Author’s Sunderland hero gets some horrible treatment

Terry Deary as the Venerable Bede
Terry Deary as the Venerable Bede
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TERRY Deary is playing his Horrible Historical hero on TV – by accident.

The third series of the award-winning TV show based on Sunderland-born Terry’s Horrible Histories books starts on CBBC today – and it features an appearance by the man himself as the Venerable Bede.

“It was weird, actually,” said Terry, who was an actor before launching the best-selling series nearly 20 years ago, and keeps his hand in with the odd role in the programme.

“I just turned up and they said, ‘Right, you’re Bede,’ so I said ‘Oh yes, you know, of course, he’s Sunderland’s greatest historical figure.’

“And they said, ‘Not really, no.’

“So I said, ‘‘Well, I’m from Sunderland – can I play him with the real accent?’

“I’ve written a book about Bede – he’s my hero – so to be playing him is brilliant.”

Featuring stars such as David Baddiel and Gavin and Stacey’s Mathew Baynton, and written by the likes of Steve Punt and Jon Holmes, from Radio 4’s Now Show, the TV version of the Horrible Histories combines top-class comedy with rigorously researched history.

The second series became the first children’s programme to be honoured at the British Comedy Awards last year, when it was named best sketch show.

The show has proved to be just as popular with adults as children, something which pleases Terry, but doesn’t surprise him.

“It has been very well-received and has become a cult thing with adults,” he said.

“They have got the best writers and the best performers – there are some very talented people involved.”

For Terry, it is second time lucky, after the disappointment of an American cartoon version of the Horrible Histories.

He believes the Stateside incarnation failed because it removed the very things children respond to in the books, which delight in challenging the sanitised version of history served up in schools.

“This time, they have kept all the anti-Establishment stuff from the books, which is what I love,” he said. “When the Americans did the first series 10 years ago, it just lost the ethos of the Horrible Histories.”

So successful has the show been that the BBC is planning to promote it from its current home on the digital CBBC channel to a prime slot on BBC1 – though it will mean the loss of puppet presenter Rattus Rattus and his catch-phrase, “100 per cent accu-rat,” who will replaced by a rather more high-profile face.

“They are going to cut the rat out, put Stephen Fry in, and he will be presenting a six-part series of the best of series one and two in Saturday night prime-time – what they call ‘The Dr Who Slot,’” said Terry.

l The first episode of series three of Horrible Histories airs on the CBBC channel at 2.55pm, with episode 2 screening at 5.15pm and repeated at 9.30am tomorrow. New episodes will air throughout half-term, alongside repeats of series 1.