The Famous Five (1978 TV series)

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Famous Five
GenreAdventure, Children's
Written byEnid Blyton
StarringMichele Gallagher, Marcus Harris, Gary Russell, Jennifer Thanisch
Theme music composerRob Andrews, Les Spurr
Country of originUK
Original language(s)English
No. of series2
No. of episodes26
Producer(s)Don Leaver, Sidney Hayers
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time25 minutes
Original networkITV (Southern Television)
Audio formatMono
Original release3 July 1978 –
8 August 1979
Related shows

The Famous Five is a British television series based on the children's books of the same name by Enid Blyton. It was broadcast on ITV over two series in 1978 and 1979. It was produced by Southern Television in 26 half-hour episodes.



Production for the series began in 1977, with filming commencing during the summer of that year. The series was produced by Southern Television in a co-production with a German company. The episodes were recorded on location and on film (rather than the more usual video tape), making it the most expensive children's television series ever produced at that point.[1] Each story was adapted from one of the original novels and featured the same main characters; George, Julian, Dick, Anne and Timmy the dog.

The first series was produced by Don Leaver, while the second was produced by Sidney Hayers. The executive producer was James Gatward. The stories were adapted for television by a number of writers and directors and starred many notable actors in guest appearances including Patrick Troughton, Cyril Luckham, Brenda Cowling, Geoffrey Bayldon, Brian Glover, Ronald Fraser and an early appearance by Rupert Graves.[2]

The television scripts were amended slightly from the books to give them a contemporary, 1970s setting. Of the original 21 novels, three were never adapted; Five on a Treasure Island and Five Have a Mystery to Solve because the Children's Film Foundation still had the film and TV rights to the books, while Five Have Plenty of Fun didn't fit in the production schedule.[3] Due to the success of the series, Southern Television were keen to make another season of episodes, but the Enid Blyton estate forbade them to create original stories.[4] One criticism of the series was that many of the episodes featured scenes set at night-time which were badly lit to the point that it was difficult to see what was happening. These scenes were actually shot in daylight, but a heavy filter was placed over the camera to give the impression of darkness.[5] The series was filmed mostly on location in the New Forest and partly in Christchurch, with many of the indoor scenes filmed in Exbury House, where the house doubled as many different dwellings.[5][6]

The titles song was the only original composition by Rob Andrews (music) and Les Spurr (Lyrics). The Incidental Music was mainly taken from library music produced by labels like Bruton Music and KPM Music. We can hear music composed by Brian Bennett, Steve Gray, Keith Mansfield, John Cameron, John Scott, Alan Hawkshaw, Duncan Lamont, Andrew Jackman, Les Hurdle, Frank Ricotti, Richard Hill, Paul Martin, Francis Monkman. Most of the music used in the series are from "Drama Montage" vol 1 & 2 by Brian Bennett


The Famous Five was first broadcast on ITV on Monday 3 July 1978 at 4:45pm. This was a year after it had been filmed and during production of the second series. The first episode was Five Go to Kirren Island (an incorrect spelling for Kirrin Island), although it was not the first episode filmed (Five Go to Mystery Moor).[5] The first series proved popular and, to capitalise on its success, the first six episodes of the second series (which had been filmed in the summer of 1978) were broadcast on Sundays in November and December. The remaining seven episodes of the second series were broadcast on Wednesdays from June to August 1979 (again, a year after production). The Famous Five was sold to many overseas countries such as Ireland (where it was repeated in 1981, 1983 and 1985), Canada and Australia and was dubbed into many languages for the European market such as German (the series having been part-financed by a German company), French, Italian and Spanish.

The series spawned many merchandise items such as jigsaws and annuals, while Look-in magazine ran a picture-strip story each week for nearly two years.[4] The theme music (contrary to popular belief, not sung by the cast but by the Corona Stage Academy choir) was released as a single in 1978, but failed to chart.

The scriptwriters who adapted Enid Blyton's books for the first series (of thirteen episodes) were Richard Sparks, Gail Renard, Richard Carpenter and Gloria Tors.


Series one[edit]

  • Five Go to Kirrin Island: Part 1 (Original transmission: 3 July 1978)
  • Five Go to Kirrin Island: Part 2 (10 July 1978)
  • Five Go Adventuring Again (17 July 1978)
  • Five Go to Smuggler's Top: Part 1 (24 July 1978)
  • Five Go to Smuggler's Top: Part 2 (31 July 1978)
  • Five Go Off in a Caravan (7 August 1978)
  • Five Go Off to Camp: Part 1 (14 August 1978)
  • Five Go Off to Camp: Part 2 (21 August 1978)
  • Five on a Hike Together (4 September 1978)
  • Five Go to Mystery Moor (11 September 1978)
  • Five on a Secret Trail (18 September 1978)
  • Five Go to Billycock Hill (25 September 1978)
  • Five on Finniston Farm (2 October 1978)

Series two[edit]

