Here Come the Double Deckers
|Here Come the Double Deckers!|
|Created by||Harry Booth
|Country of origin||United Kingdom
|Running time||30 minutes per episode|
|Original release||First aired: 12 September 1970 (US)
1 January 1971 (UK) –
Last aired: 3 September 1972 (US)
30 April 1971 (UK)
Here Come the Double Deckers was a 17-part British children's TV series from 1970-71, revolving around the adventures of seven children whose den was an old red double-decker London bus in an unused junk yard.
A co-production between British independent film company Century Films and the television division of 20th Century Fox, it was a children's adventure sitcom. The shows (without adverts) are about 22 minutes in length.
Each week saw the gang in a separate adventure including episodes based around a runaway homemade hovercraft, a chocolate factory and invading 'Martians' with guns that shoot out chocolate candy, a disastrous camping holiday, collecting tin foil for a guide dog, becoming pop moguls with their protégé 'The Cool Cavalier' and a haunted stately home.
Some of the cast were unknown, though Melvyn Hayes was an established adult actor, Gillian Bailey was fairly experienced for a child actor and both Brinsley Forde and Michael Audreson had appeared in The Magnificent Six and a Half, a series of Children's Film Foundation films on which the Double Deckers were based. Melvyn Hayes also wrote the episode "Man's Best Friend", co-wrote the episode "Get a Movie On!", co-wrote the series' theme song, and acted as a dialogue coach for the series. Bailey is now head of the drama department at Royal Holloway University. Peter Firth has gone on to a prominent acting career, appearing in Equus, The Hunt for Red October, Tess, Pearl Harbor, and Spooks (MI-5). Co-star Brinsley Forde later became the lead singer in Aswad.
The programme made its debut on 12 September 1970 at 10:30 am ET in the US on ABC, and at 4:55 pm on 1 January 1971 in Britain on BBC 1. In the US, the series was rerun on Sunday mornings during the 1971-72 TV season on ABC from 12 September 1971 to 3 September 1972, in the same time slot.
The series was originally scheduled for 26 episodes (as well as a second series of 26 additional episodes), but production ceased after 17 had been completed. The entire series was released on 1 November 2010 on DVD in the UK.
- Michael Audreson - Brains, the group's resident science geek.
- Gillian Bailey - Billie, the tomboyish mother of the group.
- Bruce Clark - Sticks, the only American in the group, so-named because of his drumming skills.
- Peter Firth - Scooper, the leader of the group.
- Brinsley Forde - Spring, the only black member of the group.
- Debbie Russ - Tiger, the youngest member of the group, who has a stuffed tiger also called "Tiger".
- Douglas Simmonds - Doughnut, who is not the brightest member and is constantly eating.
- Melvyn Hayes - Albert (all episodes except 4, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17).
- Ivor Salter was in many of the episodes, usually as a policeman.
- Julian Orchard, Jack Haig, Roy Evans in episode 2.
- Norman Vaughan in episode 3.
- David Lodge, Hugh Walters, Bob Todd, Liz Fraser in episode 4.
- Clive Dunn, Frederick Peisley, Pat Coombs in episode 5.
- Betty Marsden, Hugh Paddick, George Woodbridge in episode 6.
- Anthony May in episode 7.
- Jane Seymour, Bonnie May, Tim Barrett, George Benson, John Barrard, Bob Hornery, Ruth Kettlewell in episode 8.
- Frank Thornton, Michael Sharvell-Martin in episode 9.
- David Hutcheson, Jimmy Gardner, Robin Askwith in episode 10.
- Graham Stark, Nora Nicholson, Nicholas Phipps, Jennifer Daniel in episode 11.
- Sam Kydd, Dervis Ward, John Horsley, Michael Brennan in episode 12.
- Julian Chagrin in episode 13.
- Pat Coombs, Derek Royle, Jack Haig, Bob Todd, John Barrard in episode 15.
- Timothy Bateson, Ann Lancaster in episode 16.
- Georgina Simpson, Brian Hayes, Damaris Hayman, John Clive, Lucy Griffiths, Bryan Hunt in episode 17.
- Tiger Takes Off (Tiger accidentally goes for a trip on a hovercraft Brains created - and chaos ensues!)
- The Case of the Missing Doughnut (Doughnut eats an invisibility formula Brains invented.)
- Get a Movie On (The gang make a film to enter a contest, and Brains is left to somehow edit the footage - what will he come up with?)
- Starstruck (The gang are chased by security around Elstree Studios, as they look for a movie star's runaway dog.)
- Happy Haunting (Albert takes the gang to a stately home for a day out.)
