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Budgie (1971-72)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Budgie (1971-72)
LWT for ITV, tx. 9/4-14/7/1972
26 x 50 min eps in 2 series, colour
Created byKeith Waterhouse
 Willis Hall
Production CompanyLondon Weekend Television
ProducerVerity Lambert
DirectorsJim Goddard
 Michael Lindsay-Hogg
 Mike Newell

Cast: Adam Faith (Budgie), Iain Cuthbertson (Charlie Endell), Lynn Dalby (Hazel), Georgina Hale (June), Rio Fanning (Grogan), Margaret Nolan (Inga), John Rhys-Davies (Laughing Spam Fritter), June Lewis (Mrs Endell)

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The dreams and schemes of Ronald Bird, a small-time crook with big ambitions.

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Originally entitled 'The Loser', this comedy-drama by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall charts the failures of Ronald 'Budgie' Bird, a small-time crook who usually ends up as the fall guy for Soho villain Charlie Endell (a larger-than-life performance from Iain Cuthbertson). Budgie is estranged from his wife Jean (a scintillatingly brittle Georgina Hale) and has a wary if basically friendly relationship with his girlfriend Hazel, the mother of his child.

Although in early episodes Adam Faith's limited acting experience occasionally shows, he quickly gained in confidence, and by the darker second series he has clearly grown as a performer, most noticeably in his scenes with Hale, which turn from violence to humour in a second and crackle with sexual chemistry.

Despite the comic escapades in most stories, what makes the series so memorable is its air of melancholic regret. Budgie is an arrested adolescent, his get-rich-quick schemes just evanescent dreams, ploys to stave off adult responsibilities. Among the most memorable sequences are the duologues between Budgie and a succession of parental surrogates, in which they jointly confront the disappointments in the lives. Notable examples include a prostitute recalling the son she gave up for adoption in 'Some Mother's Sons' (tx. 16/4/1971); a schoolteacher with a secret craving for pornography in 'Could Do Better' (tx. 14/5/1971); a faded alcoholic actress with suicidal tendencies in 'Sunset Mansions or Whatever Happened to Janey Baib?' (tx. 25/6/1971); and virtually an entire cast of disillusioned characters staying at the eponymous 'Grandee Hotel' (tx. 30/4/1971).

For all his ebullience and his success with women, Budgie always remains an outsider looking in; when we meet his parents, the story predictably ends with his being shut out of the family unit. The second series concludes in a spectacularly bitter fashion: Budgie, beaten to a pulp by Endell and his men and left destitute on the streets of London, is turned away by his wife and family, while he in turn abandons Hazel, now pregnant with their second child.

A third series and even a feature film version were mooted but came to nothing, though Faith did reprise his role in a musical adaptation by Waterhouse and Hall that had a brief West End run in 1988. None of the trio, however, had any involvement in Charles Endell Esquire (ITV, 1979), a shortlived spin-off set in Glasgow starring Cuthbertson.

Sergio Angelini

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Video Clips
1. Holiday plans (2:34)
2. In the family way (3:40)
3. Filth is all in the mind (5:28)
Complete episode: 'Could Do Better' part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Faith, Adam (1940-2003)
Goddard, Jim (1936-2013)
Newell, Mike (1942-)