Here Come Double Deckers!

Sunday, 31 October 2010 11:58

For those of us of a certain age, this series will forever be one of those defining moments of our childhood. We all wanted to be in the Double Deckers, having our own yard and bus to escape to. It was such a fun series, and there was always one character or other to sympathise with, no matter what kind of kid you were. Bringing together slapstick and high jinks, it triumphed by having a young cast who were not only convincing but failed to be annoying.  Now THAT is one hell of a trick to pull off!

Those of you who are fans of Spooks will raise an eyebrow when you just about recognise Peter Firth, yes, Harry himself as Scooper, the lynchpin of the gang. Mr Firth will probably not be keen to see this series finally manage to make it to DVD, after an entire raft of copyright issues eventually being demolished.  Its availability is long overdue, and it’s such a feel-good show, while it might not be ‘laugh out loud’, it will bring a smile to your face.  And as Marty McFly would say: “Your kids will love it”!

Here Come The Double Deckers! Finally on DVDOne of the only TV series to have been shown on American network television, Double Deckers had its origins in a format made for the cinema called “The Magnificent Six and a Half”. It has high production values, which necessitated having an American member, Bruce Clark as Sticks, as part of the deal to get the Stateside sale.

The Executive Producer for the American side of things was David Gerber. Starting out as a prime mover with The Ghost & Mrs Muir, he would go on to mastermind the likes of Nanny and The Professor, the TV series of Born Free, 1976’s The Quest, the Angie Dickinson vehicle Police Woman, Buck Henry’s Quark, Police Story, David Cassidy: Man Undercover, Joe Don Baker’s Eischeid, and the 2003 version of Tarzan.

Filmed at Elstree Studios (the actual area of which is now a Tesco’s), seventeen episodes were made – it could have been more, but a reshuffle of commissioning staff in America curtailed any more going into production. The bridge to adults was the character of Albert the Street Cleaner, played by comedy star Melvyn Hayes (Gloria in It Ain’t Half Hot Mum). Often the butt of japes and jokes, he also ended up being the gang’s fall guy on many occasions.

Apart from Peter Firth, the only cast member to go onto stardom was Brinsley Forde as Spring, becoming the frontman of reggae band Aswad. The supporting cast of adults was impressive over the show’s run – watch out for the likes of Clive Dunn, Frank Thornton, Liz Frazer, Bob Todd, Pat Coombs, David Lodge, Graham Stark, Damaris Hayman, Sam Kydd, John Clive, and even Robin Askwith, pre-“Window Cleaner” days!

Watch out for Jane Seymour (one of the best ever Bond girls, from 1973’s “Live and Let Die”) as Alice (as in “Wonderland”) in the episode “Scooper Strikes Out”.  Aside from an uncredited ‘chorus line’ role in “Oh! What A Lovely War”, this was her screen debut at the age of 19.

Georgina Simpson, heiress to the Simpsons of Piccadilly empire, and married to Anthony Andrews, makes an appearance as a teacher in the final episode “A Hit for a Miss”. Before giving up acting, she went on to have guest roles in Father Dear Father, The Persauders! and Jason King.

In terms of unusual occurrences, fans of Cloppa Castle will perhaps raise an eyebrow at the beginning of the episode “Star Struck” – you’ll see one of the puppet stars at the front of the meeting table on the bus, as the gang set up the plot. This is intriguing as it would be a few years before Cloppa would itself appear on television.  Go figure!

The DVD extra on this set is “Double Deckers Memories”, a delightful 20 minutes with the two cast members who came on from “The Magnificent Six and a Half”, Brinsley Forde and Michael Audreson. They give some very insightful background to the series. Audreson relates how almost all the Double Deckers met up for a charity bash a couple of years later – he had gone on to work with Richard Attenborough in “Young Winston”, and was trying to ‘outcool’ Peter Firth who at the time was working with Franco Zeffirelli on “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”.

