THAT’LL BE ALL, BERNARD
“Should we pick you on the DDP, Mr Derek?”
“What’s that, Basil?”
“It’s a dead punt. BOOM BOOM!”
Mr Derek Fowlds, friend of Basil the Brush, has sadly died aged 82 after a stint in hospital with heart problems. Indeed, the anthropomorphic toy fox has already been on Twitter, sharing his condolences. What a world we live in.
RADA trained Fowlds had already appeared in films such as Frankenstein Created Woman before his four year stint as straight man to a talking fox puppet. From that point on, via two much loved shows and a variety of guest spots, he was never off the TV for the next 50 years.
In Yes Minister (and its spin off Yes Prime Minister), Derek played Bernard Woolley, principle private secretary to the minister. As the man who had two bosses – MP/government minister Jim Hacker and civil service boss Sir Humphrey Appleby – Bernard is often stuck trying to please everyone, and much of the comedy comes from his pained intermediary position. So successful was Fowlds in the role, the writer quickly got rid of Neil Fitzwilliams Frank Weisel who was meant to be the straight man originally. Yes Minister and its sequel remain beloved TV shows (a BFI fan vote held it the 9th best British TV show of all time) and Fowlds effortless timing, and reading of his one liners, pedantry and prevarication was as much a part of that as Paul Eddingtons withering looks and Nigel Hawthorne’s insane monologues. [Also, a show written in 1980 about the 1960s explains the politics of the 2010s and on. If that doesn’t suggest nothing ever changes…]
Into the 90s, Derek Fowlds got a recurring gig as one of the leads on Heartbeat, the nostalgic cop show in which it appeared to be 1969 for 20 years. Never off the screen, Heartbeat got 14 million viewers regularly in the 1990s, and remains popular with grannies, so, that’s cool.
Other Mr Derek spots include playing Winston’s dad Randolph Churchill in Edward the Seventh, a dodgy chap in Inspector Morse, and an appearance as the patient of the week in Doctors in 2017. His death leaves many classic British comedy and kids TV fans saddened, but appreciative of his many talents over a long and joyful career.
He was a unique hit on the DDP for Don’t Eat the Figs.
Mr Derek Fowlds
2 September 1937 – 17 January 2020