For the last week or so I have been watching an episode of Mr Ed on DVD every day. Obviously this is shameless self indulgence and shouldn’t be encouraged, but I am now middle aged and do not care in the least what anybody else thinks. When I last saw Mr Ed, in 1962, I was about five years old. I was sitting right up close to a tiny grey screen, with the curtains shut so that I could see the picture, wearing my red kilt with the bib on it, white socks and start rite sandals and refusing to eat anything but toast for my tea. I would wait for Mr Ed to introduce himself and then sing along to the song, swinging my legs, with half an hour of pure happiness in front of me, the kind of uncomplicated happiness which it is hard to achieve in adult life. If the picture began to spin around, as it very often did, I would have to run and fetch my granddad. It was very serious because if it wasn’t put right straight away I would lose my one chance to see Mr Ed. I would have to wait a whole week and that particular episode would be gone for good. My granddad would twiddle one of two knobs at the side of the television while I watched anxiously. I wasn’t allowed to touch those knobs, even in an emergency like this. If the picture was still somersaulting he would hit the back of the set, just once, very hard. Mr Ed would look startled for a moment and then everything would usually be all right again.
I liked Mr Ed for several reasons. First of all he was a horse, which was a big advantage if you wanted to grab my attention when I was five. He also talked, of course, and what was even funnier he only talked to Wilbur. This was because Wilbur was the only person he had ever liked enough to bother to talk to. This appealed to me very much and I admired him for it. I wasn’t allowed to ignore people who I didn’t like. Mr Ed was also very clever. He only talked if he had something worth saying and this was more evidence for my firm belief that most animals were a lot cleverer than people gave them credit for. This applied to my dog, my cat, my rabbit, my budgie, my goldfish, the minnows in the water butt down the end of the garden, my granddad’s ferret, and even my newt. All of them could do things which I couldn’t and that had to prove something.
So how is Mr Ed wearing, forty five years later? You know what- he’s doing all right. It’s actually very sharply written and edited and Alan Young as Wilbur has a genuine fondness for Bamboo Harvester (Mr Ed’s real name for those who are not as obsessed as I am) which really comes across. Yes it is lightweight, and it is silly, but there’s a warmth about it which is very appealing and the light dusting of kitsch which it has gathered over the years does it no harm at all. You could waste half an hour on a lot worse.