One Man and His Dog
Phil Drabble (1976-93) with Eric Halsall (1976-90), Ray Ollrenshaw (1991-3)
Robin Page and Gus Dermody (1994-1999)
Clarissa Dickson-Wright and Robin Page (2000)
Clarissa Dickson-Wright (2001)
Ben Fogle with Shauna Lowry (2003-6)
Ben Fogle with Matt Baker & Gus Dermody (2007)
Kate Humble with Matt Baker & Gus Dermody (2008-11)
Matt Baker and Michaela Strachan with Gus Dermody (2012)
BBC 2, 17 February 1976 to 13 March 1999 (regular series)
Annual specials: 1999 to 2012
BBC One, 27 October 2013- (as special editions of Countryfile)
It's been many hundreds of years since animals have been put up for trial (hello to our readers in Hartlepool). Maybe for crimes they didn't commit. The tradition was brought back crash bang into the Twentieth Century with One Man and His Dog, a television programme about sheepdog trials.
Three shepherds, who each owned a sheepdog attempted to whistle and "come by" their way through the show. Each competitor typically had to get their dog to guide some sheep through a gate, into a ring (where they'd have to separate a certain sheep from the rest) and then into a pen, all the while being given marks by judges. The sheep generally played up quite a bit, but nobody had the clever idea of just shouting "mint sauce!" or somesuch.
The vets at BBC 2 head office finally put the programme to sleep as we approached the new millennium. They didn't quite succeed in killing it off, though, as it still lives on in the form of annual specials. The (at one point seriously mooted) idea of Sky buying it and renaming it Sky One Man and His Dog was just silly, really.
Rumours surface from time to time about a full-scale comeback, but realistically it's not going to happen. Even after Countryfile turned Matt Baker into a bona fide star, the dividend for One Man and His Dog was a live series over a weekend in September 2012 - the second episode had to be recorded for transmission a week later when the golf over-ran.
We always wanted the sheep to win, actually.
In 1996, special programmes featuring younger contestants were shown. The name? Young Man and His Dog. Awww...
Obscure horse and country TV channel Horse & Country TV launched their own version in 2007 called Come-Bye!, again hosted by Robin Page, but instead of holding their own contests they just went along and filmed the regular national dog trial competitions. As far as we can tell, it only ran for one series. They actually wanted to use the One Man and His Dog name, but the BBC wouldn't let them, on the not-unreasonable grounds that they were still using it themselves.
Meanwhile, the cognoscenti know that the place to go now for hot hound-on-flock action is the Gaelic-language channel BBC Alba. Their sheepdog trials series Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach launched in 2008, and like "Come-Bye!" covers existing dog trials rather than staging their own, including the triennial World Championships in 2008 and 2014. (Alba lost the TV rights for the 2011 tourney to More4, who threw a load of hi-tech gimmicks at it; an experiment yet to be revisited.) The show has actually proven to be a bit of a hit, insofar as something can be a hit on a channel so niche it's not even included in the official ratings survey, and is now firmly established as a returning series. Although the hosts Dòmhnall MacSuain (Donald MacSween) and Catrìona Nic a Phì (Catriona MacPhee) are rather more jocular than we're used to seeing in such a show, it's otherwise very similar to 1M&HD indeed, and surely ripe for English-language re-versioning should the Beeb ever decide to bring One Man or something like it back as a mainstream series.
If the dog's running Clockwise, it's "Come by", and for Anticlockwise it's "Away". So now you know.
*whistle* "Come by!"
Alan Benson. The theme was finally updated in 2012 - the new version is a similar arrangement but with a piano replacing the ever-so-70s lead synth of the original. Sadly it was only used that year; Countryfile just uses its own regular theme music.
One Man and His Dog book by Phil Drabble
Weaver's Week review (2012)