The Famous Five (1970s TV series)

Famous Five
Genre Adventure, Children's
Written by Enid Blyton
Starring Michele Gallagher, Marcus Harris, Gary Russell, Jennifer Thanisch
Theme music composer Rob Andrews, Les Spurr
Country of origin UK
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 26
Producer(s) Don Leaver, Sidney Hayers
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 25 minutes
Original network ITV (Southern Television)
Audio format Mono
Original release 3 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. To play these roles were child actors, Michele Gallagher, Marcus Harris, Gary Russell and Jenny Thanisch, while the dog was played by a border collie called Toddy. Other regular actors were Michael Hinz as Uncle Quentin and Sue Best as Aunt Fanny. 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 Christchurch and the New Forest with many of the indoor scenes filmed in Exbury House, where the house doubled as many different dwellings.[5][6]


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 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

Series two


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, and for a radio interview in 2011.[7]

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.[8] Harris is cast to return in a small cameo role in a German film based on the series titled Fünf Freunde 2 (lit. "Five Friends 2", as by the German title for the series), scheduled for theatrical release on 31 January 2013.[9][10]

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.[11] 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.[10] The Internet Movie Database gives her date of death as 2000, with the cause being suicide.

In 1996 the books were revived again for another British television adaptation. This time, unlike the 1970s series, it was set in the 1950s.[12] More recently, an animated version was made by the French company Marathon, which featured the children of the Famous Five.[13]

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.[14] However, in October 2010, distributor Koch Media remastered the whole series and released it in Germany on Region 2 in a 7 DVD set (and respectively on one Blu-ray Disc) with extensive bonus material including an interview with original cast members and their German counterparts who provided the voices for the German dubbed version.[15] France followed in November 2011 with a 2x3 DVD set (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.

Home Video Releases

Enid Blyton's Famous Five (Collector's Edition DVD)

This was released in June 2012 by Koch Media UK, as a box set. It contains 6 DVDs with all 26 episodes, an interview with Gail Renard (one of the writers), Marcus Harris (Julian), Gary Russell (Dick) and Jennifer Thanisch (Anne), a Photo Gallery, and the Original Trailer from the 1970s. The episodes are HD Remastered, with Dolby Digital Audio and English Subtitles.


  1. "Famous Five Reunited - Sunshine Hospital Radio, Weston Super Mare". Retrieved 2011-09-29.
  2. "Folgenübersicht -". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  3. "Gary Russell's ('Dick') memories about being Dick -". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  4. 1 2 "Enid Blyton's Famous Five". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Gary Russell's ('Dick') memories about being Dick -". 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. "Archive news from the The Oxford Times". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  9. "Famous Five II: SamFilm Making a Film of the Most Famous Friends in the World! Cinematic release: January 31, 2013.". Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  10. 1 2 Bild: Actor Marcus Harris: What is "Julien" of the "Famous Five" doing today?). 28 January 2012. Retrieved 30 October 2012
  11. The Enid Blyton Society: "Marcus Harris talks about The Famous Five". Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  12. Aggedor - The Famous Five, 1996 series
  13. "Gosh! Famous Five get 21st century makeover". Reuters UK. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  14. "Besonderheiten der Serie von 1978 - Die Suche nach den TV- und Videorechten". Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  15. e.g. Fünf Freunde 1978/79 TV-Serie kommt jetzt auf DVD und Blu-ray

External links

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