  • Five Get Into Trouble - Prisoners (19 November 1978)
  • Five Get Into Trouble - Conspiracies (26 November 1978)
  • Five Get Into a Fix (3 December 1978)
  • Five Are Together Again: Part 1 (10 December 1978)
  • Five Are Together Again: Part 2 (17 December 1978)
  • Five Have a Wonderful Time (31 December 1978)
  • Five Fall Into Adventure: Part 1 (27 June 1979)
  • Five Fall Into Adventure: Part 2 (4 July 1979)
  • Five Run Away Together (11 July 1979)
  • Five Go to Demon's Rocks: Part 1 (18 July 1979)
  • Five Go to Demon's Rocks: Part 2 (25 July 1979)
  • Five Go Down to the Sea: Part 1 (1 August 1979)
  • Five Go Down to the Sea: Part 2 (8 August 1979)


Toddy Woodgate the dog died shortly after filming was completed on the series. Despite ITV's wishes to continue the series, no further episodes were made due to the Blyton estate's veto on new stories being written, although a new set of novels were published in France in 1981. These have been widely dismissed by fans of the original books, however. The four starring actors met up again in 1980 for a newspaper story on their progressing careers. By this time, only Gary Russell was continuing an acting career and he, too, soon gave it up. This was the last time the four met up although Russell, Harris and Thanisch did meet up in 1990,[5] again in 2010 for the German DVD release of the entire series, for a radio interview in 2011,[7] and for The One Show in 2017. [8]

  • Jenny Thanisch (b. 24 April 1964) is now a mother and works as a school teacher in the south of England.
  • Gary Russell (b. 18 September 1963) gave up acting in the mid-1980s to concentrate on writing, as well as being the editor of several magazines. He was the script editor on the successful 2005 revival of Doctor Who.
  • Marcus Harris (b. 19 April 1964) embarked on a number of business ventures and later became a town councillor.[9][10] Harris returned in a small cameo role in a German film based on the series titled Fünf Freunde 2 (literally "Five Friends 2", as by the German title for the series), which was released on 31 January 2013.[11][12]
  • Michele Gallagher (b. 4 April 1964), who played the part of George Kirrin, disappeared from the public eye following the cancellation of the series. In 2006, rumors began circulating on the Enid Blyton Society website that Gallagher had died.[13] In an interview for the German tabloid Bild-Zeitung in January 2012, Marcus Harris confirmed that Gallagher had died "a couple of years ago", though he gave no specific information as to the circumstances of her death, nor the exact date.[12] The Internet Movie Database gives the year of her death as 2000, stating suicide as cause of death.[14]

In 1996 the books were revived again for another British television adaptation. This time, unlike the 1970s series, it was set in the 1950s.[15] More recently, an animated version was made by the French company Marathon, which featured the children of the Famous Five.[16]

For many years, the series was not released on DVD due to confusion as to who owns the rights to the television episodes, as well as complexities with the Enid Blyton estate.[17] However, in October 2010, distributor Koch Media remastered the whole series and released it in Germany on Region 2 in a seven-disc DVD set (and on three Blu-ray Discs, respectively) with extensive bonus material including an interview with original cast members and their German counterparts who provided the voices for the German dubbed version.[18] France followed in November 2011 with two 3-DVD sets (but only with the French dubbed version and no bonus material), whilst the complete series was finally released on DVD in the UK in June 2012 by Koch Media. A new 45-minute interview (recorded earlier in 2012) with the original cast is featured on one of the Series 1 DVDs.

The series saw a previous DVD release in Australia in 2005 by Reel Corporation, when the company released this version with images from the 1995-1997 version (the "Five on a Treasure Island" episode from that version was also included).[19] The set was soon corrected (as a "revised edition") with images from the 1978 series[20], and reissued again in 2011.


  1. ^ "Famous Five Reunited - Sunshine Hospital Radio, Weston Super Mare". Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  2. ^ "Folgenübersicht -". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  3. ^ "Gary Russell's ('Dick') memories about being Dick -". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Enid Blyton's Famous Five". Archived from the original on 2 October 2015. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d "Gary Russell's ('Dick') memories about being Dick -". Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  6. ^ "South-Central Region - Film -TV Production History". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Famous Five Reunited - Sunshine Hospital Radio, Weston Super Mare". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  8. ^ Retrieved 11 October 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Waite, Debbie (8 June 2006). "Memories revived of Famous Five". The Oxford Times.
  10. ^ "Councillor relives TV stardom". The Oxford Times. 3 September 2014. Archived from the original on 4 June 2017.
  11. ^ "Famous Five II: SamFilm Making a Film of the Most Famous Friends in the World! Cinematic release: January 31, 2013.". Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  12. ^ a b Bild: Actor Marcus Harris: What is "Julien" of the "Famous Five" doing today?. 28 January 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2012
  13. ^ The Enid Blyton Society: "Marcus Harris talks about The Famous Five". Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  14. ^ Retrieved 6 January 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Aggedor - The Famous Five, 1996 series Archived 6 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Gosh! Famous Five get 21st century makeover". Reuters UK. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  17. ^ "Besonderheiten der Serie von 1978 - Die Suche nach den TV- und Videorechten". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  18. ^ e.g. Fünf Freunde 1978/79 TV-Serie kommt jetzt auf DVD und Blu-ray
  19. ^ "The Search for the Rights of the 78' TV series - &nbps;".
  20. ^ "Characteristics of the series of 1978 -".

External links[edit]