- Summer Camp (The gang camp in a field with a middle-aged couple who get the worst of it.)
- The Pop Singer (Sidney, a never-was musician, is discovered hiding in the gang's bus. They attempt to reinvent him as 'The Cool Cavalier' with a performance and disco in the yard.)
- Scooper Strikes Out (Scooper is knocked out by a baseball and dreams he is with Alice in Wonderland (played by Jane Seymour).)
- Robbie the Robot (Brains invents a robot which is sent to rescue Tiger's tiger from a neighbour's garden, and later becomes the hit of the television show Inventors' Club.)
- The Go-Karters (A biker sabotages the gang's go-kart, as a result of which Spring ends up in court after a high-speed police chase.)
- A Helping Hound (The gang unsuccessfully try to help a woman threatened with eviction to decorate her house, but help comes when Tiger receives a large cash reward for finding a lost dog.)
- Invaders from Space (Men in spacesuits are advertising a new sweet called Planet 7, but the gang think it is an alien invasion.)
- Barney (The gang befriend Barney, a one-man band who keeps getting moved on by the police. When he suddenly hits the big time with a special gig, they decide they have to be there to see him.)
- Man's Best Friend (Inspired by Albert, the gang put on a show - based on 'Laugh-In' - with aluminium foil as an entry fee to buy a guide dog for the blind.)
- United We Stand (The owner of the yard that the gang use wants to turn it into a car park, but the kids sabotage his meeting with the Mayor.)
- Up to Scratch (Billie has to look after a dog named Scratch which runs off after a man with a flea circus turns up.)
- A Hit for a Miss (The boys fall for substitute teacher Miss Petit, which makes Billie jealous, and help her put on a show for an old folks home.)
Music played a prominent part in the programme, with an original soundtrack sung by the cast and written by Harry Booth, Melvyn Hayes and Johnny Arthey. The music was composed and directed by Ivor Slaney. An 11-track album of this was issued on Capitol Records in 1970 and re-issued as a CD in 2007 with liners notes by David Noades.
- It's a Day and a Half (from episode 5)
- To the Countryside (from episode 6)
- Good Day at Yellow Rock (from episode 3)
- With a Little Bit of Love (from episode 17)
- I Gotta Get Through (from episode 7, sung by Anthony May)
- Get On Board (Title song)
- Life Is a Wonderful Thing (from episode 7)
- Grannie's Rocking Chair (from episode 6)
- One Man Band (from episode 13)
- Welcome to the Party (from episode 8. Peter Firth [Scooper] was the only one of the gang singing in this. Jane Seymour, Melvyn Hayes and others cast members sang too.)
- Fat Ladies (from episode 17)
In the United Kingdom, Here Come the Double Deckers was released in November 2010 by Second Sight as a two-disc Region 2 DVD set containing all 17 episodes. All the episodes are presented as originally broadcast. The set also includes a special feature, Double Decker Memories, featuring interviews with Brinsley Forde and Michael Audreson.
Children's comic Whizzer and Chips ran a "Double Deckers" cartoon strip which started on 22 May 1971 and ended approximately a year later on 13 May 1972. This suggests that the publishers had a one-year contract with Twentieth Century Fox, who were credited in the publication as holders of the copyright.
Go for a Take
Debbie Russ appears as herself/Tiger in the comedy film Go for a Take (1972), which was directed and co-written by Harry Booth. The film stars Reg Varney and is set in a film studio. Evidently, Here Come the Double Deckers is one of the shows in production within the fiction of the film. Unfortunately the original stuffed tiger prop had been lost shortly after filming had been completed on the series, so a look-alike had to be used. Tiger makes mention of the character "Brains". Production was at Pinewood Studios and on location.
The Magnificent Six and 1/2
Prior to Here Come the Double Deckers, Century Films produced a film serial for the Children's Film Foundation called The Magnificent Six and 1/2. The series was very similar to the Double Deckers, and essentially acted as a blueprint for the latter. Like the Double Deckers, Six and a Half centred on the adventures of seven children, who had similar personalities to the characters in Double Deckers. Many of the crew members from the Six and a Half series also worked on the Double Deckers, including producer Roy Simpson, director and writer Harry Booth, writer Glyn Jones, and choreographer Arnold Taraborrelli (who designed the title cards for Six and a Half). In addition, future Double Deckers cast members Brinsley Forde and Michael Audreson were among the stars of Six and a Half, and Melvyn Hayes appeared in a few episodes. Six and a Half also featured several gags and plotlines that would later be reused in Double Deckers.