Five Go Mad in Dorset

The Famous Five (L-R):
– Timmy the dog
– Julian (Peter Richardson)
– Anne (Jennifer Saunders)
– Dick (Adrian Edmondson) and
– George (Dawn French)

Five Go Mad in Dorset was the first of three Five Go Mad specials from the long-running series of The Comic Strip Presents... television comedy films. It first aired on the launch night of Channel 4 (2 November 1982), and was written by Peter Richardson and Pete Richens, and directed by Bob Spiers.


The film is an satirical parody of Enid Blyton's Famous Five books, in which the titular Five – children Julian (Richardson), Dick (Adrian Edmondson), George (Dawn French), Anne (Jennifer Saunders), and their dog Timmy – arrive from holiday at their uncle Quentin (Ronald Allen) and aunt Fanny's home.

With their uncle missing, the Five decide to spend several days in Dorset, visiting an abandoned castle and encountering Toby (Daniel Peacock) and shopkeeper (Robbie Coltrane, who also appears as a gypsy the Five encounter), as Toby becomes kidnapped after the Five banish the youngster from their group due to their cliquish nature.

The special mocks and satirizes aspects of Blyton's books, most notably out of date sexism/racism of the books (the Five make racist remarks to a porter at the train station when they are picked up by Aunt Fanny, repeated remarks about Anne as a "proper little housewife") and the formula of the young adventurer genre (most notably kids overhearing criminals discuss their plans, which are portrayed as characters stating "blah blah blah" and key plot elements), as well as the running gag relating to the books constant mention of the various feasts the gang indulges in while on picnics. The film's phrase "lashings of ginger beer" became so well known that it is now often mistakenly attributed to Blyton herself,[1] although it never appears in any of the Famous Five books.

The film also makes overt references to bestiality in George (implying a romantic relationship between her and Timmy) and overt references to the criminalization of homosexuality in pre-1968 Britain. Julian and George are implied to be gay, and the film's climax reveals that the group's uncle Quentin is a pedophile who faked his kidnapping in order to abandon his wife without revealing that she married a homosexual.

Critical reception

Reviewing Channel 4's launch night for the Financial Times, Chris Dunkley wrote that it was a "deliciously accurate parody of Enid Blyton's mind-numbingly repetitive adventure stories", but compared it unfavourably to Ripping Yarns.[2]

Filming location

The arrival of the "children" was filmed at Staverton railway station, Devon.[3]



Five Go Mad on Mescalin

A sequel, Five Go Mad on Mescalin, was produced for the second Comic Strip Presents... series in 1983, but was seen as an unworthy successor to the first,[4] despite being created by the same writer/director team. The plot, involving a pushy rich American with a spoiled son, is loosely based on Enid Blyton's Five on Finniston Farm (1960). Notably, it implies that the Five might have sympathised with Nazi Germany because the Nazis were not as "vulgar" as Americans.

Five Go to Rehab

The third in the series, Five Go to Rehab, was produced in 2012, and shown on Gold on 7 November.[5] It received poor reviews.[6]

The original cast reprised their roles, now well into middle-age. Reuniting for Dick's birthday after decades apart, the four and Toby lament how their lives took unexpected paths while Dick drags them on another bicycle adventure, which he had meticulously planned for fourteen years. In a reversal, George had married a series of wealthy men whom she cuckolded, with, among others, one of her stepsons (her continuing penchant for bestiality with the latest Timmy is also implied); whereas Anne has become a strongly opinionated vegan spinster and is suspected by Dick of being a "dyke" – an accusation made against George by Toby in the original Five Go Mad in Dorset. George and Julian have been committed to an alcoholics' sanatorium, the latter owes a large debt to African gangsters, and Anne recently served a prison sentence for setting her nanny aflame. The group eventually discover their car sabotaged and track the culprit to the sanatorium where George and Julian are staying. There they are kidnapped by Toby (Daniel Peacock), who reveals his plan to imprison his childhood tormentors in a museum display prison. He also reveals that he has been grooming his own children to serve as replacement version of the Famous Five, under the guise that the world has forgotten the original group. However, Toby's children immediately recognize the Five and turn on their father, who is taken to jail.

Five Go to Rehab utilized a form of a floating timeline; although the original film's events are said to have taken place thirty years in the past and "five years after the war", the reunion film appears to be set approximately contemporaneous to its filming.

This marked the last time Edmondson worked with his comedy partner Rik Mayall, before Mayall's death in June 2014.


Music in both programmes had been used by the BBC as themes for radio programmes. Titles include: "In Party Mood" (the theme to Housewives' Choice) by Jack Strachey, "Puffin' Billy" (the theme to Children's Favourites and also CBS's Captain Kangaroo) by Edward White, and "Calling All Workers" (the theme to Music While You Work) by Eric Coates.


  1. Jardine, By Cassandra. "Lashings of ginger beer and happy endings". Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  2. "The Arts: Television – The morning after Channel Four". Financial Times. 3 November 1982.
  3. "South West England". The Comedy Map of Britain. 9 December 2010. BBC. GOLD (TV channel).
  4. Jones, Ian (July 2001). "Blah Blah Blah". Off the Telly.

External links

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