The Enid Blyton Society

Famous Five 90s Series

Discuss the television and film adaptations of Enid Blyton's stories.

Famous Five 90s Series

Postby Moonraker » 21 May 2007, 11:28

We have discussed the 70s TV series in much detail, but I don't think we've said much about the 90s series. I watched a couple the other day, and found them far better than I had remembered.

I liked the fact that they were set in period. No flared jeans or Hants & Dorset buses! I also felt that the direction and acting was less frantic. I thought I would give a brief opinion on the actors.

Marco Williamson - Julian

I felt he was a bit of a parody. I couldn't watch him without comparing him to The Comic Strip's Julian. He seemed to overact and really looked like an eighteen year-old dressed up as a thirteen year-old!

Paul Child - Dick

A great Dick! Although his hair was the wrong colour, I thought he played the part excellently.

Laura Petela - Anne

Really lovely. Her face was full of compassion, and she came over as a really great Anne.

Jemima Rooper - George

I just love Jemima! I felt she played George to a T. She looked a real tomboy, although at 15, she was probably a bit old to play the part too convincingly.

Timmy

Nothing like the real one!

I would say that I prefer this series to the 70s one. I much preferred the locations. What grates with me in the 70s series, is the 70s feel to it. It looks even more stilted and dated when watching it now, to the 90s version, with its 40s/50s feel to it. That's the trouble with updating the original. Knowing the New Forest well, it also spoilt it in recognising the locations. Burley for Castaway - Bah!

Apart from Marco Williamson, I feel that both series were well cast, and I would find it difficult to choose between the actors. It's not Marco's fault, I just feel that he was too old to play the part.

Both series suffered with the hast at which the stories were told. To condense a book into a 20 or so minute adaptation, beggars belief. It is a pity that more full length Blyton dramas have not been made.
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Postby Ming » 21 May 2007, 11:35

Agree totally. I didn't see much of the TV series, but what I did see was enough for me to make a few points. I much preferred the 90s, as they were set in period. They also stuck to the story too, and I think the 70s ones were a bit changed. Jemima Rooper is a real tomboy, she really was good. Better than Michele, I thought. Michele looked very like a girl to me, maybe because she had red lips.

Julian, I agree, in the 90s looked a bit comical, but I couldn't help thinking he looked very like Eileen Soper's illustrations. Dick and Anne were really great, and I liked the way Anne seemed to be the 'real' Anne, just how Enid depicted her.

A great series.
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Postby Tony Summerfield » 21 May 2007, 12:19

One of the problems in filming a long series over the course of two years is that inevitably children age. Have another look at the picture below, which is taken from the front of the press pack that I had on display in Twyford:-

Image

This picture was taken in 1995, Marco was 14, Paul and Jemima 13 and Laura 11. I thought they looked just about right here and hence were okay in the first 13 programmes filmed in 1995. When they came to the second series filmed in 1996, certainly Marco and possibly Paul as well looked too old and it was hardly surprising as Gary Russell remarked when he went to the press launch of the second series that both were drinking pints of beer!!

I agree entirely that this series has had a raw deal on the forums. Most of those commenting on the earlier series watched it as children and have a heavy bias towards it. As someone who didn't watch either series as a child, my own personal opinion is that the 90s series was vastly superior in all aspects.

I hope this thread gets a bit of interest as there is plenty to say about this series.
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Postby Tony Summerfield » 21 May 2007, 12:42

Just in case someone is wondering if they watched a programme from the first or second series, I have copied below the two series with the dates of their first showing:-

