Comic Strip Presents… Five Go to Rehab – A Review


I’ve just gotten around to watching Five Go to Rehab as I recorded it when it was originally on. I have to say I have mixed feelings about the programme now I’ve seen it. There were definitely some good things about it – some funny jokes and a surprisingly good ending – but a lot of it was pretty average. I suspect I might have gotten more out of it had I seen the original episode Five Go Mad in Dorset.

I typed some of my thoughts as I watched it so I will try and turn my disjointed ramblings into a sort of review.


WHAT I LIKED

I thought it started out nicely (I admit I missed the start – the recording started with the two baddies at their car, and the train streaming past. The actors names were still on-screen so I don’t think I missed much). The steam train, the music and the station porter all seemed very authentic and really put me in a Famous Five mood. I wish the station porter had a role in the episode though.

Then we had the four children getting off the train with their bikes, and cycling off laughing and chatting – much like the Famous Five would have done years before.

I liked how Dick described their idyllic holidays slipping in an extremely casual mention of catching criminals.

I honestly did think that was Julian though, because of the blond hair. If I’d seen the previous episodes I would have known it was Dick, and right enough when you see Julian the casting makes sense.

Left to right, Peter Richardson as Julian, Adrian Edmondson as Dick,
Jennifer Saunders as Anne and Dawn French as George.

They made good use of clips from the other Five Go Mad episode(s), and those have definitely encouraged me to watch them.

One of funniest jokes I thought was where Anne chastised Dick for standing on her newly dusted grass (though if I remember rightly that’s actually from an earlier episode clip).


FAMOUS FACES AND FUNNY LINES

I was impressed by the famous faces such as Robbie Coltrane as the woman running the B&B, (and later the gypsy) who had some of the best lines of the episode. After skating around the reasons Anne may never have  married he she says if you catch my homophobic way of thinking. He also got to say home grown marzipan, from our marzipan tree – a sly joke on how the Five would be fed at farms or people’s homes and everything seemed to be home grown and made. We also had Rik Mayall as one of the slightly sinister baddies who made a Silence of the Lambs reference, which was exactly what he had already put me in mind of. I recognised the poor police constable as Stephen Mangan (of Green Wing, Billy Elliot, and Episodes) pity it wasn’t his Green Wing co-star Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Another funny line was nothing like a cold ginger-beer, with lashings of vodka! a good play on the erroneous belief that the Five ever said “lashings of ginger-beer” (which I think was partly if not wholly caused by Five Go Mad in Dorset). I also laughed when George twisted her ankle – again a familiar plot device (think Five Go Off to Camp) and Julian just says “good luck with that” and disappears.


NODS TO THE BOOKS

I thought the electric gates we see at the entrance to the rehab centre were very reminiscent of Owl’s Dene, and I wonder if that was deliberate?

The rehab centre scene was quite clever, it’s a fairly traditional Blyton-y place. The Five (or FFOs, Secret Seven etc) get caught snooping around what’s supposed to be a legitimate business and see right through the criminals.

I enjoyed the telling of how Julian punched Toby Thurlow for following them around – up until I heard the name I thought it was rather like Richard Kent in Five Get Into Trouble. Again, if I’d seen the first episode I’d have not spent the time wondering if they were talking about Richard Kent, or Yan or any real Blyton character. Toby Thurlow seems to be an amalgamation of names used in the series, though. Toby is the boy from Five Go to Billycock Hill and Thurlow is actually Richard Kent’s father’s first name. More coincidences? Toby is a fairly common name, but I don’t think Thurlow is.

Anne got to have another ‘tiger moment’ (like in Five Have a Mystery to Solve) which was rather funny.


The scenery and locations used were beautiful – and having seen the short making of programme shown after the episode I’m amazed how sunny and lovely it all looked. It was apparently filmed during an extremely wet summer and most of the behind the scenes footage showed pouring rain and flooded fields.

The language used was sometimes reminiscent of the books – we had “queer” happenings and “lashings” of vodka, but it wasn’t over-done. There was also some swearing, which I have no problem with.

I didn’t realise how good the gypsy scene was until I saw the making of programme, where they showed a near-identical clip from the original episode. I wouldn’t be surprised if Robbie Coltrane was right when he said I think it was the same caravan, the same costume, and it was certainly the same lay-by and same castle on the hill above.

I had great amusement at the music played as they head to their campsite – Come on Eileen by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, but apart from Stef nobody else  will get the joke.

A classic picnic for a somewhat-less-than-classic five.

