The Great Saturday Morning Experience

Show Spotlight: Here Come the Double Deckers!

I’m not too sure when I first became an Anglophile. I do know it wasn’t with Harry Potter, Red Dwarf, Dr. Who, Monty Python, or even the Beatles, all of which I love. I’ve been fascinated with the culture since I can remember. I think my first introduction was The CBS Children’s Film Festival which played films from around the world with kids as the stars. Many of the films were from Britain and they were my favorites. The CBS CFF deserves a blog entry for another time but it wasn’t long after that a show came on Saturday Morning full of British kids, set in London and in a double decker bus no less. At the time I had no idea what a double decker bus even was nor did I realize this show had a connection to the aforementioned CBS CFF. I just knew it was fun. “Here Come the Double Deckers” premiered in the US on September 12th, 1970 on ABC and I loved it right away.

The show was a joint production of the independent film company from Britain called Century Films, and 20th Century Fox television from America. The following January 1st, it made its premiere on BBC1 in the UK. Both American and British kids were able to see the program, or programme, as it were, during the same season. ABC would go on to later air it on Sunday mornings the following year. Some ITV companies reran the show in the 1990s in the UK. Although originally planned to be a 26 episode long season with the hope of a second season of 26 more, only 17 episodes were made.

Earlier there was a film serial for the Children’s Film Foundation (a huge source of films for the CBS Children’s Film Festival) called “The Magnificent Six and 1/2”. It focused on seven kids having adventures that would be the basis for “Here Come the Double Deckers”. Two of the actors that were on that show; Micheal Audreson and Brinsley Forde, would go on to be in Double Deckers. Many of the crew from that serial also worked on Double Deckers including the producer, director, writer, and choreographer.

“Here Come the Double Deckers” was basically a comedy but with a bit of adventure thrown in. Although the kids hungout in a red double decker bus in the middle of a junkyard, they ended up all over the place getting into all kinds of messes. They had the prerequisite episode in a haunted mansion. There’s an episode where they think they are being invaded by aliens after they see men in spacesuits advertising a new candy. In typical show biz fashion there’s an episode where they put on a show to raise money for a nursing home. They go camping, run around a movie studio looking for a star’s runaway pooch, they find a washed up musician and try to make him into a star, they have fun and trouble when one of the gang turns invisible, and they go chasing a hovercraft all over town. In other words, fairly regular kids doing fairly regular things.

Episode Titles:

Tiger Takes Off / The Case of the Missing Doughnut /Get a Movie On
Starstruck / Happy Haunting / Summer Camp / The Pop Singer
Scooper Strikes Out / Robbie the Robot / The Go-Karters
A Helping Hound / Invaders from Space / Barney
Man’s Best Friend / United We Stand / Up to Scratch / A Hit for a Miss

Peter Firth/Micheal Audreson/Brinsley Forde/Gillian Bailey/Douglas Simmonds/Bruce Clark/Debbie Russ

The gang itself was comprised of Scooper (Peter Firth), the leader; Brains (Micheal Audreson), your typical boy genius; Spring (Brinsley Forde) the resident catch phrase guy; Billie (Gillian Bailey), a tomboy; Doughnut (Douglas Simmonds), the heavy eater; Sticks (Bruce Clark, the only American among the cast), a drummer; and Tiger (Debbie Russ), the youngest kid in the gang who’s stuffed animal tiger was also conveniently called Tiger. In most of the episodes there was also a street cleaner named Albert (Melvyn Hayes) who was as much helping them get into trouble as out of it.

There were lots of guest stars on the show like Frank Thornton (“Are You Being Served”/”The Last of the Summer Wine”), Norman Vaughn, David Lodge, Hugh Walters, Bonnie May, Pat Coombs, Jack Haig, and many others whose names are mostly unknown to American audiences. However there was one guest star who would go on to make a big splash in the movies and then later on American television. That would be none other than Jane Seymour. Long before she roamed the prairies as Dr. Quinn, got Christopher Reeve to come back through time just to woo her, fought Cylons as Serena, or even before messing around with James Bond and tarot cards as Solitaire, a young Jane (approximately 19) showed up in a concussion induced dream sequence as Alice, as in Alice in Wonderland.

Peter Firth/Micheal Audreson/Brinsley Forde/Gillian Bailey/Douglas Simmonds/Bruce Clark/Debbie Russ in later years

Peter Firth continued acting and was in such series as “The Doctors”, “The Magical World of Disney”, “Play for Today”, “Murder in Eden”, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”, “The Broker’s Man”, “MI-5”, and “Cheat”. He also found plenty of movie work showing up in such films as “King Arthur, the Young Warlord”, “Equus” (for which he was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe), “When You Comin’ Back Red Ryder?”, “Lifeforce”, “The Hunt for Red October”, “The Rescuers Down Under”, “Amistad”, and “Pearl Harbor”.

Michael Audreson went on to perform in the TV series “The Tomorrow People, as well as BBC2 Playhouse. In recent years he’s done a bit of writing, directing, and producing.

Brinsley Forde did a little more acting in such shows as “Villains” and “The Georgian House”, as well as movies like “Please Sir!”, “Diamonds Are Forever”, and “Babylon” but is probably best known for being the lead singer and guitarist for reggae group Aswad.

Gillian Bailey went on to appear in many series after Double Deckers including “The Doctors”, “Follyfoot”, “Thursday’s Child”, “Poldark”, “County Hall”, and “Strangers and Brothers”.

Douglas Simmonds quit acting and made a career of science. He researched medical computing at a hospital, was a medical student and worked with the DHS. Douglas also became a theoretical physicist. He passed away in 2011 from a heart attack.

Bruce Clark moved back to America and discontinued acting.

Debbie Russ moved from acting into marketing but before she did she did show up in the TV series “The Adventurer”, and “The Protectors” as well as the movie “The Flying Sorcerer”.

I’m surprised the show got cancelled as early on as it did. The plots were not completely original but that wasn’t a problem for a kids’ show as we certainly didn’t give a hoot about cliches or repetitive plots. You had a show where the boys fall for a substitute teacher, making Billie jealous. That one also ends up in them putting on a show for charity. There’s one where the gang takes on odd jobs to help an elderly lady from getting evicted from a dastardly landlord. There are heart warming moments, such as the episode where they befriend a street performer getting hassled by the police. There’s an episode where they do a take off of “Laugh-In”. There was plenty of slapstick and some “Little Rascals” style antics. All in all it was everything a kid show needed to be successful.

There were some items sold in America like lunch boxes and coloring books. The series wasn’t successful enough to get much further merchandising. The complete series was released on DVD in the UK. Unfortunately there was not a US release. Perhaps that’s in large part because it seems to be a mostly forgotten show in America which is a shame as it was a really great part of Saturday mornings growing up in the early 1970s. Maybe it will show up in the future somewhere on a streaming service but until then those of us who remember will just have our dusty old memories (and some random YouTube clips) of this wonderful show.

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