The parodic title 'The Magnificent Six and 1/2' refers to the fact that there are seven kids, but one of them (the youngest girl, Peewee) is much smaller than the rest ... so she's only one-half. Also, in the first episode of this series -- 'Ghosts and Ghoulies' -- Peewee is not yet a member of the kiddie gang, and she has to be formally initiated by proving she's brave enough to go into a spooky old house in Harrow. (A Harrow-ing experience?)
This series appears to be a British production company's attempt to emulate the success of Hal Roach's Our Gang comedy shorts, some of which have been televised in Britain. I've never much liked the Our Gang movies, which are now known by their TV syndication title, 'The Little Rascals'. The depiction of childhood in the Our Gang shorts strikes me as deeply phony and twee.
These short comedies for British television are hilarious, and they depict childhood's adventures and friendships far more realistically than the Our Gangs. The nominal leader of the gang is Steve, and it's unfortunate that he's played by two different actors over the course of this series. My favourite of the gang is young Stodger (what a great name!) played by a brilliant child actor (black-haired, thin, sharp-nosed) named Lionel Hawkes. I find no record of Hawkes going on to any other roles ... which is a shame, as he shows real talent here. Whereas all the other kiddywinks encounter various problems, Stodger always seems to come up trumps.
Each short film depicts the kids in a different situation, always more realistically than in the Our Gang movies. In 'Kon-Tiki Kids', they have riparian adventures aboard a raft. In 'Bob a Job', they try to raise money by doing odd jobs. 'When Knights Were Bold' finds them playing with a suit of armour. 'Peewee Had a Little Ape' finds the kids at a travelling circus ... a very small and modest affair, as most circuses in England tend to be: more Henry Fossett than Billy Smart or Chipperfield's.
The funniest and most entertaining instalment of this series is 'Peewee's Pianola', in which the kids acquire a player piano and try to take it back to their clubhouse through the seedy streets of Aldenham. (Nice exterior photography throughout the series.) The piano has got a music roll in place, and it's that beloved music-hall song 'My Old Man'. So, the kids delightfully sing 'My Old Man' to the piano's accompaniment while they take it back to their clubhouse. But they dilly and they dally on the way, and of course there's a hilly valley where they dilly-dally. The kids park their piano outside a tuck shop at the top of a hill, while they go inside for ice-cream cornets. When they come out, the piano is rolling downhill -- did I mention a piano ROLL? -- and the kids do a double-take in which they all throw away their ice-cream cornets. All except Stodger, who keeps trying to eat his ice cream while he chases the piano. Hilarious!
A later UK television series shown in America, 'Here Come the Doubledeckers', appears to have been a slight reworking of this premise with some of the same adult actors in supporting roles. I laughed at the Magnificent Six and 1/2, and I got a nostalgic thrill at the sight of those London streets from the days when I was a young chancer. I'll rate these delightful shorts 10 out of 10.
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