TV Cream

100 Greatest TV Moments

47) “It was now known to all and sundry as Barbara Castle!”

The Worm That Turned, 1st November 1980

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We’ve remarked before on the incredible variety and production values of The Two Ronnies and they were never better illustrated than in their filmed serials, where they were making in essence a complete feature-length comedy film every year. The most celebrated is probably The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town, but we’re highlighting The Worm That Turned because it was perhaps the most memorable – helped by several repeats in the 20/21/22 Years Of The Two Ronnies compilations through most of the eighties – and even now it remains quite a striking piece of television. OK, so basically it’s an excuse to make a load of sexist jokes about men and women changing places (though the Larry Grayson joke is quite subtle, we suppose) and much of the humour comes from the fact Ronnie B looks funny in a frock, but it’s executed incredibly well and, with eight ten-minute episodes to play with, they can actually tell a proper story and create a (slightly) realistic three dimensional setting. What really makes it stand out for us, though, is the way it looks and sounds. Being completely shot on film it has that extra sheen, the animated opening titles are hugely memorable and, best of all we think, there’s the incidental music which is really quite unsettling and fits in perfectly with the skee-wiff setting. Despite a totally daft premise, there is something quite melancholy and creepy about the whole thing, enough to unsettle us a bit where we were young. It’s arguable whether it’s realised so effectively that it justifies the marathon running time, flagging quite badly at points as the jokes get exhausted, but it looks and sounds so unusual and the concept is so well-executed that it’s certainly a laudable attempt at doing something totally out of the ordinary.



  1. Richardpd

    January 3, 2022 at 1:48 pm

    Quite a mixed bag as the review mentions. Many funny moments along with the twisted logic, and the sort of pathos Ronnie B often added to his works when given a bit more time to play things out to make a big statement. The Six Dates anthology series had a few of these, especially the one set in the future where comedy is a religion.

    Some of the gender based jokes were a little cheesy even in 1980, but at least are played subtlety rather than being sledge-hammered across.

    Considering Ronnie B didn’t like playing parts in drag I wonder how he coped with this.

    Stop! You’re Killing Me! is another good 2 Ronnies serial.

  2. Glenn Aylett

    January 3, 2022 at 2:05 pm

    Piggy Malone is the funniest of the filmed Two Ronnies serials, being filmed on location in Devon, and featuring Kate O Mara doing a very convincing Devon accent. It’s big and black and I be afraid if it. Worm is quite funny as well and featured Mrs Mc Cluskey from Grange Hill in a major role just before she took over the Hill.

    • Richardpd

      January 8, 2022 at 4:37 pm

      Yes it had a cracking theme called The Detectives which was a stock track that sounded like a real crime thriller theme.

      There was a deaf vicar who fell foul of Charlie’s ghost scaring gadget.

  3. Paul Bovey

    June 23, 2023 at 7:25 pm

    I agree about the creepy and melancholy vibe. Being entirely on (presumably 16mm) film contributed to it.

    Alan Tew’s The Detectives was also the main  theme to Yorkshire Television’s The Hanged Man. The soundtrack album it appeared on included a library track called The Big One – The Heist, which features in episode 6 of The Worm That Turned (and also served as the theme tune for The People’s Court in the US as well as several exploitation/porn films).

    • George White

      June 24, 2023 at 11:59 am

      Also used in episode 5 of the Worm that Turned, to illustrate a rural idyll,, Paul Ferris’ bucolic theme to Witchfinder General , which ended up as library music, ending up in Lindsay Shonteff’s Nam picture How Sleep the Brave.

  4. Richardpd

    June 23, 2023 at 10:51 pm

    It’s fun how stock tracks are used over the years, The Grandstand theme was used on that rollercoaster documentary with Vincent Price of all people presenting it!

    The tune used as the Dave Allen At Large theme has been used on at least one film, confusing a young David Baddiel!

    The Channel 4 theme was also used on a Western.

    • Droogie

      June 24, 2023 at 3:03 am

      @Richardpd I remember getting very confused when I first saw Give Us A Clue as a kid ( which they used to show on afternoon telly in HYV West.) The theme tune was the same as Grange Hill ( a piece of library music called Chicken Man I believe.)

  5. Richardpd

    June 24, 2023 at 11:54 am

    I heard Give Us A Clue used the same theme at first, but leter on it gained a specially written theme song.

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