Basil Brush, the wise-cracking alter-ego of puppeteer Ivan Owen made his debut on
ITV in the early sixties as a part of puppet series The Three Scampis. He then progressed
to playing sidekick to magician David Nixon on a couple of BBC1 shows, proving so
popular that it would lead to his own tea-time series on BBC1 in 1968.
Designed and made by Peter Firmin Basil was a Tweed wearing aristocrat with a voiced
modelled on Terry-Thomas. The programme had pretty much the same format throughout
its life, opening gags, a musical act, sketches, a story in which Basil was always
the hero (Basil The Buccaneer, Bulldog Basil, Blast Off Basil etc) and then the closing
song. Basil would be accompanied by a succession of sidekicks, sent to keep him entertained,
no matter what the consequences were. The first was was Mister Rodney (Bewes), followed
by Mister Derek (Fowlds), Mister Roy (North), Mister Howard (Williams) and ending
with Mister Billy (Boyle), who according to The Stage was "hot from some very adult
shows in the West End."
Each week Basil would also play host to a pop act, but it's the scope of acts that
surprises nowadays. Not content with the likes of Dave Dee or The Tremeloes the show
would present like likes of The Kinks and Traffic to a tea-time audience in 1968.
Basil was so popular that he had inevitably become a target of ITV. In November 1978
Ivor Owen rejected an offer to take Basil to ITV. However, by Christmas 1980 it was
over and in 1982 Basil returned to ITV with Let's Read With Basil Brush, and after
he slowly faded into retirement with only a bizarre, but hilarious appearance on
Fantasy Football League in the mid-nineties to remind us of his what we were missing.
After Ivan Owen's death the rights were sold and a new Basil, re-designed and with
a younger voice gained a new audience on CBBC in the 2000's.
Boom and indeed Boom!