Worzel Gummidge, BBC One (4 stars)

Worzel Gummidge, BBC One

Mackenzie Crook drops a green message into his charming update of the 1970s scarecrow show

It sounds like a back-handed compliment, but Mackenzie Crook was born to play a scarecrow. Watching him ease those angular limbs and lean body down from his post and stride wonkily across the field of Scatterbrook Farm, it looks as natural as breathing. With a strong nod to the make-up team, he embodies every inch of the arrogant yet kind-hearted hero; but Crook's talents don't end there. He not only plays Worzel Gummidge, but wrote and directed this re-awakening of the late-70s ITV hit, sliding it nicely into the 21st century.

Just as Toy Story buys into the secret childish hope that playthings come to life when we're not around, Worzel Gummidge invites us to revel in the notion that when we turn our backs, scarecrows do likewise. Our way in is through newcomers Susan and John, two foster kids from the city sent to the farm for a break. They, and they alone, know that Worzel and his chums can think and feel just like the rest of us.

In episode one of this charming two-parter, a late harvest has got Worzel worried. The baby birds tucked inside his jacket show no inclination to flee the nest, and entire fields of corn have yet to ripen. The natural order of things is clearly out of whack, and the large tree Worzel usually turns to for advice is covered in discarded carrier bags.

Crook's environmental message is strong but never laboured, and he fits more than enough gags (visual and verbal) into each episode to avoid figure-wagging or preaching to the converted. A strong cast (including Vicki Pepperdine as Aunt Sally and Michael Palin's Green Man), superb prosthetics and beautiful scenery make this a festive treat. With any luck, like the proverbial puppy, it won't just be for Christmas.

Worzel Gummidge airs on BBC One, Thursday 26 December, 6.20pm, Friday 27 December, 7pm.

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