1 9 9 6 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
13-year-old Ben Simpson (Duncan Barton) has an overactive imagination and frequently causes havoc for his mother (Cathy Shipton), carrying out practical jokes and pranks with his friends, Barney (Andrew McKay) and Jenks (Reggie Yates) as the “Crane Grove Gang” (named after the street where they live).
Following the arrival of an unpleasant and dull new astronomer neighbour Dennis Sidebottom (Rod Culbertson) – who claims to have won the lottery – the gang plot their biggest ever practical joke.
Operating under the codename “Agent Z” the boys engineer an elaborate conspiracy involving a penguin stolen from a supermarket Christmas display, an alien from Mars, a spaceship and a “message for mankind” carved on a meteorite.
Ben is infatuated with Sidebottom’s pianist daughter, Samantha (Nicola Mycroft) whose disturbing brother, Tod (Andrew Wheeler) is a compulsive shoplifter.
Episodes also featured dream sequences from Ben’s fevered imagination, including a recurring segment of him as a millionaire – complete with a well-spoken butler called Finlay (Stephen Churchett) – and another featuring Sidebottom as a vampire.