Billy Goat (2007/8). Jeremy Dyson, writer. Hat Trick/BBC Northern Ireland Production for BBC One.
The fourth fairy tale in the BBC Fairy Tales anthology is Billy Goat. The writer of Billy Goat, Jeremy Dyson (co-creator Funland, The League Of Gentlemen) says:
"I was a big fan of fairy tales when I was younger, they were my first literary love. I had a small collection of the Ladybird editions – the ones with the scary, photo-realistic illustrations of talking wolves and cats and suchlike. Aside from Billy Goats Gruff, I was a big fan of Red Riding Hood – mainly for the wolf."
Jeremy's reworked version brings the story up-to-date and centres on Billy Goat, a boy band made up of brothers Connor (Paul Nicholls) and Dean Gruff (Mathew Horne) and friend Rafiq Bhavani (played by newcomer Nick Mohammed).
They enjoy local success in Northern clubs but crave pastures new and fame and fortune.
"I am an avid X-Factor viewer and when Billy Goat was taking shape I'd just started watching the last series. There's no doubt it fed into the conception of the story," says Jeremy.
However, there is one major stumbling block, their manager is a troll. In this world, trolls live side-by-side with humans and Billy Goat are unfortunate enough to have bagged a canny and threatening troll as their manager, Grettongrat, played by Bernard Hill.
As to the enduring quality of fairy tales, Jeremy comments: "Simply put they endure because they articulate durable truths about the human condition. They are deceptively simple on the surface, but full of richness and complexity underneath. They tend to rewrite themselves for each generation, like all the best stuff does."
"The Three Billy Goat's Gruff is a good example – on the surface a simple story about some goats wanting some nicer grass – but something about it gets under your skin. Has the troll really done anything so bad to deserve being butted into the water (and drowning as he does in the proper version of the story)? Isn't the big Billy Goat a little bit greedy to want all that new grass when there's nothing wrong with the field?"