|Index||3 reviews in total|
Budgie (or 'The Loser', as it was originally intended to be called) was
a big hit with audiences back in 1971/2. It gave 60's songster Adam
Faith, another chance at stardom, and led him on an interesting career
as an actor. The show highlighted a certain (jailbird/chancer/petty
thief/lovable rogue) Ronald 'Budgie' Bird, and his frequent (yet never
successful) attempts to make 'easy' money. His futile attempts are also
thwarted, due to his connection with Glasweigan sex shop owner/crime
boss Charlie Endell (played brilliantly by Iain Cuthbertson) who
constantly hangs over Budgie, depriving him of any earnings, and always
coming out on top. His henchman, Laughing Spam Fritter (great name) is
also menacingly portrayed by John Rhys-Davies. Given Endells
questionable background, yet his (seemingly) respectable 'public'
facade, the series has a lot to say about class system (or at very
least, the idea of a class system) than it does about petty crime in
the seventies. Budgie is not without redeeming features, and the one
good thing in his life, is (his ever put upon girl-fiend/mother of his
child) Hazell (another great down to earth performance by Lynne Dalby.)
She constantly stands by her man (even when he seemingly leaves her for
other women) yet receives little or no thanks for her endeavours. The
show (in it's 26 episode run, in 2 series) covers a lot of ground, and
also features some great guest cameos (including: John Thaw, Gordon
Jackson, Derek Jacobi and James Bolam, to name but a few) Some (if not
most) times this show has a certain comedic flow to it, yet other
times, it takes on a darker sinister edge (mostly due to the sometime
psychotic rages of Charlie Endell) but all in all, it's not only a
great seventies time capsule, but (still to this very day) a highly
moving and involving television show, that was long overdue a repeat in
the UK (it's last and only repeat, being on Channel 4 circa 1985) but
it seems the great minds at Network DVD have put together a excellent
release of series 1 & 2 (Series two, also has some great special
Highlights from series one are: Out, Grandee Hotel, Everybody Loves A Baby, Sunset Mansions.
Highlights from series two are: And The Lord Taketh Away, Do Me A Favour, Twenty-Four Thousand Ball Point Pens, King For A day, Brief Encounter, Run Rabbit, Run Rabbit, Run, Run, Run
All in all, a great series. Hopefully Network DVD can release the rarely seen 1979 spin off 'Charlie Endell Esq' in the near future?
10 out of 10 (and surprisingly, the first comment, on this great show)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When 'Budgie' was repeated by Channel 4 in the mid-80's, a disgruntled
viewer complained: "Blimey! They've copied 'Minder!". He was wrong, of
course. 'Minder' debuted on I.T.V. in 1979, a good seven years after
'Budgie' ended. But it was easy to see why he made the mistake, as the
two shows are very similar.
'Budgie' tells the story of Ronald 'Budgie' Bird, a small-time Cockney thief who dreams of making easy money without having to do anything drastic - such as working for a living. Most of his 'jobs' take him within the orbit of Charles Endell, a kind of Glaswegian Al Capone, with whom he has an uneasy relationship. Budgie lives with model Hazel Fletcher, and their son Howard. He uses her as a doormat most of the time, but she stands by him no matter what.
Each week, Budgie came up with what he thought was a surefire way of making 'readies', such as acquiring bootleg trading stamps, crates of ballpoint pens, and pornographic books, harbouring illegal immigrants, hijacking delivery vans, and even a prize greyhound called 'Glory Of Fulham'. But his schemes fail - either because he has trusted the wrong people, or not thought things through properly. For instance, his trading stamp scam collapses when Charlie points out a flaw that a twelve year old would have spotted.
Looking at 'Budgie' now its hard not to be reminded of not only 'Minder' but 'Only Fools & Horses'. Like Delboy Trotter, Budgie is an incorrigible rogue. Few people have written for television as well as Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall ( although two episodes were penned by Douglas Livingstone ). Some of the stories may seem a little slow by modern standards, but this was how all shows were made then.
Adam Faith is simply brilliant as 'Budgie', oozing charisma and charm ( who says pop stars can't act? ) as is Iain Cuthbertson as 'Charlie' ( later to acquire a spin-off series of his own ). Lynn Dalby, whilst not the world's greatest actress, nevertheless evokes sympathy as Hazel, and guest-stars included Gordon Jackson, Alfie Bass, Kenneth Cranham, John Rhys-Davies, Jack Shepherd, John Thaw and Derek Jacobi. Georgina Hale is also impressive as Budgie's promiscuous wife Jean.
'Budgie' was a big hit, and could easily have run to another season, but Faith wanted to end it on a high. It did - the final episode is incredibly moving. He later revived the character on stage in the '80's, with Anita Dobson replacing Lynn Dalby as 'Hazel'.
Now that the series is out on D.V.D., I hope it attracts a new audience, if only to see what Britain in the '70's was really like. Forget 'Life On Mars' - this is the real thing.
By turns funny, dramatic, and tragic, 'Budgie' is British television at its best - it set a standard that wouldn't be matched until 1983 and the arrival of 'Auf Wiedershen, Pet'.
Budgie is the greatest TV drama of all time. Brilliant scripts, brilliant characters, brilliant performances and all with so much charm. Adam Faith is wonderful as Budgie Bird, small time petty criminal, but a charmer too and there is a career best by Iain Cuthbertson as Charlie Endell, probably my favourite TV character of all time. Series 1 highlight is the Grandee Hotel with several guest stars including Peter Sallis while Series 2 is packed with great episodes. The very sexy Georgina Hale as Budgie's wife and the excellent Lynn Dalby as Budgie's lover add to the charm. Keith Waterhouse wrote some great stories to be played out here. It is a standout show and fully merits 10 out of 10.
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