The Famous Five TV Series

There have been a few adaptions of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five for the television and screen over the years. The first was Five on a Treasure Island in 1957, in black-and-white, made as a weekly serial for cinema goers by The Children’s Film Foundation. The second was the 1964 adaptation of Five Have a Mystery to Solve serialised in the same format.

1957 Five on a Treasure Island cast.

1957 Five on a Treasure Island cast.

This blog and subsequent blogs will not be focusing on these two adaptations but will look at the 1970s and 1990s TV adaptations. I chose these two series because they get compared an awful lot on the Enid Blyton Society Forums. Due to these comparisons, I decided that I wanted to have a more detailed look into the two series and compare them to the original text and each other.

In this post I plan to outline a few key factors that need to be taken into consideration when looking at these adaptations, and introduce you to the actors and actresses who took on the roles of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.

The title screen for the 1964 British Film Foundation film, Five have a Mystery to Solve.

1964 Five have a Mystery to Solve.

Let’s take a look at what we should remember when looking at these TV series.

  • Most importantly the two series were created almost 20 years apart. So not only had the filming techniques improved by the 90s, the children were allowed to film at night! (In the 70s series, dark filters were used to simulate night-time, which means that some of the scenes hardly a thing can be seen!)
  • Both series only had a limited time in which to fit a full length adventure. The two series only had 25 minutes per episode (sometimes adventures were put into two parts which enabled the directors to go into a bit more depth with the stories).
  • In the 1970s there were a few episodes of The Famous Five adventures that weren’t filmed. Five on a Treasure Island was not filmed because the copyright was still held by the Children’s Film Foundation , which means that the first book can only be compared to the 90s series. Other episodes not filmed were Five have Plenty of Fun  and Five Have a Mystery to Solve. In these cases the books shall only have a comparison with the 90s series.
  • In the 70s series a new character was added into the fray, a new adult, Rogers who in a way replaces the cook/housekeeper Joan/Joanna. Rogers is a handyman/gardener type who on occasion has to keep an eye on the children.
  • There are two very different styles of shooting these two series. The 70s Famous Five was modernised and updated, so the children were wearing 70s clothes, and all the vehicles and technologies etc were all updated with them; this has aged the series more significantly than its 90s counter part. The 90s Famous Five was set in the 40s and 50s, the time period of the novels, which helps them create a wonderful period feel and does not age them.
  • A rather personal one now, but something you all need to bear in mind for me: I have a very strong bias to the 90s series. It was the version I grew up with and the cast that I do adore. I shall try not to let that influence my posts however.

    The 70s Famous Five. (L-R) Marcus Harris, Jennifer Thanisch, Michelle Gallagher, Gary Russell and Toddy

    The 70s Famous Five. (L-R) Marcus Harris, Jennifer Thanisch, Michele Gallagher, Gary Russell and Toddy

Now we have those six points that you need to keep in your mind when reading the blogs that will come after this one. On to the actors and actresses now!

70s Cast

  • Julian: Marcus Harris
  • Dick: Gary Russell
  • Anne: Jennifer Thanisch
  • George: Michele Gallagher
  • Timmy: Toddy

90s Cast

  • Julian: Marco Williamson
  • Dick: Paul Child
  • Anne: Laura Petela
  • George: Jemima Rooper
  • Timmy: Connal
The 90s Famous Five (L- R) Laura Petela, Paul Child, Marco Williamson, Jemima Rooper and Connal

The 90s Famous Five (L- R) Laura Petela, Paul Child, Marco Williamson, Jemima Rooper and Connal

There are the two main casts you will need to know about for these blogs. Two stellar casts that can divide opinions; for example neither Timmy really matches the one a lot of us have in our heads.

The first blog for the TV series to appear will be looking at Five on Treasure Island, and how the 90s adaptation lives up to what’s in the book. I shall also examine the official first episode of the 70s series a little to explore the way in which the cousins meet and begin to gel together!

For now, I direct you to YouTube to see snippets and whole episodes of each series for yourself.

Happy viewing!

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9 Responses to The Famous Five TV Series

  1. Gerry Francis Kelly says:

    I did not see either series when they were first shown although my two daughters loved the 1970s series. Looking at them now I do prefer the 1990s series as it seems much nearer to the books. However the actors in the 1970s series are very engaging and it reeks of the 1970s which is fun. George in the 1990s season is an excellent actress although I did not like the representation of Julian.



  2. I prefer the 90s series version. Each casts pictured the characters very well… Except Julian looked a bit old for the character’s age.. And I never thought Dick would be that handsome LOL
    Above all, the casts in this 90s series were the most perfect picturing the characters! Not only the appearances, but the personalities they brought till the end really well! I think they changed a bit some of the scenes or shortened them for each episodes since I think the story from the book can’t fit in 25 mins each episodes.


  3. nirmitee says:

    I liked 90’s series most . All the actors were very good . I liked Jemima rooper and marco williamson the most . Paul child ‘s acting was very good . Laura suited anne ‘s character


  4. 7mallig says:

    I agree, I REALLY hate the 90’s version, Julian=Too old, looks wrong, Dick=His hair is ‘wishy-washy’ (I hope you know what I mean) Gorge= Just like a girl! (literally! Think of their adaptation of Five on Billycock Hill! [HOPELESS])


  5. chrissie777 says:

    Did you ever review the 1957 CFF version of FOATI?


  6. Sean Hagins says:

    I know the 70s series from way back, and never heard of the 90s series until recently (I mean like yesterday) That said, I am listening to audios of the books again and watching the shows, and the 90s series is far more book accurate (which I really appreciate) As a kid, I thought Anne was cute (Remember, I was a kid too when watching this), but knew she was far older than the Anne of the books. In fact, adults are there entirely too much as the Famous Five books thrilled because the kids were on their own (with some exceptions). I used to watch the Famous Five just before the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew hour (remember that anyone?). I think the FF captivated me more as the kiddies were closer to my age (although I did think George from Nancy Drew was cute (she’s also a girl))


  7. Richard Beard says:

    thanks for these insights. I loved the books as a child, vaguely remember the 70s series. Now my kids love the audio books read by Janet Francis on car journeys. I want to show them the TV series and investigating the 90s version as well as the 70s. Seems 90s has more going for it.


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