Brummie characters are a staple of British drama and comedy. Sadly, a poor grasp of non-tube-mapped parts of the country means that London-based media pundits often apply the term 'Brummie' to any old character from the Midlands. Time Out Birmingham's team of experts have been tasked with figuring out which of the following characters are bonafide Brummies...
1. Thomas Shelby, ‘Peaky Blinders’
Yes, 'Peaky Blinders' is based on a real 1920s Birmingham gang, but they weren’t very photogenic and rarely listened to Nick Cave. The TV show takes liberties with history in the same way that Batman and Superman take liberties with geography, so it’s fair to say that the show’s antihero Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) counts as a fictional character, and a pretty cool one at that.
Brummie? Small Heath’s sexiest sociopath is definitely a Brummie.
Caryn Mandabach/Tiger Aspect Productions
2. Mr Khan, ‘Citizen Khan’
This Orson Welles-evoking sitcom centres around a self-proclaimed Muslim community leader and his long-suffering family.
Brummie? Yes – Adil Ray hails from Yardley and his character Mr Khan comes from Sparkbrook.
3. Benny, ‘Crossroads’
Birmingham-set ‘Crossroads’ was a long-running soap opera known for its wobbly sets and the sort of acting that wouldn’t look out of place on a corporate training video. The show had many Brummie characters like Amy Turtle and Miss Diane, but the most famous by a long stretch was Benny Hawkins, a woolly cap-wearing, urban village idiot. Much-loved Benny was the original ‘dim TV Brummie’ archetype, and also the only fictional Brummie to cause a diplomatic incident: during the Falklands War, British troops got into trouble for calling the local inhabitants ‘Bennies’. Following a reprimand, the troops referred to the Falkland Islanders as ‘Stills’ (as in ‘Still Bennies’).
Brummie? Yes. Paul Henry is just as Brummie as the character he plays: born in Aston, schooled in Shard End, trained at the Birmingham School of Speech and Drama and he once ran The Actress and Bishop pub in the Jewellery Quarter. Case closed.
4. Barry, ‘Auf Weidersehen, Pet’
TV show ‘Auf Weidersehen, Pet’ was a comedy drama originally set in Germany about a likeable group of brick-laying British economic migrants. While most of the ensemble were Geordies played by the likes of Kevin (‘Lewis’) Whately and Jimmy (‘She’s Lying’) Nail, the group also featured Barry Taylor, a token low-voltage sparky from the West Midlands played by Timothy (‘Barry’) Spall.
Brummie? No – ‘Barry the so-called Brummie’ was actually from Wolverhampton, which is not the same thing as Birmingham (just ask Wolverhampton). The character mentioned this often, and even wore a Wolves scarf for emphasis.
ITV Studios, BBC & Franc Roddam
5. Bob Louis, ‘The Detectives’
‘The Detectives’ was a comedy show from the ’90s that featured the unlikely pairing of Jasper Carrott and former Jesus of Nazareth star Robert Powell as a pair of hapless cops. Birmingham City-supporting Brummie Jasper played Detective Bob Louis... a Birmingham City supporting-Brummie.
Brummie? Yes, yes and yes.
6. Pig, ‘Pipkins’
‘Pipkins’ was a British children’s TV show from the 1970s which featured a cast of puppets with regional accents, something of a novelty in those days as most puppets went to drama school. While the show’s main star – highly-strung narcissist Hartley Hare – was quite posh and plummy, Topov the Monkey was a cockney, Octavia the Ostrich was French, while the West Midlands was represented by a pig called Pig (no name, just ‘Pig’).
Brummie? No, Pig came from the Black Country (ironically, the birthplace of pork scratchings).
7. Ben Trotter, ‘The Rotter’s Club’
Ben Trotter from Jonathan Coe’s novel ‘The Rotters’ Club’ is an idealistic teenager growing up in 1970s Birmingham.
Brummie? Yes. The book is set in Birmingham, so is chock full of fictional Brummies.
8. Rudy and Adam Sharpe, ‘Rudy’s Rare Records’
Larger-than-life Rudy (Larrington Walker) tries to keep his struggling, old-fashioned reggae record store afloat with help from his sensitive, long-suffering son Adam (Lenny Henry) in this Radio 4 comedy and stage play. Think ‘Steptoe and Son’, but with much cooler tunes.
Brummies? Lenny Henry might be from Dudley, but these characters have a record shop in Handsworth and that makes them Brummies.
9. Sid Ridley, Marvel’s ‘Captain Midlands’
Sid Ridley is Captain Midlands, Marvel Comics’ first Brummie superhero (you can read more about him here).
Brummie? He appears in a story called ‘Hell Comes to Birmingham’. That’d be a ‘yes’, then.
10. Rocky, ‘Boon’
‘Boon’ was a Birmingham-set comedy drama starring the late Michael Elphick as a former fireman turned urban cowboy. While Elphick’s title character was a croaky cockney (you get them in Birmingham too, you know), his likeable but somewhat dim assistant Rocky (Neil Morrissey) was a local.
Brummie? Yes, though Stafford-born Morrissey falls squarely in the West Midlander category.
11. Mrs Overall, ‘Acorn Antiques’
‘Acorn Antiques’ was Victoria Wood’s parody of ‘Crossroads’ which featured Bearwood’s-own Julie Walters in the role of Mrs Overall, a batty Brummie cleaning lady who owed a lot to the much-mocked soap’s Amy Turtle.
Brummie? Very much so.
12. Chris and Tina, ‘Sightseers’
The West Midlands answer to ‘Natural Born Killers’, Chris and Tina are a socially inept couple whose caravanning holiday turns into a British tourist attraction-based killing spree.
Brummies? No, they’re from Redditch.
13. Kevin Turvey, ‘A Kick Up the Eighties’
The late, great Rik Mayall’s fondly remembered anorak-clad conspiracy theorist.
Brummie? No, sadly - yet another Redditch resident.
Rik Mayall as Kevin Turvey
14. Hayley Tucker, ‘The Archers’
Although it’s set in a fictional village just south of Birmingham and its characters regularly go shopping at the Bullring, there’s a conspicuous lack of West Midlands accents in the long-running radio drama. For the most part, Ambridge seems to be divided up between well-heeled, Received Pronunciation types and local yokels ferried in from 1950s Dorset. A welcome exception to the rule is good-natured Hayley Tucker.
Brummie? Yes, and – for some mysterious reason – so is her mother-in-law.
15. Brum, ‘Brum’
‘Brum’ was a children’s TV show from the 1990s that featured a sentient replica of a vintage car that went gallivanting on adventures in and around Birmingham.
Brummie? Despite Brum’s conspicuous lack of a Brummie accent (he was more a honking horn, flashing headlights, opening-and-closing doors and bonnet style of communicator), Brum was unmistakably a Brummie. Clue's in the name.
Ragdoll Productions/HIT Entertainment
Can you think of any more fictional West Midlanders on which we can perform a thorough Brummie analysis? Let us know in the comments section below…