Red faces as new BBC Worzel Gummidge episode ‘littered’ with sexual innuendos

Remaking a beloved children’s classic is always fraught with difficulty, as nostalgic viewers with eagle eyes tune in to see how it has been updated for a new generation.

In the case of the BBC’s new Worzel Gummidge, the writers appear to have thrown caution to the wind entirely, to appeal to an audience of innuendo-loving Carry On fans.

The latest episode of the children’s television programme sees actors deliver a range of hidden jokes for watching adults, incorporating the naughtiest-sounding bird names they could find.

Watching parents were left furious, it is claimed, after the finding it "littered it with sexual innuendos".

The new episode of the rebooted series, called Twitchers, was broadcast on BBC One at 7.15pm on Tuesday. It was also released on iPlayer.

Viewers remarked on the unusual frequency of bird names, including the “red-knobbed coot”, “blue-footed booby” and “penduline tit”.

In one scene Steve Pemberton – the actor who plays Henry Braithwaite, the grumpy farmer – tells his foster children about his former hobby as a bird-watcher.

He was beaten by a rival twitcher, he said, who spotted a "red-knobbed coot" before he did.

In another scene, Lee Dangerman tells a fictional news reporter he "travelled 350 miles to see a blue-footed booby".

Minutes later, during an interview for the evening television news, he stares into the camera and asks the female reporter: "Have you ever seen a penduline tit?"

The flustered news reporter quickly brings the interview to the close, saying “we’ll cut there", while he tells her: "I have."

Viewers: Worzel Gummidge Twitchers episode ‘a bit too rude for a young audience’

Some viewers claimed that t-shirts in the background of the scenes, which had the words "I was choughed at Scatterbook", were a deliberate slang for sex.

One accused Mackenzie Crook – who wrote and directed the new series, as well as starring as the lead character – of "going for cheap laughs".

Mackenzie Crook, left, the writer of the new Worzel Gummidge series who also stars in the show

Credit: Chris Harris/Leopard Pictures

Jodie Graham, a 45-year-old mother-of-four, from Alnwick, Northumberland, said: "I usually love watching the new Worzel Gummidge episodes and my kids do too, but I was a bit surprised about the Twitchers one.

"They littered it with far too much sexual innuendo for my liking. I counted at least three rude gags, which is a lot for a family programme.

"My youngest is only seven and he kept asking me why Susan and John were laughing when Mr Braitwaite said ‘red-knobbed coot’. I didn’t really have an answer."

Gavin Taylor, 40, from Nottingham, said: "Worzel is a Christmas tradition in our house but the bird-watching episode was a bit too rude for a young audience.

"I felt the writers were going for cheap laughs on this one, although I did find the ‘red-knobbed coot’ line amusing.”

One social media user said: "Few naughty jokes in Worzel tonight. Must admit I did laugh when Lee Dangerman asked TV reporter Hazel Diamond if she’d ever seen a penduline tit!"

Lee Arnold tweeted: "Almost choked on my mince pie after watching the new Gummidge with my family.

"Two boob gags, a knob reference and t-shirts proudly declaring ‘I got choughed in Scatterbook’.

"My 20-year-old nephew tells me ‘choughed’ is youth parlance for ‘sex’. I imagine a savvy student will make a killing flogging ‘I got choughed by Worzel’ t-shirts soon."

The BBC spokesman said the corporation would not comment on the complaints, but confirmed the episode was watched by 2.7 million viewers on BBC One.

Complaint numbers are published by the BBC every fortnight.

The Worzel Gummidge Twitchers episode was awarded four stars by The Telegraph, but has since attracted some criticism from viewers

Credit: Chris Harris/Leopard Films

The Telegraph awarded the show four stars, saying: “It was a beautifully-plotted, typically confident piece of storytelling that managed to get in a few subtle ecological messages.”

Benji Wilson, the reviewer, noted of the plot: “The quarry here was a flock of rare choughs (and I think Crook was in on the pun).”

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