DVD coverFollowing on from the four series made in the UK, a walking, talking scarecrow follows Aunt Sally, a life-size fairground doll he loves, from England to New Zealand. 

Series One (1987)

  • As The Scarecrow Flies
  • The Sleeping Beauty
  • Full Employment
  • Worzel's Handicap
  • King of the Scarecrows
  • Worzel to the Rescue
  • Slave Scarecrow
  • The Traveller Unmasked
  • A Friend In Need

Series Two (1989)

  • Stage Struck
  • A Red Sky In T'Morning
  • Them Thar Hills
  • The Beauty Contest
  • Balbous Cauliflower
  • Weevily Swede
  • Elementary My Dear Worty
  • Dreams Of Avarish
  • The Runaway Train
  • Aunt Sally, R.A.
  • Wattle Hearthbrush
  • The Bestest Scarecrow

Chch kids get chance at TV stardom

Press, 29 January 1986, Page 14


Wanted — boy and girl, aged about seven years, attractive, intelligent, happy to perform with English scarecrow in rural New Zealand setting, must be small, no acting experience required. Such are the qualities sought by a British television and film director, James Hill, for two leading roles in the New Zealand version of the British television series, “Worzel Gummidge.”

Ten children in Christchurch responded to the call to act, auditioning before Mr Hill and the series’ New Zealand producer, Mr Graham McLean, early this week. Children in Wellington and Auckland are also vying for the roles, which will eventually be screened world wide. Although there are "two possibles” a decision will not be made until auditioning had finished, says Mr Hill. Mr Hill, who directed all 32 episodes of the popular children’s series in Britain, says one “can’t expect to find experienced actors aged about eight years.” The qualities he seeks are more elusive. Basically, the children should be intelligent, attractive and take seriously yet enjoy what they would be doing. He is looking for small children, who would hopefully not spurt into giants during the production of the series.

As for the rest of the cast — most of the 25 adult roles will be played by New Zealand actors, apart from Worsel Gummidge, the fantastical scarecrow, and Aunt Sally,, the animate doll. Jon Pertwee and Una Stubbs, the British actors in the British series, will play the same roles in this version, “Worzel Gummidge Down Under.” The production team consists of about 75 New Zealanders, and the locations are fanning and small communities in the North Island. The series will not be filmed in the South Island because of the high costs in trans-, porting and accommodating 100 people and equipment between the islands, says Mr Hill. So far seven of the proposed 10 episodes have been written by the British series’ writers, Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall. The writers visited New Zealand last year and are now back in London completing the scripts. Television production will start in late March and the episodes should be ready for screening by September. Mr McLean, who acquired the rights to the series, says it will be offered to Television New Zealand, and will probably screen in Britain, and may eventually screen in the United States. Mr Hill is pleased to be directing one of his favourite television productions again. “Worzel Gummidge” has come to New Zealand for a change of scenery, he says. The locations and actors are good, costs reasonable and the only thing that might need toning down, if the series is to be understood overseas, is the New Zealand accent.

Since the 1960 s Mr Hill has directed an impressive range of feature films and television series, including “Born Free,” “The Kitchen,” recently “The Young Visitors,” (with Tracy Ullman), documentaries, "The Avengers” and “Worzel Gummidge.”

He rates the last two as his most enjoyable television productions. The limitations of both were sufficiently expansive to allow almost anything, he says. In both series comedy was an essential feature.

Although he enjoys comedy it is very hard work, he says. It is difficult to pinpoint what makes something funny. What might be hilarious to one person might not strike another as funny at all.

Essentially, Mr. Hill says he “can only attempt humour by instinct.” The problem when directing humour, however, is that however good a joke might be, after constant repetition as a scene is worked on, “the joke becomes / less and less funny.” ; In such cases Mr Hill has to wait a decent interval after production before he can. appreciate the joke again. His ability; to direct comedy has obviously tweaked the funny bone of many  television viewers. The original “Worzel Gummidge” series, which was screened in New Zealand, attracted 15 million viewers of all ages. But not just for its humour. Mr Hill describes “Worzel Gummidge” as “a quality show, beautifully written, very moral and very funny.”

He expects the new series to be just as popular.

Available on DVD

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and streaming on Apple.TV and Amazon/Britbox

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