Miwk, Out now
Everything you could possibly want to know about Jon Pertwee’s other famous genre role…
Stuart Manning loves Worzel Gummidge. His love for the topic, the series, the character, the actor who played him shines through every page of this beautifully presented book from Miwk – you half expect to find a picture of a tree halfway through with SM [heart] WG!
Starting with a concise gallop through the creation of Worzel and his earlier incarnations – including details on the Jackanory presentations – this book gets into its stride when you turn the page to find Pertwee grinning out at you. The roots of his performance in his 1940s radio work are noted before we get into the nitty gritty of the creation of the series, with an admirable concentration on the behind the camera talent as well as the work of Pertwee, Una Stubbs and co. Manning hasn’t produced a hagiographic portrayal of the show, however: the many problems that were faced by (and perhaps sometimes caused by) those in charge are delineated clearly.
A good portion of the book is an episode guide, with useful production notes, location guides, trivia and indications where the stories appeared in print, with narrative before each season explaining the changes that took place – and the pitfalls that befell them (such as one of the young stars becoming demoralised at being told off so much). The stage show gets due attention (with Crowman Geoffrey Bayldon’s unusual opening lines provided). The episodes affected by the 1979 ITV strike (the one that delayed Quatermass and gave Doctor Who such stunning audience figures) are also detailed.
The “hiatus” between the last Southern series and the Antipodean adventures is full of fascinating insight into the problems getting a show on air, before we get into the creation of those episodes, which includes an interview with young Jonathan Marks (who gives the impression that he’s astonished that anyone cares!). And then comes the rather sad bit, as Pertwee’s final years are recounted and his many efforts to bring the show back before his death in May 1996 (and the deaths of other key players as well). The abortive attempts, so far, to restore the scarecrow to his glory are listed.
By the end, you come to understand what it is that Jon Pertwee and James Hill saw in Barbara Euphan Todd’s creation – and may well want to go and find an episode, or two…
Verdict: Clear narrative and intricate detail provide an excellent look at Mr Gummidge. 9/10