Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy (3 stars)

Worzel Gummidge: Saucy Nancy

Another gentle tale cements Mackenzie Crook's Worzel as a festive TV staple

After a successful 2019 reboot of the walking talking scarecrow Worzel Gummidge, Mackenzie Crook returns with another story and a further performance in the role made famous by Jon Pertwee. The ex-Office guy is shaping the part as very much his own though, making Worzel a slightly less weedy creation despite owning similarly naïve worldviews and an equal confusion over the simple things in life.

The character introduced to proceedings is Saucy Nancy, a carved ship's figurehead who has been abandoned in a scrapyard and is determined to get back to the sea. Fortunately, Worzel and his kiddie pals Susan (India Brown) and John (Thierry Wickens) are on the spot to assist. Shirley Henderson transforms into the foul-mouthed bit of wood (in truth, her curses are mainly made-up gibberish which sound as though they might possibly be swears but which aren't enough to frighten the pre-watershed horses), delivering all this in a curious childish twang that makes her Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter sound as though she has the verbal gravitas of Brian Blessed. Speaking of the booming legend, he crops up briefly as Abraham Longshanks, a scarecrow with a wheelbarrow, to enliven a tale that meanders gently like a babbling brook rather than hitting you square with a tsunami of gags and visual mayhem.

To keep the mild non-perilous tale ticking over, there's a trad folk score and performance from The Unthanks which might make older viewers recall the original Worzel's peer Bagpuss and those musical mice. The all-new Worzel Gummidge looks set to become a feature on the festive season calendar, and while there are edgier shows and more challenging films for kids, this gentle scarecrow has an appeal as wide as his arms when he's stopping birds in their tracks.

BBC One, Thursday 24 December, 5.55pm. Available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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