First Series (initially shown on HTV and Tyne Tees)
1. Five on a Treasure Island (part 1) (Sep 10 1995)
2. Five on a Treasure Island (part 2) (Sep 17)
3. Five Get Into Trouble (Sep 24)
4. Five Go Adventuring Again (Oct 1)
5. Five Fall Into Adventure (Oct 8)
6. Five Go to Demon's Rocks (Oct 15)
7. Five On Kirrin Island Again (Oct 22)
8. Five On Finniston Farm (Oct 29)
9. Five Go Off to Camp (Nov 5)
10. Five Have Plenty of Fun (Nov 12)
11. Five On a Secret Trail (Nov 19)
12. Five Go to Smuggler's Top (part 1) (Nov 26)
13. Five Go to Smuggler's Top (part 2) (Dec 3)

Second Series (initially shown on HTV)
1. Five Go Down to the Sea (part 1) (Nov 10 1996)
2. Five Go Down to the Sea (part 2) (Nov 17)
3. Five Run Away Together (Nov 24)
4. Five Have a Mystery to Solve (Dec 1)
5. Five Go to Mystery Moor (Dec 8)
6. Five (Go) On a Hike Together (Dec 15)
7. Five Have a Wonderful Time (part 1) (Jan 5 1997)
8. Five Have a Wonderful Time (part 2) (Jan 12)
9. Five Go Off in a Caravan (Jan 19)
10. Five Get Into a Fix (Jan 26)
11. Five Are Together Again (Feb 2)
12. Five Go to Billycock Hill (part 1) (Feb 9)
13. Five Go to Billycock Hill (part 2) (Feb 16)

As is sometimes the case we have to have a 'cool' instead of an 8!! One of these days I will get all this sort of information on the main website, but I am still waiting for a 30 hour day!!
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Postby Petermax » 21 May 2007, 23:23

I am a huge fan of the 1970s FF series but out of curiousity I tracked down all 26 episodes of the 1990s FF series on Ebay. For some reason I never watched the series when it was originally screened in the mid 1990s.

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, the period settings and vehicles were an absolute delight but a golden opportunity was missed regarding the running time of the episodes. Imagine if they had a running time of around 50 minutes and were shown on Sunday evenings, this worked very well for All Creatures Great and Small. I think that the definitive Famous Five film or TV series has yet to be made.

Regarding the the cast of the 90s series, all played their parts well but Jemima Rooper really stood out with her portrayal of George. Has anyone seen her hilarious performance in the Sky One series Hex? This actress simply goes from strength to strength and she's only in her mid 20s.

My loyalty to the 1970s series remains although I acknowledge its faults. It must be remembered however, that it was after all a low budget childrens tea time TV series but 30 years on people still have very fond memories of it.
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Postby Moonraker » 22 May 2007, 11:15

petermax wrote:My loyalty to the 1970s series remains although I acknowledge its faults. It must be remembered however, that it was after all a low budget childrens tea time TV series but 30 years on people still have very fond memories of it.


Is this mainly because the devotees were children at the time? I'm certainly not criticising the actors of the 70s series, but why make excuses for the low budget? If anything, that detracts all the more! It's still a good series to watch, but I wonder why so many people seem to prefer it the, IMHO, superior 90s series?
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Postby Jools » 22 May 2007, 11:19

For me it was because I was a similar age to the actors in the 78 series (I was 10, going on 11). Therefore the actors are cemented as the FF in my memory.
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Postby Moonraker » 22 May 2007, 11:42

Jools wrote:For me it was because I was a similar age to the actors in the 78 series (I was 10, going on 11). Therefore the actors are cemented as the FF in my memory.


Swatithought 8)
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Postby Jools » 22 May 2007, 11:44

Swatisaid :wink:
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Postby Lucky Star » 22 May 2007, 13:57

Jools wrote:For me it was because I was a similar age to the actors in the 78 series (I was 10, going on 11). Therefore the actors are cemented as the FF in my memory.


Yes thats it all right. The first time I heard the theme tune again years later I found that I could sing it note perfect. Like the books the 78 series is indelibly linked with my childhood. I had grown out of Blyton (temporarily as it turned out) by the time of the later series so never watched it at the time.
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Postby Robert Houghton » 22 May 2007, 14:24

I've always liked the 1990's series best. I think the characters are so well cast, though I do have to agree about Julian being a bit like someone from The Comic Strip versions. I also love the period feel, the costumes and settings.

