Budgie (TV series)
|Created by||Keith Waterhouse|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||26|
|Running time||50 mins.|
|Original release||9 April 1971 – 14 July 1972|
|Related shows||Charles Endell Esq.|
The series was created by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall. The show was produced by Verity Lambert, Rex Firkin was the executive producer. The show had two theme songs: the first was "The Loner" by The Milton Hunter Orchestra, and the second was "Nobody's Fool" written by Ray Davies and performed by Cold Turkey.
Each episode was a complete story, usually depicting Budgie's involvement in some harebrained scheme to make money, usually somewhere on the wrong side of legality. He often failed in his aim, being continually the victim of circumstance or of the sharper, more experienced underworld operators he tried to emulate.
- Trying to unload thousands of stolen ballpoint pens he has unwisely bought from one fence, paying too much in the process. He finds that the pens are all stamped with a logo, possibly "Her Majesty's Government", making them unsellable. Apparently these were the classic "trading commodity", the only object being to sell them to another sucker. Charlie offers to take them off Budgie's hands for next to nothing in exchange for a favour or two, and promptly unloads them to another villain.
- Arranging a pornographic film show in a hotel and having assured the "punters" that the film was "the real Laurel and Hardy, if you know what I mean", making his escape before they find out the film really is a Laurel and Hardy movie.
- Accidentally stealing a vanload of pornographic magazines from the police, and then having to destroy the evidence. The wind blows the pages from the bonfire Budgie and his pal have made and they blow all over a field where a prison wardens-versus-prisoners rugby match is imminently to be played.
Eventually all his supposed friends desert him; he ends up back in jail, ironically for something he had nothing to do with.
Series two begins with Budgie being released from the "open nick" and staying with his wife for a few days. A chance meeting with his ex-girlfriend Hazel, who is now living with someone else, and Budgie finding out that his wife has been sleeping with a friend of Budgie's, from the same open prison, force Budgie to move back in with his girlfriend and his son Howard, who is now two years old. Budgie carried on much as he did in the first series, which also started with him being released from the same open prison from a previous sentence. the second series ended with him being beaten up by both his boss and one of his henchmen. This, combined with the fact that Budgie's mother has recently died, his father not wanting him, his girlfriend becoming pregnant by Budgie, and that he wants to leave Hazel for a stripper he has recently slept with who then tells him that she is moving abroad, makes Budgie even more depressed and eventually makes him head off into a new life. This is where the series ended; nothing more was heard of Budgie.
The title role, a chirpy cockney petty criminal newly out of prison, was played by pop singer Adam Faith; it was his first starring role for television. The character's name was Ronald 'Budgie' Bird, nicknamed after the budgerigar birds sometimes kept as pets in England, and generally known in the USA as parakeets.
The series co-starred Iain Cuthbertson as Charles (Charlie) Endell, a suave and Machiavellian Glaswegian gangster based in London, who employed Budgie, often against his own better judgement, or when he was in need of an unsuspecting fall guy. June Lewis played his silent wife Mrs Endell. During the late 1970s, Scottish Television produced a short-lived spin-off series, Charles Endell Esquire.
The only other regular member of the cast was Lynn Dalby as Budgie's girlfriend, Hazel Fletcher. Stella Tanner had a semi-regular role as her mother, Mrs Fletcher. Rio Fanning appeared three times as Budgie's gullible criminal Irish pal, Grogan. Guest stars included Georgina Hale as Budgie's wife Jean, George Tovey as his father, Jack Bird, and Adrienne Posta as a stripper. John Rhys-Davies had an early semi-regular role as a corpulent gangster working for Endell, with the colourful name of Laughing Spam Fritter.
A further series may have been planned for 1973, although this coincided with Adam Faith being seriously injured in a car crash, and announcing his retirement from acting as a result. Despite a full recovery by Faith and his eventual return to acting, a further series was never commissioned.
A musical based on the characters of the series (but featuring only Adam Faith from the original TV cast), with a book by the scriptwriters of the original series, opened at the Cambridge Theatre in London on 18 October 1988, and ran for three months.