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Worzel Gummidge 'Guy Forks' review: This tranquil delight is family entertainment at its finest

Mackenzie Crook's gorgeous drama delivers another winner.

Worzel Gummidge: 'Guy Forks'
Published: Saturday, 6th November 2021 at 6:45 pm
A star rating of 4 out of 5.

It's perfectly understandable that the BBC would want a gem like Mackenzie Crook's gorgeous reimagining of Worzel Gummidge to form part of its festive schedule – with three previous episodes having aired over the Christmas period (in 2019 and 2020), and two more expected to follow suit this year – but actually it's difficult to imagine a more fitting slot for this series than Bonfire Night. From the golden hue of its visuals to the beautiful melodies of folk group The Unthanks, this wistful piece of programming is pretty much the most Autumn-y thing that ever Autumn-ed.

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This 5th November-themed instalment sees Worzel (Crook, who also writes and directs) encounter his cousin Guy Forks (Paul Kaye, making for a supremely appealing antagonist) and end up taking his place atop a bonfire stack – and though putting Worzel in peril effectively sidelines the misfit mannequin for much of this hour-long drama's second half, that allows this show's likeable young leads to take centre-stage: India Brown and Thierry Wickens remain spectacularly good as Susan and John, even if the latter's noticeable growth spurt (actually addressed on-screen via a brief gag) leaves you worrying how many more of these the BBC might practically be able to produce before the pair age out of their roles. Make more, Beeb, and quick!

Worzel Gummidge: Guy Forks

From the soft, soothing strains of its opening theme onwards, Worzel Gummidge is a tranquil delight – beautifully shot, perfectly cast (in the case of Toby Jones here, perfectly cast six times) and gloriously warm-hearted. There's nothing else quite like it being produced by the BBC or indeed any other broadcaster – like Worzel himself, it's a deeply charming oddity.

But what marks it out as truly great television is that Crook's not satisfied for this to be mere good-natured fluff – what elevates this episode and the series as a whole is the way in which it celebrates nature in all its forms, seeking to lightly educate the viewer without ever patronising them. Worzel Gummidge has – whisper it – a social conscience, with Guy Forks weaving in an anti-pollution message amidst the magic. There's even a nod to the pivotal part that today's young people are playing in highlighting the damage being wrought on our planet: "I've heard of this," scoffs Jones' Mayor when John and Susan protest against a bonfire that'll pollute the village. "It’s a youth thing!"

If you were to have one "grumble grumble", it's that any moments where the show's amiable nature wavers feel all the more out of place given how endearing it is the rest of the time – an interlude involving snails and a slingshot feels out-of-character for a series that extols the virtues of preserving and protecting wildlife, and maybe I'm just getting old but a scene which undercuts a character's delight that Susan and John are using a public library to research Guy Fawkes by having them immediately revert to using their smart phones for the sake of a quick gag feels unusually mean-spirited. (Would it have been unrealistic for them to break out the books instead? Possibly, but this is a show about a talking scarecrow.)

These are minor quibbles, though. In all other respects, Guy Forks is another captivating adventure from Crook and company, family entertainment at its finest that leaves you feeling inspired to wrap up warm, take a stroll in the October chill and crunch some leaves underfoot – possibly on the way to a fireworks display. Just keep a close eye on the "guy"...

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Worzel Gummidge: Guy Forks is available now on BBC iPlayer. Visit our Drama hub for more news and features, or find something to watch with our TV Guide.

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