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Series / The Basil Brush Show

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"Ha, ha, ha, ha, boom boom!"

The Basil Brush Show is a CBBC series involving a fox puppet and his human companions. Originally running from 1968 to 1980 on BBC1, either during Children's Hour or the Saturday early evening slot, it has a tendency toward Breaking the Fourth Wall and using Double Entendre to appeal to adult (presumably parental) viewers as well as children. The BBC cancelled the show before picking it up again in 2002, complete with a Spin-Off, Basil's Swap Shop.

Basil Brush was designed by Bagpuss co-creator Peter Firmin and voiced by puppeteer Ivan Owen (who studiously avoided seeking any publicity for the role, feeling it made Basil more believable if no-one knew the identity of his "controller") until his death in 2000. The character first appeared in 1962 in a series called The Three Scampies about out-of-work circus performers, and was later paired with magician David Nixon for such series as Nixon at Nine-Five and The Nixon Line, where his comic antics proved such a hit with viewers that he was spun off into his own series.

In the 1968-80 incarnation of The Basil Brush Show, Basil had a series of human co-stars/comedy stooges, always addressed by Basil as "Mr. [actor's first name]"; in order, they included former Likely Lad Rodney Bewes, a pre-Yes, Minister Derek Fowlds, actor/singer Roy North, Three Scampies alumnus Howard Williams, and Billy Boyle. The episodes opened with a joke-filled introduction by Basil and his co-star, followed by a comedy sketch (which often included topical jokes), a musical number (often performed by a guest star, sometimes as a straight performance and sometimes as a comic duet with Basil), and finally a serial story about a famous relative of Basil's (such as spacefarer Blast-Off Basil or Robin Hood parody Basil the Farmer, Knight in Shining Armour) which would be frequently interrupted by jokes and asides from the fox himself. At the height of the series' popularity in the 1970s, actors and singers were queueing up for the chance to be the butt of Basil's humour for an episode.

Although Basil continued to appear on television sporadically across the 1980s and 1990s, it was not until 2002 that The Basil Brush Show was revived, with Christopher Pizzey as Basil's new comic foil, Mr Stephen, and child actors Georgina Leonidas and Michael Hayes as friends of Basil and Stephen's (as with Ivan Owen, the identity of Basil's voice actor/puppeteer remains a closely guarded secret). Other characters included Basil's hyperactive nephew Bingo, his criminal cousin Mortimer, latter-day hippie Madison, and Lethal Chef Anil. The revived series followed a more straightforward sitcom format with animated inserts and ran until 2007. Basil continues to make sporadic theatre and television appearances to this day.