Some of the acting in the 1970's series leaves a lot to be desired: particularly from the adults. Uncle Quentin couldnt act for toffee, neither was he how I imagined Uncle Q to be. The Uncle Quentin of the 1990's was, I feel, spot on.

George (Michelle) was good, but sometimes looked too 'girly' in the way she ran etc (with her arms splayed out in a 'lady-like' way). Jemima was perfect as George on the other hand.

The plots were also closer to the originals in the 1990's series, but I agree that many of them were over far too soon: abridged to the point that the plots seem trivial.

I liked the 1970's series because it was the one I grew up with: the images the actors in this series WERE the Famous Five to me. I love the theme tune, and the feeling of nostalgia when I watch them, but for setting, period and acting it's got to be the 1990's series every time. :D
'Oh voice of Spring of Youth
hearts mad delight,
Sing on, sing on, and when the sun is gone
I'll warm me with your echoes
through the night.'

(E. Blyton, Sunday Times, 1951)



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Postby Anita Bensoussane » 22 May 2007, 14:54

I do like the 1990s series and agree that the locations are more picturesque. In the mid-late 1970s we had some of the hottest, driest summers ever and, as a result, the countryside looks dry and scrubby in the 1970s series. The wishy-washy, grainy quality of films/TV programmes dating from that time doesn't help. However, to me the four children come across as more natural in the 1970s version and there is some marvellous casting of more minor roles too. In the 1990s version, there is a feeling of "look at us playing middle-class 1950s children" and a slight tendency to send up the 1950s in places. Laura Petela (Anne) in particular seems rather self-conscious and uncomfortable with the accent at times. Jemima Rooper is an exception, making a marvellous and very convincing George. Despite preferring the 1970s series overall, partly because of nostalgia I must admit, I still enjoy watching the 1990s series and bought a couple more videos at the Enid Blyton Day. Some of the stories are extremely well done, one of my favourites being Five On a Treasure Island which is simply smashing.

Regarding Uncle Quentin, neither of the Uncle Quentins are really as I'd imagined from reading the books but I find the way Michael Hinz plays him quite touching, as there is a good deal of affection between him and George.

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Postby George@Kirrin » 22 May 2007, 15:03

I wasn't a child when the 70's series was broadcast, yet I still favour that one.

I've seen most of the 90's series, but for me they are spolit by the over acting of Julian, his constantly slightly persed face makes me wonder if something hadn't been inserted somewhere.
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Postby Tony Summerfield » 22 May 2007, 16:41

My location photos that I had on display at Twyford were all taken towards the end of the second series and I got the feeling that the endurance factor of such a long spell of filming was starting to takes its toll.

During the long delays between 'takes', I talked quite a bit to all four. I got the impression that both Marco and Paul had really rather outgrown it. As you probably know, Marco broke his leg during the second series and quite a bit had to be rewritten to cater for this. I believe in a number of scenes he was probably in quite a lot of pain, which might account for some of his expressions! Jemima was absolutely charming, she is a very bright girl and made you feel that you had known her for years when you talked to her. I remember on my second visit I was queueing for lunch with some of the crew and feeling a bit awkward as I didn't know any of them, and someone came up behind me and slapped me on the back and said, "Hiya, Tony!" - I turned round and there was Jemima. Laura was quite a bit younger than the others and was really just playing herself, as she seemed exactly the same off screen as on it. She went on afterwards to a part in Lucy Daniels' 'Animal Ark' series which was also made by Zenith.
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Postby Petermax » 22 May 2007, 18:22

I am very interested in Tony Summerfield's location photos of the 90s series, are they accessible online? Despite being a 70s series fan I do feel that the 90s series should be given more coverage. I for one would like to know a bit more about the actors, have any of them attended the Enid Blyton Days for example or contributed articles to the EBS magazine?
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