I can tell you why Basil Brush has `adult feel'

Share
Related Topics

A revival in the fortunes of an old pal one had assumed to be in harmless retirement can cause mixed emotions. It's good to see that the years have not taken the edge off his ambition, that he's still in there, pitching against the young guys. On the other hand, when his face is all over the newspapers, when he is about to be offered a lifetime achievement award (admittedly by Loaded magazine, but it still counts), when, after a triumphant appearance at the Cannes TV festival, the BBC and ITV are competing for his new project, a late-night, cutting-edge chat show with an "adult feel", only the most saintly could be entirely pleased. Cutting edge? Adult feel? I could tell them a thing or two about my friend Basil Brush.

We were never that close, Basil and I, but there were a few months when he played a significant part in my professional life.

I was a publisher, hungry for a project. Basil had a cultish, crossover following. With a team of writers, photographers, designers and stylists, I developed the idea of a paperback extravaganza for the Christmas stocking market.

There are varying degrees of seriousness in the relationship between publisher and author. In those days (it's different now), an editor could look forward to three, maybe even four, books with a favoured novelist, biographer or humorist. At the other end of the scale, there were the instant books, eager grabs at whatever trend was passing. Intense, exciting, evanescent, they were the publishing equivalent of a one-night stand. Unavoidably and unashamedly, my brush with Basil fell into the latter category. After his collected thoughts had been gathered in Boom! Boom! The Blunderful World of Basil Brush, there was, creatively, nowhere else to go.

Nevertheless, it was an intriguing experience. Lunching with Ivan Owen, the hand behind the fox, I sensed that even he had conflicting feelings about the peculiar form of fame that he enjoyed. Essentially, he felt that Basil Brush was misunderstood.

The problem was that the suits at Broadcasting House saw him as a jolly glove-puppet who was ideally suited for the late-afternoon family spot. Ivan Owen's conviction was that he had a harder, more knowing side, that his true, core audience was adult. He wanted to escape the limitations of children's television.

At the time, I found this rather sad - it was as if Roald Dahl longed for The BFG to be considered as a contender for the Booker prize; but now it is clear that Ivan was right and that Basil was ahead of his time. Twenty years on, Ivan Owen has been sidelined ("Basil's a fox, he doesn't need a hand," was the heartless comment of his new controllers) and so has his amiable, long-suffering straight man, Mr Derek. He is to be "a satirical successor to Spitting Image".

Well, forget nostalgia and loyalty -you can include me out. Suddenly, it becomes clear why the fox is back in fashion. At a time when toothless, knowing irony is all the rage, what better formula could there be than to have saucy glove-puppet with his own chat show? The cannier politicians will flock to play their part in the joke - Blair quizzed by Des O'Connor, Hattersley playing along with Ali G will be forerunners to a new form of soft, compliant self-satire. Perhaps TV executives will look out for other camp, inanimate kiddy-characters from the past to give the schedules an "adult feel" - fly-on-wall documentaries featuring The Magic Roundabout's Dougal, or a culture show chaired by Weed from Bill and Ben.

"I have no interest in Basil Brush. Goodbye," snapped Michael Parkinson when asked about his latest competitor, and it's no surprise that Parky's rattled. For years, he has been the man famous for being attacked by a puppet. Now the puppets are in charge.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
 

My shameful failure to live up to the spirit of Christmas

Howard Jacobson
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all