British Icon of the Week: 'The Larkins' Star Bradley Walsh

(Photo: Acorn TV)

Bradley Walsh is back this week in season two of The Larkins, Acorn TV's warmhearted adaptation of H.E. Bates' classic novel The Darling Buds of May. He plays Pop Larkin, a wheeler-dealer living in 1950s Kent who finds some pretty inventive ways to provide for his family. To whet your appetite, we're making Walsh our British Icon of the Week and looking back at other highlights from his remarkably versatile career.

1. He was a brilliant Doctor Who companion.

Walsh was consistently funny and touching as Graham O'Brien, a retired bus driver who gets swept up in the Doctor's time-traveling adventures. The devastating scene in 2021's "Revolution of the Daleks" in which we see wife Grace (Sharon D Clarke) die in his arms really gives Walsh an opportunity to demonstrate his emotional range.

2. He starred in Law & Order: UK.

Walsh appeared in all five seasons of the British remake of Law & Order, which aired in the U.S. on BBC America. He played Ronnie Brooks, a recovering alcoholic who relishes his job as a London police officer and takes DS Matt Devlin (Jamie Bamber) under his wing. It was a role that tapped into Walsh's natural charm, but also gave him plenty of opportunities to show off his dramatic chops.

3. He put in a stint on Coronation Street.

From 2004 to 2006, Walsh was a main cast member on the world's longest-running TV soap. He played Danny Baldwin, the long-lost son of the street's resident entrepreneur Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs). Walsh's character was originally going to be called Viv, but Walsh asked if he could be named Danny instead in tribute to his own father. 

"I enjoyed Corrie – Danny was a good character and became quite popular in a short space of time," Walsh told the Sunday Post in 2019. "The only problem is unless you are just making a walk-on appearance, you have to commit yourself to a lengthy stay and that’s very difficult for me. If the time was right for the producers and they wanted Danny Baldwin back in the Street, then I'd be pleased to consider it."

4. He hosts one of the U.K.'s most popular quiz shows.

Since 2009, Walsh has presented The Chase, a daytime quiz show in which contestants try to win a cash prize by outscoring a professional quizzer. There have now been more than 2,200 episodes, plus a primetime spin-off series called Beat the Chasers, and the show has proved so durable that there is now a U.S. version hosted by Sara Haines.

5. He also hosts Blankety Blank.

This long-running game show is the U.K. version of Match Game.  As you can imagine, Walsh really relishes its offbeat questions and playfully suggestive answers.

6. He is a seasoned panto veteran.

During the holiday season, many U.K. theaters put on a pantomime, an old-school musical comedy show designed with a family audience in mind. Slapstick, silliness, and shameless double entendres are very much the order of the day. Over the years, Walsh has starred in more than a dozen of these beloved productions in cities including London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Norwich.

7. He is a former professional footballer.

For a couple of years in the early 1980s, Walsh was on the books at Brentford F.C., a London team that now competes in the world-famous Premier League. Sadly, his soccer career was thwarted by persistent ankle injuries which prevented him from playing for Brentford's first team, and ultimately forced him to retire at age 22.

8. He's even launched a successful recording career.

Walsh has released two albums of traditional pop standards, 2016's Chasing Dreams and 2017's When You're Smiling. The former peaked at Number 10 in the U.K. and was the best-selling debut album by a British artist that year. You can check out Walsh's charming rendition of "Mr. Bojangles" below.

9. Perhaps a little surprisingly, he once played a gangster.

Walsh is most associated with likable and cozy-leaning roles, but he showed a darker side in Lock, Stock..., a 2000 TV spin-off from Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Warning: the clip below contains some quite salty language.

10. And finally, he and son Barney have teamed up for a travel show.

It's called Bradley Walsh & Son: Breaking Dad – and yes, that title is a riff on AMC's Breaking Bad. Each season (there have been five to date) follows father and son as they embark on an action-packed road trip in an RV. Incidentally, you may also recognize Bradley's son Barney Walsh from The Larkins, in which he has a recurring role as PC Harness.

Do you have a favorite Bradley Walsh role or TV series?