keeper of scarecrow lore. He isn’t at all happy that Worzel is consorting with humans. Elsewhere, local aristocrat Lady Bloomsbury Barton is holding a fete, with a Scarecrow competition that Worzel is determined to win. What will Worzel’s most competitive rival, Soggy Bogart, and The Green Man make of it all.

“I’m thrilled to be back working with the BBC and many members of the Detectorists team to bring Worzel Gummidge to a new generation of viewers and reintroduce him to old friends. Adapting Barbara Euphan Todd’s books into these two films has been a joy and I’ve completely fallen for her charming, irreverent scarecrow. Fingers crossed for a glorious English summer as we head out to Scatterbrook Farm and Worzel’s Ten Acre Field.” – Mackenzie Crook

Worzel Gummidge is a Leopard Pictures, Treasure Trove Productions and Lola Entertainment production for BBC One. Further casting announcements will be made in due course.

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