Sunday, March 8, 2015


Time for our third British entry into the Television Crossover Hall Of Fame for 2015:


Bit of a disclosure first: except for the YouTube videos included here, I've never seen anything on TV involving Bulman.  In fact, I only knew of Don Henderson for playing General Taggi in the 1977 "Star Wars" movie.  So I depend on Ol' Reliable, Wikipedia, for the following information:

Detective Sergeant George Bulman was a fictional detective created by Kenneth Royce in his series of books about The XYY Man (semi-reformed cat burglar Spider Scott), where the character's name was initially Alf Bulman. Here Bulman is presented as a 'bent copper', though the only examples of his corruption given are that he gained promotion to sergeant by persuading down-and-outs to confess to unsolved robberies, in return for a prison sentence which would put them inside during the coldest months of winter.

These books were turned into a Granada TV series in the mid-1970s, with actor Don Henderson playing Bulman, Scott's nemesis. Bulman lives only for the day that he can put Scott (played on TV by Stephen Yardley) back behind bars, but he and his sidekick Detective Constable Derek Willis (Dennis Blanch) are thwarted every time, even gaining some slight sympathy and respect for Scott as they discover how he and they have been used by the secret service. Bulman was originally portrayed as mildly eccentric, wearing woollen gloves, using a nasal inhaler and trying to 'better' himself by engaging in further education (showing off his learning with a pretentious erudition which makes him look foolish).

The Bulman character proved popular with viewers, and, with Willis, was given a spin-off series 'Strangers', which saw the formerly London-based detectives transferred to the north-west of England. During the five-year run of 'Strangers', Bulman's eccentricities were increased, and included such traits as a propensity for keeping his belongings in plastic carrier bags and his keeping of a pet hamster named Flash Gordon. His middle name was revealed to be Kitchener. Increasingly his erudition was used less to make him look pretentious and a joke figure, but instead underlined a zen-like wisdom and otherworldliness. He also leapt in rank, gaining a much overdue double-promotion from Detective Sergeant to Detective Chief Inspector in one bound!

In the mid-80s the character returned in 'Bulman'. Disillusioned, Bulman leaves the police to work as a private investigator while making a living repairing clocks. He kept a model railway layout in his office, and wore a 'Will Power' T-Shirt, bearing an illustration of William Shakespeare. Mirroring in some ways the post-prison career of Spider Scott, Bulman and his assistant Lucy McGinty (Siobhan Redmond) were often coerced or tricked into doing clandestine and dangerous work for the secret service.

Kenneth Royce returned to his Bulman character at the height of the show's success, writing two more XYY Man novels (The Crypto Man (1984) and The Mosley Receipt(1985)) and a Bulman novel, No Way Back (Hashimi's Revenge) in 1986. In the 90s he followed this with The Judas Trail (1996) and Shadows (1996). By this point, Royce's Bulman differs from the television version considerably - his is called Alfred George Bulman (the TV one is George Kitchener Bulman), and by The Crypto Man in 1985 has risen to be a Detective Superintendent in the Security Services section of the Metropolitan Police (his TV alternative never made it above Detective Chief Inspector before becoming a private investigator).

The following info came from the also-reliable (koff koff) IMDb:

'The XYY Man' (1976)

Thirteen episodes

'Strangers' (1978)
Thirty episodes
Don Henderson resurrected the eccentric police detective George Kitchener Bulman (from the short lived series "The XYY Man") in this British series which saw him reluctantly and grumpily transferred to a station in the North of England. Like the series which followed it ("Bulman") the show drifted between the standard hard edged, grittily realistic and violent policy which was prevalent in British police shows in the late 70s, and a peculiarly tongue-in-cheek reluctance to take itself seriously.

- Written by D.Giddings

'Bulman' (1985–1987)
Twenty episodes
Having left the police force in disgust, the eccentric and bad-tempered detective George Kitchener Bulman (Don Henderson) set himself up as a private investigator in this third appearance of the character (see also "The XYY Man","Strangers"). This leads him into trouble with the hard men of London's gangland underworld, and the devious men of the secret service. Although its darker qualities persisted, by the end of the series, precious little attempt was being made to take it seriously.

- Written by D.Giddings

Sixty-three episodes - not a bad run for a TV character.  Others have been inducted into the TVXOHOF with far less credits under their belts.

As the Wikipedia article states, BookWorld Bulman and Toobworld Bulman are radically different characters.  Another fine example as to why I can't absorb literature into Toobworld unless it has been adapted for TV first.

Henderson bought the rights to the character, hoping to make more stories about the character he brought to televisual life.  But he got caught up in other projects and died before he was able to do so.

So here's my tribute to another British TV character worthy of inclusion in the Hall of Fame!


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