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18 June 2014
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James: "The Noel Coward of Puppets"

Time to squeal and avoid mum - she hates Basil's laugh. Adults eh?! Click for a bigger image. Basil Brush is the Noel Coward of puppets. He stands out leagues ahead of Emu, Orville and Lord Snooty. He's witty, urbane, charming and a little bit risque. In these old shows, the material may suck just a little, the pacing may be awful, and the musical acts are plain bizarre - but Basil shines through.

Poor Derek Fowles just sits there in his lovely pullovers, desperately trying to keep a straight face as a relentlessly teasing puppet nuzzles him fondly, yabbering incessantly away. What's most surprising is just how expressive the puppet is. Basil is a very simple puppet - no legs, no arm movement, and no animatronics in the face. Just a fixed, beady expression and a relentlessly waggy tail (surely brush! - ed). And yet there's such a compelling depth of feeling in the puppet's every gesture and comment that you can't help loving him, even in these thirty year-old programmes.

Considering how much of the audience is made up of Brownies, it is surprising how adult much of the material is, as Basil mischieviously makes slightly blue jokes about sex, breasts, drunkenness, and even little Willy, his, er, worm.

Nairn: "Why Why Why..."

... was Basil Brush ever given the chop? Basil was the highlight of my Saturday afternoon viewing. I loved the fact he was basically a kid but he still managed to be a cheeky rascal and get away with it. Whenever I tried to be cheeky I got a clip round the ear, but somehow he got away with it. So unfair.

Watching Basil Brush now still has me chortling away merrily. The jokes are often painful and can be spotted about 20 minutes before they arrive, but it's the delivery that makes them. For a cloth fox, Basil is bursting with personality.

The show now looks painfully dated and the acts which feature would be excrutiating to today's audiences. I can't imagine "The Roger Stevenson Marionettes" lasting very long on kids TV today. The Basil Brush Show comes from an era when polo sweaters were a novelty and a piece of clothing to be proud of.

I do hope the rumours that Basil Brush will be brought back to life are true - albeit without Basil's 'owner' Ivan Owen, who sadly died in 2000. Long live Basil.

Stephen: "pretenders beware"

You can't fool me y'know. What a neglected institution among British kids television.

We all remember Bagpuss, and we all remember Rentaghost, but somehow Basil never gets the respect he’s due.

A Celebrity Deathmatch between Basil Brush and Gordon the Gopher would be comparable to Mohammed Ali verses Prince Naz. Basil’s the classic model, and the pretenders will always be imitations. He’s faster, cornier, better… the best.

CBBC has moved on, but if anything Basil Brush is a nostalgic icon of the good old days.

Kim: "tomfoolery"

Music Hall was the telly of the turn of the century. It slowly died in the 1940s, after the heyday of acts like Wilson, Kepple and Betty. Those stars went on to do 'variety', and then that newfangled 'television light entertainment'. The spirit of Music Hall finally came to rest in the Basil Brush Show.

It's full of jokes so obvious they're painful, silly catchphrases and what can only be described as 'tomfoolery'. It's like watching Leslie Phillips performing the best of Arthur Atkinson -"Where's Me Washboard? What What!"

Basil Brush is full of the dying echoes of television's ancestors.


VIDEO CLIP:Titles It's the Basil Brush Show

VIDEO CLIP:Joke Marriage

VIDEO CLIP:Worm Mr Derek in the country

VIDEO CLIP:Fishing Countryside pursuits

VIDEO CLIP:Storytime Captain Basil

SOUND CLIP:Laugh Hear the fox at his best

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