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Dick & Dom In Da Bungalow
© 2002-2006 BBC


Snot funny!
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 favourite pranksters.

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 ban.

"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 too naughty."

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.

Snot funny