I remember being extremely pleased when I saw that Enid Blyton's 'Famous Five' was to be televised. Like so many children growing up in the 1970s, I loved Enid Blyton's books and still have most of my collection. I could never understand - and still cannot - why so many people sneered at her writing.
The 1970s series had a contemporary setting which meant, obviously, that some aspects of the books had to be updated. Nevertheless, the televised stories lost none of the appeal of the books. One could identify even more closely with the exploits of the Five as they whizzed down hills on their bicycles, devoured their cream teas and brought the local crooks to justice.
Additionally, the characters were well cast and remained true to the books. Eldest child Julian (Marcus Harris) was still the intelligent, sometimes over-authoritative leader whilst Dick (Gary Russell, previously Cyril in 'The Phoenix and the Carpet') was the gentler, thoughtful younger brother. Anne (Jennifer Thanisch) was more mature (thankfully!) than her book character. She still tended to prefer to opt out of the adventures although it was usually she who ended up saving the day for the others. George (Michelle Gallagher - spelt correctly?), plus her sidekick Timmy the dog (Toddy), remained the most complex character - the headstrong, fearless, loyal, truthful tomboy - based as she was on the young Enid Blyton. Sue Best was suitably maternal as Aunt Fanny whilst Michael Hinz added an element of mystery to the character of the absent-minded scientist Uncle Quentin Kirrin.
I bought four episodes of the 1970s series on video in the early '90s but do not know if it is still available. My favourite 'Famous Five' book was 'Five Go To Smuggler's Top' and it was given prominence as one of the few two-parter episodes of the t.v. series. Block the butler has to be one of the most enduring characters in children's literature!
I should be interested to know what became of the child actors, who would be around the forty mark now. Marcus Harris appeared on 'After They Were Famous' a couple of years ago; he was working with computers and writing a book. Does anyone know where the others are?
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