I think the ending was actually the best part of the episode, having felt fairly underwhelmed by much of it, the end was surprisingly good. I don’t want to give it away for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but when the Five have been captured by the mysterious bad guy (who turns out to be someone we already know) he drags his children along to see them. They’re the came children we saw at the start, and they’re rude to their father – eyes glued to their iPads or whatever it is they’re clutching – until they see the FF that is. I was feeling a bit depressed by that part – after all aren’t we just a bit too familiar with modern children who don’t share our love of Enid Blyton? The show hit just the right note, though, and we got to see a new generation of the Famous Five (a far superior one to the atrocious recent cartoon version).


WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

As many people who watched it have said there is a big blooper where at least twice George is described as their sister, when we all know she is their cousin.

One thing I didn’t quite get was the time it’s set in. I realise it’s part of a joke running through the whole episode, the incongruity of the old fashioned things like the train, the car, their bikes and then their sat-nav and mobile phones, but it was confusing. I had thought if it was 30 years after the FF were last together it should only be the early 90s, but then I realised it was 30 years since the first Five Go Mad episode, and things made a little more sense.

I think the sub-story of Julian’s debts and the men after him was fairly unnecessary, apart from Rik Mayall it really had no redeeming features for me. We could have had a tightly-packed half hour episode instead of a slightly rambling hour long one. I also don’t think they really took the ‘vegetarian Anne’ sub-story anywhere. OK, her throwing the full English breakfast out of the window was slightly amusing if it reminds you of all the times the Five tucked into that sort of meal throughout the books, but  beyond that? She set fire to her nanny for eating smoky bacon crisps? Faintly funny, but I don’t know. It seemed it was only there to pad out the episode, as was the storyline about George’s four husbands – and the fact she slept with her third husbands 16 year old son, yuck.

I felt really sorry for Dick throughout the episode – and in fact he was the only character I actually liked. He tried so hard to recreate the adventures we all loved to read about, and the others were so mean about it.


AND FINALLY

Disappointing parts aside, a lot of the episode reminded me of a hilarious thread started recently on the Enid Blyton Society Forums. It’s called Lines you would never hear in Enid Blyton, and as the title suggests we post lines that you would never find in a Blyton book. Things like “Oh no, we’re trapped in the cellars” said Dick. “It’s ok” said Julian, “I’ll just phone the police from my mobile!”

It wasn’t a terrible show, but it wasn’t brilliant either. There was a fair bit of potential which I don’t think was fully realised. I think I’d give it 3 stars out of 5 for the genuinely funny parts, and the ending. I doubt I’ll watch it again, though.


OTHER OPINIONS

The episode really divided people over at the Enid Blyton Society Forums.

Some people enjoyed it:

Moonraker
Absolutely brilliant. What a cleverly written script. It had all the emotions: sadness at how the four posh kids had spiralled down the slippery slope into alcoholism; plenty of humour and a touch of poignancy… Only Dick craved for times past. Yet in trying to recapture the past, he showed how pathetic and futile it was…When all seemed doom and gloom, the end of an era, the demise of the Five some kids (much to their father’s amazement) rallied round and saved the day. Hurrah!

shadow
I liked it and felt it was much more of an ode to Enid Blyton than a skit like the previous instalment  I think calling George their sister follows from the original where all the children call him Uncle Quentin.

Eddie Muir
Chick and I have just watched it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Others weren’t so convinced:

Julie2owlsdene
A bit disappointed and they’d completely forgotten that George was their cousin! There was no real story, somehow, and it seemed a bit incomplete. The only good thing I enjoyed was the ‘children’ at the end, who adored the Famous Five and that represented the children of today, hopefully!

pete9012S
I have mixed feelings after having decided to watch it…
Although there was humour in it, it actually left me feeling rather sad. Its ruthless analysis and deconstruction of all that the Famous Five have come to represent, both in the past and in the present made me analyse and question myself and my own Enid Blyton value system.

And some people just didn’t like it at all:

chloe1
I was really disapointed. I felt that none of them had read the books for a very long time and that it was lacking the affection for the 5 that Five Go Mad in Dorset had.
Was anyone else getting really annoyed about George being referred to as their sister?

Tony Summerfield
I watched it this evening and I now have a much better understanding of why none of the main channels were interested in showing it.

Poppy Hutchinson
Very disappointed with Five go to Rehab… I watched half an hour of it and then switched off. I was surprised they referred to George as their sister. I thought it was silly and unfunny. Also offending to Blyton fans… I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.


Did you watch Five Go to Rehab? If so, what did you think?

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