The Guardian - Saturday 13 November 2004
They're loud, they're silly and their show is a riot of gunk-flinging
anarchy. No wonder kids love Dick and Dom. Johnny Sharp meets TV's
Among the many millions of people who enjoyed the legendary children's
programme Tiswas was young Dominic Wood. Very young, in fact. He
was four years old when the show ended in 1982.
"I remember it from when I was really tiny," he says.
"Lenny Henry doing 'oookeeeey', the dead fly, all that. Brilliant."
There's no reason to suspect he's lying, and yet false-memory syndrome
is the hallmark of classic TV. Ask anyone of a certain age about
Tiswas and they'll instantly recall the cage full of kids, Algernon
Razzmatazz with his condensed-milk sandwiches, the Phantom Flan-Flinger
and Trevor McDonut. Ask them what they actually watched on Saturday
mornings as kids, and after some prodding they'll shamefully admit
they watched Swap Shop on the other side. And yet they remember
far more about the programme they rarely saw. We can only conclude
that they soaked up Tiswas from repeat clips or playground repetitions
of "okeee" and "this is what they want", to
the point where they're convinced they were big fans at the time.
In 20 years' time people may well cherish similar memories of watching
Dick And Dom In Da Bungalow every Saturday morning, even the ones
who actually tune into Ministry Of Mayhem most Saturdays on the
constant promise of McFly turning up, or because their parents think
Dick And Dom is "just daft". What's more, Dick And Dom
is every bit as good as its viewers and non-viewers will one day
remember it being.
The comparisons to Tiswas are apposite because it's based on pretty
much the same premise - create a small, parent-free corner of the
world in which, for a couple of hours every Saturday, a bunch of
kids can do what the snotting, stinking, gunk-flinging hell they
want. That can involve anything from food fights to baby races,
unicycling through piles of baked beans to shouting the word "bogies"
in public libraries.
Dick and Dom themselves are two gurning, farting, belching man-brats
who act as renegade ringmasters in a circus of the absurd and crudely
shoehorn it into a loose gameshow format. If that makes no sense,
then watch the programme, and it probably still won't make any sense.
The kids understand perfectly, though. To them, Dick and Dom are
a junior Vic and Bob, and their bizarre in-jokes, recurring characters
and situations and flagrant, pointless silliness can only be fully
appreciated by seasoned "bungalow heads".
Still, even half-appreciation of Dick And Dom is about 10 times
as much fun as anyone's likely to have watching Jennifer Ellison
mime her new single on the other channel.
One reason why it works is because it's quite clear from the outset
that the presenters are having as much of a riot as the kids. During
the live recording of the show that we witness, 28-year-old Richard
"Dick" McCourt and 26-year-old Dominic "Dom"
Wood spend more time laughing at the kids and each other than listening
to stage directions or working out what they're meant to be doing
next. It gives the show a genuine edge, a chaotic vibe where you
recall that old adult warning "it'll end in tears" (even
though it never actually has). It's telling that, unlike most kids'
presenters, McCourt and Wood both claim quite convincingly to have
always wanted to be kids' TV presenters, and have no great ambitions
to graduate to primetime (although an imminent appearance on Comic
Relief night is rumoured). That said, their nomination for two children's
TV Baftas won't have done their prospects any harm.
Indeed, in the flesh there's something decidedly kidult-ish about
them. Dom, a former junior magician of the year, is small, cute
and ebullient, while the taller, ex-hospital radio DJ Dick still
retains a few teenage spots and a certain studenty geekishness.
Maybe it's the Peter Pan effect of working in kids TV since your
teens. The pair met eight years ago as researchers and occasional
presenters in "the broom cupboard", CBBC's link studio
since the days of Gordon the Gopher.
"I was 18," says Dom, "he was 20, and everyone else
was like, 28 or 29, so we naturally had the same interests. You
know, going to the pub, birds ..."
While apparently not "confirmed bachelors" in the best
light-entertainment tradition, the pair did end up as flatmates
in "a right bachelor pad" for four years and their inseparable
friendship led CBBC bosses to pair them on screen. The Bungalow
was born in 2002, and the show did two series on digital before
going terrestrial last year. Halfway through their fourth series
in all, their double act is showing no signs of flagging.
"Theirs is a genuine friendship and that's something quite
rare and valuable," says producer Steve Ride. The show was
originally his brainchild and, from the start, all involved agreed
on one thing - no celebrities.
"We felt it had got to the point where people were sick of
watching celebrities," says Dick. "We wanted to bring
the focus back onto the kids. Anyway, kids are far funnier than
any celebs - and more unpredictable."
As such it's done the public a service, even if using the phrase
"public-service broadcasting" might be stretching it for
a show which invariably ends in an orgy of something called "creamy
creamy muck muck". Admittedly, not all older viewers appreciate
its benevolent effect on their offspring. Dick and Dom were recently
admonished by Ofcom after Dom sported the T-shirt slogan "Morning
Wood" (they have a nice line in adult-aimed innuendo) and the
Bungalow can end up resembling a cross between a chimp's tea party
and Lord Of The Flies. Kids are positively encouraged to answer
back, and this discipline-free approach has led to many a parental
"Dads like us," says Dom, "students like us, the
kids obviously like us ... it's only mums that don't tend to get
it, and try to stop kids watching it. They think its too loud, and
Undoubtedly the loudest, naughtiest and most wildly popular section
of the show is Bogies. This is a pre-recorded segment wherein our
fearless duo visit an enclosed public place, such as a library,
museum or supermarket, and compete to shout the word bogies at increasingly
deafening volume, to a sport-style voiceover commentary. It is hilarious,
and has the unnerving effect of regressing adult viewers to the
age of 11 along with the presenters. It's become so popular that
they've now progressed to competing with kids' parents (they're
even looking for grandparents), and shouting it in foreign languages
on location in Europe. And needless to say, they can no longer walk
the streets outside school hours.
"We filmed something in Burnley in the school holidays,"
says Dom, "and they had to call four security guards to stop
all these kids swarming round shouting 'bogies'. It was insane."
"People play it on their own now," says Dick. "I
was in Ikea, and I hear this shout, 'BOGIIIIES!' Then his dad shouted
it somewhere else. I was wearing a cap and they hadn't seen me,
so it obviously wasn't for my benefit. They were just playing it
on their own. It's become a monster."
It has indeed, and it's come for your children. But if you haven't
got kids and you're not up in time to watch it, don't worry. You'll
probably hear enough about it in years to come to convince yourself
you were a regular viewer all along.