Mulberry (TV series)
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|Created by||John Esmonde |
|Starring||Karl Howman |
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Original release||24 February 1992 –|
25 May 1993
Mulberry was a fantasy sitcom written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey that aired on BBC One in the early 1990s. Mulberry ran for two series: the first series of six episodes ran from 24 February to 30 March 1992, and the second series of seven episodes ran from 8 April to 25 May 1993. A third series was planned, but was cancelled before production began. As a result, the story never arrived at its logical conclusion.
The programme stars Karl Howman as the mysterious Mulberry, a man who appears at the household of a cantankerous spinster, Rose Farnaby, and applies for a position as her manservant. Miss Farnaby's other staff, Bert and Alice Finch, are immediately suspicious, as the position for which Mulberry applies had not yet been advertised.
Their suspicions are well placed. Mulberry is not all he seems; in fact, he is an apprentice Grim Reaper who has been dispatched to the house to escort Miss Farnaby to the next world. Surprisingly for a Grim Reaper, Mulberry has a sentimental, even comical, side with a love of life and laughter that moves him to dedicate himself to ensuring that the sullen Miss Farnaby's last days on Earth are happy, using his role as servant to put his plans into motion.
Mulberry's sensitivity and interest in Miss Farnaby's well-being do not sit well with Mulberry's father, a fully fledged Grim Reaper with no interest in human emotions. He appears in most episodes as a mysterious figure (billed as "The Stranger") in a black hat and dark clothes, urging Mulberry to get on with the job. This is Mulberry's first assignment as a Grim Reaper, a task which he was told he could ease into. His father is annoyed with his dawdling. Mulberry refuses at first to do the job putting it off constantly much to his father's annoyance, and eventually, we learn the source of Mulberry's love of life: his mother, is actually Springtime. Mulberry's mother is one of the few things able to move his father as he grudgingly lets Miss Farnaby have three extra months of life and allows Mulberry to stay for that time after his mother visits. Mulberry also meets his mother for the first time who says she "does have some influence" on his father.
The device of Mulberry's father being Death and mother being Springtime is loosely borrowed from Greek mythology. Hades, lord of the underworld married a young maiden goddess named Persephone. Demeter was her mother and was heartbroken at the fate of Persephone having to live forever in hell. As the goddess of fertility and agriculture, her grief caused winter to come. As a compromise it was arranged for Persephone to only spend half the year with her husband. Thus we have winter and summer annually. Since springtime comes when Persephone returns to the surface she has become a symbol of youth, rebirth and spring. However, in Greek mythology, Hades and Persephone never have any children. A more common version of this story has Persephone eating six pomegranate seeds from the fruit given to her by Hades; she ends up having to stay with him one month of the year for each pomegranate seed... so six months out of each year.
The likely origin of Mulberry’s name is the Babylonian myth of Pyramus and Thisbe. Two young, forbidden lovers who commit suicide due to misunderstanding. They intended to meet under a mulberry tree (with white fruits). Thisbe arrives first but sees a lioness with blood on her. Fearing to be next, she flees, accidentally leaving a scarf behind. Pyramus then arrives and sees her (now torn) scarf and the bloody tracks of a beast. Thinking Thisbe had been killed, he falls on his own sword. She later returns and finds his lifeless body, so she takes his sword and stabs herself. Both of them had splattered blood on the white-fruited mulberry tree, and to honor them, the gods turn the tree’s fruits dark red, almost black. This is also the origin story for many other tales, including Romeo and Juliet. It can be argued that Death and Springtime in the show have a forbidden love, simply because of what they are, so it’s appropriate they would give rise to a child they’ve named Mulberry.
With the programme's cancellation viewers never find out which parent eventually wins Mulberry's heart and mind.
The TV series consisted of 13 programs:
1. Arrival; 2. Fireworks; 3. The Quiz; 4. The Holiday; 5. The Dinner Party, 6. Leaving; 7. Springtime; 8. The Accident; 9. The Matchmaker; 10. The Art Class; 11. A Mysterious Guest; 12. A Musical Evening; 13. An Unexpected Visit.
Much of the show was filmed around Dorset.
- Exterior shots for the Farnaby estate were filmed at a 17th-century manor-house near Wimborne.
- Witchampton was used for exterior shots of the local village.
- Agglestone rock Swanage in used in a couple of episodes.
Additional locations include a former Little Chef (now a Travelodge) in Saint Leonards in Hampshire, and the Westbourne Shopping Arcade in Bournemouth.
- Karl Howman – Mulberry
- Geraldine McEwan – Miss Rose Farnaby
- Tony Selby – Albert ("Bert") Finch
- Lill Roughley (Series 1) / Mary Healey (Series 2) – Alice Finch
- John Bennett – The Stranger
- John Esmonde and Bob Larbey – Writers
- John B. Hobbs / Clive Grainger – Director
- John B. Hobbs – Producer