Review-Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy

Following last year’s festive specials, we’re back in Scatterbrook accompanying Worzel Gummidge on another madcap adventure. As with the last two, ‘Saucy Nancy’ is written and directed by Executive Producer Mackenzie Crook.

Worzel is rich, for a scarecrow. He’s found £20 and the money is burning a hole in his pocket, he wants to buy a door. So he enlists ‘the chillun’ Susan (India Brown) and John (Thierry Wickens) to help him find one. Whilst at a salvage yard, he stumbles across his old foul-mouthed friend, Saucy Nancy (Shirley Henderson). The sea is calling Nancy and she wants to get back to it, our trio of heroes vow to help her.

The two specials last year were undoubtedly the highlight of the festive period. This year is no different. This is a well-written and well-directed family adventure, bursting with heart and humour. Once again, Brown and Wickens feel like brother and sister and the entire cast have such natural chemistry, that a walking talking scarecrow seems like the most normal thing in the world. Shirley Henderson is an absolutely wonderful addition, in all her (scarecrow) sweary ways. There’s also a great turn from Venessa Redgrave as “Peg”.

Steve Pemberton and Rosie Cavaliero take more of a back seat in this, as Mr and Mrs Braithwaite, but they’re both still excellent in their respective roles. Mr Braithwaite has even softened to the kids “these two are different, they’re keepers” he tells his wife.

After the year we’ve had, it was extremely comforting slipping back into the innocent world of Worzel Gummidge. This show is about love, hope and trust, which is what we could all do with right now.

Mackenzie Crook has once again proved, that he is more than a worthy successor to Jon Pertwee. Ten Acre Field is in very safe hands.

Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy – airs tonight at 5:55pm on BBC One. 

TV review: Dirk Gently on Campus

With Macduff at his side, Dirk returns to St Cedd’s College Cambridge, from which he was expelled years ago. He’s been invited back by Professor Jericho (Bill Paterson), who may have been the only man to ever truly believe in our clever con artist. Lights go out. Security cameras fail. The professor’s experimental robot vanishes.

This second episode of the series focusses more on its single campus setting versus the dizzying array of urban locations seen previously. It remains full of ideas, nevertheless: online gaming, artificial intelligence, internet protocols and microchip implants are just some of what’s in store.

After an episode’s absence, Helen Baxendale is back as Susan Harmison, GP and girlfriend of Richard Macduff. It’s a credit to actor and production that Susan is realised as well as she is; there’s an undergraduate whimsy to Douglas Adams’ writing and his female characters often suffered at the hands of time, space, causality and drunken male camaraderie. Televised Dirk Gently is fun for the whole campus.

For the Dirk novels, the late Mr Adams reused a few elements of Shada, his unbroadcast script for Doctor Who. Most notable among these are the St Cedd’s college setting and its surprising professor. Showrunner Howard Overman deftly avoids the strictly Doctor Who elements in his adaptation of the books and this episode’s writer, Matt Jones, lends a rather personal touch to the zaniness. The result is another cracking episode: it takes the series into virgin territory and shows that this team can succeed Douglas Adams instead of merely honouring him.

This episode airs on BBC4 Monday, 12 March at 9 pm. There’s a clip here: Dirk Gently at BBC Four

TV review: Dirk Gently Returns

Aired just before the start of 2011, the late Douglas Adams’ novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – and its sequel – were adapted as a television pilot. A number of liberties were taken but all served to drop a twenty-first-century freshness into the eighties stories. Steven Mangan’s intense, goofy performance of the dishevelled, slightly suspect detective was at the centre of this success; the programme’s outing on BBC Four earned itself a follow-up series handily.

With the novels entertainingly adapted, Howard Overman (creator of Misfits) set about spinning Adams’ franchise into a trio of fresh new mysteries. The first of these is more rewarding than many cinema films.

A certain Mr Edwards believes The Pentagon is trying to kill him. Not the building, of course, just some of the people who work there. Suddenly it’s spy satellites, earpieces, breath mints and dark glasses all over the place and Mr Edwards is dead before Dirk and his poor pal Macduff can get a word with him. Hm? Yeah, breath mints.

Doctor Who fans will find a refreshing take on the classic sidekick in Richard Macduff, played by Darren Boyle. Although Macduff is tasked mainly with reacting to Dirk’s manic crusading, Boyle makes an art of it and is given the chance to move from there into some rather amusing power struggles with his dodgy business partner.

The Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things is a genius notion set inside a detective story and it’s part of why this series continues to delight. Once again we’re presented with a constant stream of bizarre nonsequiturs and its down to Dirk to put them together and perhaps get paid this time.

Dirk Gently returns tonight, Monday 5 March at 9 pm on BBC Four.

Star Steven Mangan has written an article on The Making of Dirk Gently.