There are various people who will say that the series is dated – however, its psychedelic execution almost makes it timeless (although Sticks mentioning that the exchange rate being £5,000 GBP to $12,000 USD shows how things have changed financially!). The pace of each 20 minute episode means you hardly ever have time to think about these sorts of inconsistencies.

Here Come The Double Deckers! is out now from Second Sight as a double-DVD set, with a ‘U’ certificate, a running time of 353 minutes approx, and a RRP of £19.99 – or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

HERE COME THE DOUBLE DECKERS - EPISODE GUIDE

Peter Firth as Scooper

Brinsley Forde as Spring

Gillian Bailey as Billie

Michael Audreson as Brains

Douglas Simmonds as Doughnut

Bruce Clark as Sticks

Debbie Russ as Tiger

Melvyn Hayes as Albert

Tiger as Tiger

PLEASE NOTE: The credits for the episodes are inconsistent, sometimes naming the characters of the ‘Guest Artistes’, sometimes not.

 

01. “Tiger Takes Off

Brains builds a hovercraft with the help of the rest of the gang. But clumsy Tiger takes it for an unexpected spin.

Guest Starring: None this episode.

Writers: Harry Booth and Glyn Jones

Director: Harry Booth

 

02. “The Case of the Missing Doughnut

Doughnut eats a bowl of green pudding made by Brains and turns invisible. Revenge is sweet on a toy shop and bakery but he doesn’t stay unseen for as long as he thinks.

Guest Starring: Julian Orchard, Roy Evans, Jack Haig.

Writer: Peter Miller

Director: Harry Booth

 

03. “Get a Movie On

Scooper and Brains make a movie with Doughnut’s camera.  They choose a Western and Albert finds himself cast as a stunt double. What misery will the premiere bring?

Guest Starring: Norman Vaughan (TV Compere).

Writers: Harry Booth and Melvyn Hayes

Director: Harry Booth

 

04. “Star-Struck

Camping outside a movie studio the gang are hoping to meet some stars, but end up chasing an escaped pampered pooch, right across a host of film sets.

Guest Starring: Liz Fraser (Zizi Bagor), David Lodge (1st Security Man), Hugh Walters (2nd Security Man), Bob Todd, Michael Fleming, Alec Bregonzi, Alan Rebbeck, Douglas Ridley.

Writers: Harry Booth and Glyn Jones

Director: Harry Booth

 

05. “Happy Haunting

On an old mansion tour, Tiger and Billie get themselves trapped, only for them to discover this may be a haunted house. Can the rest of the gang find the girls and solve the mystery?  

Guest Starring: Clive Dunn (Hodge), Pat Coombs (Doris), Frederick Peisley (The Duke), Ruth Kettlewell (The Duchess).

Writers: Harry Booth and Glyn Jones

Director: Harry Booth

 

06. “Summer Camp

Going ‘romany’ with a wagon and donkey, the gang and Albert are on a camping excursion. Snooty fellow campers get what’s coming to them, while their car seems to have a mind of its own.

Guest Starring: Betty Marsden, Hugh Paddick, George Woodbridge.

Writers: Michael Watson and Harry Booth

Director: Harry Booth

 

07. “The Pop Singer

The gang take Sidney, a hapless busker and make him a star called The Cool Cavalier. With a synth built by Brains out of spare parts, the rocker makes his debut at a disco laid on for him.  What could possible go wrong?  

Guest Starring: Anthony May (Sidney), Ivor Salter (Policeman).