  • All for Nothing: In the episode, "The Incapables", Madison and Molly spend an episode raising money for an endangered species called the Bolivian Moose Ant, and Madison just so happens to own the last Bolivian Moose Ant in the world which she named "Jumbo". In the last moments of the episode, however, Madison accidentally kills Jumbo, rendering his species extinct.
  • Animal Superheroes: One episode, “The Incapables”, has Basil and Bingo try to be superheroes(The Flying Phantom and Derek, respectively) in order to deal with a crimewave. Unfortunately, they tend to spend more time trying to outdo Stephen and Dave, who took up the mantles of Mighty Muscle and Wide Boy.
  • Aside Glance: Usually accompanied by a low chuckle.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: After Mr. Steven gives away a large sum of money that wasn't his (thus fulfilling the moral lesson for the episode) that could have allowed him to go to the Maldives, Basil comes out with this little gem...
    Basil: You know, sometimes my admiration for Mr. Steven (beat) goes right through the bleeding floor!
  • Be Careful What You Say: Happens when they turn the flat into the best, worst hotel in the world.
    Molly: (trying to get Stephen to understand that their problems are over) We can even afford to pay the landlord.
    Basil: Speak of the Devil and he shall appear.
    (Sure enough, Mr. Rossiter appears at the door, in a devil costume and accompanied by ominous music)
  • Brick Joke: Plenty. One would often be set up at the start and appear at the end.
    Basil: You don't know anyone who's lost any bees do you?
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor Stephen.
  • Catchphrase: Basil's trademark 'Boom! Boom!'. Other members of the Brush family have their own variations (e.g. Cousin Mortimer's 'Bang! Bang!', Nephew Bingo's 'Bing! Bing!', Uncle Maximillion's 'Bank! Bank!' and Sir Lancelot De Brush's 'Ye Boom! Ye Boom!')
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Steven's Love Interest in season one had the excuse of being fired from the show due to joining Mortimer. Ella in season 2 however vanishes for no reason come season 3.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Fails hilariously in-universe when it's revealed the show only has four fans.
  • Deconstructed Trope: To deal with a rat problem, Molly buys a cat so it can hunt the rat, however, the cat isn't interested in hunting. Contrary to popular belief, domesticated cats aren't great rat hunters because the rats can detect cats and will adjust their strategies in response.
  • Death Course: Basil and Stephen end up going through one of these after discovering the tomb of King Tutenbeck under the flat.
  • Double Standard: Steven is always punished for giving women unwanted attention and is ridiculed in turn whenever he's harassed by less attractive women. In one episode, Steven was basically made a sex slave to an ugly woman (they didn't say it outright, a visual pun was made when his stalker locked him in a shed and made him act like a dog).
  • Evil Twin: In this case, Evil Cousin. Cousin Mortimer to be exact.
  • Frame-Up: One episode has Basil framed for a crime, with the real perps being Anil's long-lost children, one of whom was the officer making the arrest.
  • Flanderization: Mr. Steven alone became much more of a Butt-Monkey and got more childish with each season.
  • Food Fight: Happens in the very first episode, ending with someone hitting the camera, causing the camera crew to desert them.
  • Girls with Moustaches: Molly wears one as part of a throwaway gag.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Slightly twisted in Dave's case.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Parodied in one episode, with Basil and Bingo being extremely unsubtle about it, to the point of announcing that they’re going to use the routine to the person they’re interrogating.
  • Hot Blooded Sideburns: The captain of Saint Nigel's football team has a pair of these and is shown to be hyper-aggressive and competitive. At the end of the episode, he's shown to be a graceful loser and he comes to their changing room to congratulate them.
  • In Name Only: In-universe, one episode concerns Basil starring in a Big Damn Movie of the show, only for the director to replace all of Basil’s co-stars with American actors for more international appeal, and by the end, the film has been turned into a sci-fi romp that doesn’t even feature Basil, replacing him with a pug referred to as Star Captain Basil.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dave can be quite the miser but he has shown displays of kindness particularly in the episode "Going For Broke".
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Cousin Mortimer.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: After Basil makes a bad pun ("Why is it easy for fish to get Football? Because they've got 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea!"), Mr. Steven gives him a red card.
  • Land Down Under: Complete with Steve Irwin parody.
  • Lava Pit: In this case, a pool of Anil's chili sauce.
  • Lethal Chef: Anil’s main schtick is being one of these. Almost every time someone visits his cafe, there’s a complaint about the food being awful. As noted above, his chili sauce is capable of functioning as lava.
  • Literal Metaphor: A lot. For example, the check bounced.
    • Walls have ears.
    • Climbing the walls in boredom.
  • Medium Awareness: It’s quite common for the show to have the characters mention that they’re on a TV show.
  • Mind Screw: They keep going back and forth on either or not they're in a show, in real life, or in a show about their lives. Often during the same episode.
  • "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop: Happens when they encounter the chili sauce.
    Dave: What we need, is someone so dumb they wouldn't know the risk.
    (Basil pops his head up. Dave and Stephen look at each other. Basil turns to them)
    Basil: Exchange all the knowing looks you like! I've checked the script, and it's Mr. Stephen, who goes over the chili sauce.
    Stephen: (looking rather dismayed as the Mission: Impossible music starts) What?
  • Ms. Fanservice: Madison got more notice than other women in the series (women older than the younger characters of course) and in the episode Revenge of the Mummy she was dressed as a Playboy Bunny. In fact, the show really played up the sex appeal with women to emphasize Steven's bad luck with finding love.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: It was much funnier the second time.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ivan Owen based Basil's voice on Terry-Thomas, giving the character a touch of well-cultivated class. Owen worked with Thomas on Stars in Battledress and also lifted his "penchant for bad, self-satisfied, golf-club-bore jokes".
  • No Fourth Wall: The 2002 series turns Breaking the Fourth Wall up to eleven. Characters frequently acknowledge that they're on a studio set, reading through the script, talking to the voice-over man, cutaways to the writer's room, and in several episodes, the camera crew gets involved in the action.
    Basil: Yes. And I'm a talking fox in a wobbly set with a bunch of drama school drop-outs.
  • One I Prepared Earlier: Parodied. Basil finds a muffin recipe from one of his relatives, but they take 45 minutes to make whilst the show is only 25 minutes. Cue a screen wipe where we see a tray of finished muffins and Basil saying, "And here are some I made earlier."
  • The Pete Best: An Inverted In-Universe example in "Fox Rocks". Basil, Liam, Lucy and Madison form a rock band with Basil as the main singer, but Basil's singing doesn’t fit the genre. He’s replaced by Mortimer, whose gravelly vocals suit the band much more. Unfortunately, Mortimer becomes a prima donna, making outlandish demands and scandalously getting addicted to fruit juice. Meanwhile, Basil has been busking outside Anil's Cafe, and his huskier voice as a result allows him to return to the band.
  • Pink Is Love: In the episode "Molly in Love", both Molly and Dave are shown wearing pink as they are shown to be enamored with their respective crushes.
  • Pro Wrestling Episode: “Foxweight Champion” has the gang set up their own wrestling promotion in Anil’s Cafe, becoming successful enough that their favorite wrestler, The Stone comes out of retirement in order to challenge the entire promotion.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Exaggerated at one point, where upon being unmasked, the ghost turns out to be every character that was introduced for this episode… and ultimately Anil.
  • The Scrooge: Dave.
  • Self-Deprecation: Sometimes the audience's reactions to new developments are shown, yes, all four of them.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: In one episode Steven made a wish that he was irresistible to women. By morning everyone saw him as such, however, he soon regretted the wish and begged to be put back the way he was.
  • Squashed Flat: Shame the show ended on such a "flat" note.
  • Speak of the Devil: Played for laughs in “The Pitz Hotel”, where Molly mentions the profits from turning the flat into a hotel can help them pay off the landlord. Basil namedrops the trope, and then the landlord comes in, dressed as a Big Red Devil.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Their attempt to run the "Worst Hotel in Britain" ends up attracting tourists.
  • Undercrank: Used extensively during the Football match between Dave's team and St. Nigel's School.
  • Wacky Sound Effect: Also used extensively during the Football match between Dave's team and St. Nigel's School.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!
    Stephen: (describing a B-Movie they're watching) A stupid story, with really wooden actors...
    Basil: (to the audience) Why does the phrase 'business as usual' spring to mind?
  • Wingding Eyes: When Dave learns Anil will give anything to give his plumbing fixed.
  • Women Are Wiser: Molly tends to be the most reasonable person in the cast.
  • Zillion-Dollar Bill: The solution to the first Broke Episode. Unfortunately, it turns out to be made of rubber.


Video Example(s):


Basil Brush and the polygraph

To determine his responsibility in the robbing of the world's major banks, the gold reserves of Fort Knox (and even his own piggy bank), Basil Brush is subjected to a polygraph test.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / LieDetector

Media sources: