Up To Scratch: Episode 16 of Here Come The Double Deckers

Episode 16: Up To Scratch
First shown: 19 December 1970 (US), 30 April 1971 (UK)
Director: Harry Booth
Writer: Glyn Jones
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
Timothy Bateson as Mr. Furber
Ann Lancaster as the Landlady


Billie is looking after a dog called Scratch. Brains is trying to communicate with Mars. Mr Furber arrives with his flea circus, and the gang manage to reinstate him into his previous lodgings after finding his landlady’s dog..


While setting up their pet sanctuary, the gang (except Brains) sing “Old MacDonald Had A Farm”:

Glorious Moments

This is quite a charming episode, with the pets and the flea circus. As often with Glyn Jones, he took a single idea, which had already been done twice (in Episode 7: The Pop Singer and Episode 13: Barney) – the kids take mercy on a passing performer – and did something rather good with it.

There is a very cute sequence at the end where Tiger takes some performing dogs through their paces.

Less glorious moments

Transatlantic interpretation: Sticks excitedly cries, on being informed that Billie is getting two pounds a week for dog-sitting, “Why, that’s over five dollars!”

What's all this then?

The flea circus with non-existent fleas has been around for a while, but was popularised on British TV by former Goon Michael Bentine, best remembered by my generation for Michael Bentine’s Potty Time (1973-74), though the flea circus apparently was first shown on It’s A Square World (1960-64). I have a dim memory of seeing huim demonstrate it to Michael Aspel on Crackerjack! in the very early 1970s. I can’t find any clips of it online, unfortunately.

This is the fourth (and last) of the 17 episodes whose plot revolves around a dog. (The others were Episode 3: Starstruck, Episode 11: A Helping Hound, and Episode 14: Man’s Best Friend – the latter admittedly a bit of a stretch in that the dog is a hypothetical dog until the very last scene.)

Who's That?

Timothy Bateson (Mr Furber) was born in 1926, and had many supporting roles on film and TV without ever quite hitting the big time (he had the lead role in a sitcom about lighthousemen in 1970). I did not recognise him at all, but he played Binro the Heretic in the 1978 Doctor Who story The Ribos Operation, and was also the voice of Kreacher in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), his last role before his death in 2009.

Ann Lancaster (the Landlady) was born in 1920. She too played a lot of supporting roles, mostly in comedy, ending with Ruth the parlourmaid in the classic 1970 film of The Railway Children and with this episode, both of which were shown only after her death in 1970.

J.C. Penney, born in 1975 so aged 95 when the show was made, owned the stores that provided the wardrobe for the kids in the show. Several of the actors have reminisced in interviews about how much better dressed they felt they were for the show than English children were in real life at that stage. Obviously for J.C. Penney, the advertising potential was pretty important – and entirely US-based; there were no Penney’s shops this side of the Atlantic. (The Irish chain originally called Penneys, now Primark, was only in Dublin in 1970 and anyway is a completely different company.)

Where's that?

Mr Furber is kicked out of, and later restored to, 16 Essex Road in Borehamwood, which is still there though the bow windows have been renovated.

See you next week…

…for A Hit for a Miss.

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1 Response to Up To Scratch: Episode 16 of Here Come The Double Deckers

  1. yiskah says:

    Ha, this is literally the only Who I can ever comment on, as my dad was in the Terror of the Vervoids and I got to visit the set and got in trouble for trying to eat the sugared almonds that formed a part of the set. And that’s pretty much all I can remember about it.

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