Writer: Peter Miller

Director: Harry Booth

 

08. “Scooper Strikes Out

Sticks is teaching baseball pitching to Billie, but a stray throw takes Scooper out. The next thing he knows, he’s at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

Guest Starring: Jane Seymour (Alice), Bunny May (White Rabbit), Tim Barrett (Mad Hatter), George Benson (Caterpillar), Ruth Kettlewell (Duchess), Joan Sterndale-Bennett (Queen of Diamonds), John Barrard (King of Diamonds), Denis Shaw (1st Soldier), John Quayle (2nd Soldier), John Wright (3rd Soldier), Bob Hornery (Executioner)

Writer: Glyn Jones

Director: Harry Booth

         

09. “Robbie the Robot

Brains has built a Robot with a mind of its own. It takes to wearing a poncho and recovering golf balls from irate neighbours, but will it win at the science fair?

Guest Starring: Frank Thornton, Ivor Salter, Michael Sharvell-Martin.

Writer: Peter Miller

Director: Harry Booth

 

10. “The Go-Karters

Spring has a date at the local court for reckless go-kart driving racing. The gang believe the machine was sabotaged with by a rival, and set out to prove it.

Guest Starring: Robin Askwith, David Hutcheson, Jimmy Gardner.

Director: Charles Crichton

Writer: Peter Miller

 

11. “A Helping Hound

The gang jump in to do some DIY on an old lady’s house, to stop the landlord evicting her. Fund raising for this is a priority, but Tiger is too young to take part. They fail miserably - Albert’s contacts can provide free paint and wallpaper, but Tiger’s reward for returning a lost dog makes up the shortfall.

Guest Starring: Graham Stark, Nora Nicholson, Nicholas Phipps, Jennifer Daniel.

Writer: Jan Butlin

Director: Jeremy Summers

 

12. “Invaders from Space

Brains adapts a black and white TV to pick up colour, but instead picks up a warning that Earth is being invaded by aliens from “Planet 7” (who seem to be wearing the spacesuits from “Moon Zero Two”). Getting captured by the ‘aliens’ leads to the possibility of fame.  

Guest Starring: Sam Kydd, Dervis Ward, Ivor Salter, John Horsley, Michael Brennan.

Writer: Glyn Jones

Director: Jeremy Summers

 

13. “Barney

Barney the busker dreams of performing on a real stage. Becoming friends with Tiger leads to him going on the run from PC Hastings (No. 1066), holing up with the gang.  He may have been better taking his chances, rather than suffering their cooking. His wild stories lead the gang to believe he’s playing a Royal Command Performance.

Guest Starring: Julian Chagrin (Barney), Ivor Salter (Policeman).

Writer: Glyn Jones

Director: Harry Booth

 

14. “Man's Best Friend

Wanting to collect tin foil to buy a guide dog for the blind, the gang stage a show similar to Laugh-In, where the admission fee is the foil they need – the bigger the donation, the better the seats.

Guest Starring: None this episode.

Writer: Melvyn Hayes

Director: Harry Booth

 

15. “United We Stand

The local council are after the gang’s yard, wanting to make it a car park. The mayor’s inspection doesn’t go to plan, with ghosts helping out the gang’s case.

Guest Starring: Pat Coombs, Derek Royle, Jack Haig, Bob Todd, John Barrard, Lauri Lupino Lane, Reg Peters.

Writer: John Tulley and Glyn Jones

Director: Harry Booth

 

16. “Up to Scratch

When Billie gets paid £2 a week for looking after Scratch the dog, the gang see the potential of opening boarding kennels. Their only taker is a flea trainer and his ‘circus’. Brains creates a machine that pumps out high frequencies that dogs respond to, with returning lost pooches provides the revenue they wanted.

Guest Starring: Timothy Bateson, Ann Lancaster.

Writer: Glyn Jones

Director: Harry Booth

 

17. “A Hit for a Miss

A new teacher causes quite a stir with the boys, who volunteer for a school play.  Billie and Tiger are jealous, which the teacher appreciates, and she decides to put things right.

Guest Starring: Georgina Simpson, Brian Hayes, Damaris Hayman, John Clive, Lucy Griffiths, Bryan Hunt.

Writer: Glyn Jones and Harry Booth

Director: Harry Booth

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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