Famous Five 90s Style: Five Have Plenty of Fun


It has been a bit of a week for things not being set in stone. Tuesday night when she was due to write her blog, Fiona’s internet went down and I was supposed to be our Tuesday night but as it turned out, I am due to go out on Thursday night, so this blog is being written well in advance!

Like Five Go to Mystery Moor, Plenty of Fun is a twenty-five minutes adventure, condensing the story down into almost too short a time. This story is very complex if you read the book, there are lots of ins and outs and lots of bits are missing. Such as the third scientist that appears in the book, and has a very minimal part, but he’s non existent in the episode. Clearly he would have taken up too much screen time to explain who he was and what he was doing there. Which I suppose is understandable.

Once again with the episode we start off with a look at who might be to blame for the adventure, and we’re in a fair ground, with the reoccurring theme of gypsies being the bad guys or coming in for suspicion of being the bad guys. However we do see some money changing hands so perhaps we know more than the Five right now, and know who is going to be the kidnapper.

The episode moves quickly and we meet Mr Elbur Wright who is a scientist working with George’s father on a huge project. He’s American and we find out that his little girl Berta will be going to George and Anne’s school (except he thinks George is a boy not a girl) and gives Anne ten shillings to look after Berta. This all seems straight forward but as the audience know, something major is going to happen.

The unsuspecting Five enjoy a nice time on the beach with a picnic before the next day being told that Berta is going to have to come and stay with them, as she’s in danger of being kidnapped. Only Anne is sympathetic as she wouldn’t want to fall into an adventure any more than Berta does. One of the best scenes that is missed out of the show is the one where Dick stays up until Mr Wright appears so as to have a look at his car, and sees him climbing in the study window. This is one of my favourite scenes in the book and its a shame it isn’t replicated in this episode, or at all in fact because the 1970’s TV series didn’t film Five Have Plenty of Fun because it was thought to be too much like the other books where kidnapping is involved.

Anyway, so the mystery Berta arrives with her dog Sally, and it makes George even more miserable. Before we know it, George is being left out as the others think she’s being silly and that Berta is all right, really. The worst news for George is that Berta has to have her hair cut short like a boy and dress in boys’ clothes. George wants to be the only tomboy you see, and Jemima Rooper is perfect as the sulky George and some of her best facial expressions come out to play. Dutifully Berta submits to having her hair cut, though unlike in the book she can’t be said to make a better boy than George due to having straight hair as her hair is curly too.

Of course the moment Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin get called away, George gets kidnapped. The scene is fairly close to the one in the book; she goes down to the kennel to put Berta’s dog Sally in there and the crooks mistake her for Berta and kidnap her.  So the Five are down to four for a short while. Julian, Dick and Anne find the place where George must have been bundled into the car and some scrabble letters. I never could really work out why she had scrabble letters in her dressing gown.

As Berta, dressed as Jane now, is moved on to Joanna’s cousin in the next village over, who incidentally is the one who looks after the Five’s friend Jo, everyone puzzles over where George could have gone. It’s then we are treated to a second look at Vanessa Cavanagh as Jo as she comes bouncing back into the life of the Five and without a doubt proving her worth as she solves the scrabble letter clue in about five minutes (we are assuming that she has been taught to read and write at this point). With Jo’s help as she still has connections in the traveller world, they manage to get an idea where George might be being kept.

The build up to George being rescued is once again too rushed and there is detail missing, Dick almost falling down the stairs for example when he almost falls over the cat. Though my favourite bit isn’t actually in the book and is when Julian rings the police from the villains’ own house.

What can I say really about this episode? Some of it is brilliant and top notch, Julian ringing the police from the villains’ own house for example and Jo’s arrival in the house and stealing Dick’s bike. We come back however to the fact that 25 minutes is not enough time to accurately portray the book in the depth that us long term fans want. We forget, I think, that these programs are meant for children, but because they’re part of our Blyton lives we want them as accurate as possible, and I guess that just isn’t possible all the time!

The Five with Berta and Joanna (Joan) the cook and housekeeper.

The Five with Berta and Joanna (Joan) the cook and housekeeper.

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