Friday, 28 September 2007

Obscure TV Shows

Currently I'm in withdrawal. I've been without TV for about 3 weeks now. I don't pay a lot of attention to the TV screen, but generally I like to have the box glowing warmly in the corner as I work, surf the web or procrastinate. I would generally leave it on 24/7 so that I can listen to the news, documentaries and movies that I'm not sure are worth watching. So it figures that the TV died the one time that I turned it off.

I'll get around to having it repaired, but apart from a slice of Late Night with Conan O'Brien I'm not missing it. Yeah I have another TV, but it's in the next room, way over --> there. So now I'm listening to more music, buying more books and comics on Ebay and watching football at the pub with mates, rather than at home. Maybe I should do an Office Space on my TV?

In the meantime, let's turn our gaze back, and reminisce about some of the joyful times I've had with TV. Let's see if there's still some room in my heart for my idiot box, by looking back at some of the more interesting, obscure, odd, terrible and not so memorable shows that nobody else my age seems to recall:

Manimal - This was an odd 80's action show that I'm pretty sure lasted for less than a season in the US, but surprisingly was still shown in Australia. The stories were rubbish and the action incredibly lacklustre but what made this thing so cool to me at 6 or 7 years of age is that the lead character could transform himself into any animal he liked. At least that's what was supposed to have made it cool. Instead I found myself being frustrated by the fact that the guy had no imagination whatsoever (thank you pissy budget). In almost every episode the guy only ever seemed to transform into either an eagle or a panther, neither of which ever did anything of note. I think maybe once I saw him become an elephant, which I believe was when probably, if my memory serves, when banging a stewardess in an aircraft toilet.

Robostory - This was shown on the ABC during the mid 80's, usually at about 7.30 in the morning, weekdays before school in a block with another pair of animated classics, The Wizard of OZ and Vicky the Viking. It's perhaps one of the best animated series I've seen when it comes to high quality, multi-layered storytelling. A French production, the story revolved around a small girl who followed her dog into an unlikely predicament that leads to being hurled across the universe in a space shuttle and being stranded on a planet populated by two groups of robots. On the surface it sounds simple enough, but this cartoon was very dark in its nature, despite plenty of humour thrown into the mix. Rather than the typical Hanna-Barbera or Filmation light hearted morning animation, Robostory's tone, particularly in the later episodes is closer to the more complex and adult oriented, allegorical commentary styled works of Ralph Bakshi (In particular, a film like Wizards comes to mind). Check it out for yourself on youtube.

Skippy - Probably the most famous of Aussie TV exports, and definitely one of the weirdest. I loved this as a kid and it's even more entertaining now with a beer in hand or when playing a drinking game. Some people like Lassie, and some might like that stupid dolphin off SeaQuest, or even the long forgotten Salty the seal, but nothing compares to seeing a kangaroo driving a car, changing gears, opening a safe or untying hostages. Simply awesome. What's even more awesome is that in order to film such plot points the camera would focus on a pair of severed kangaroo paws as some guy off screen manipulated them into action. What a great job! I do wonder what employment opportunities awaited someone with that prized position once the series ended. Picture it - the early 1970's and an unidentified homeless man is laid out naked on a slab in a Sydney morgue, with the only clue to his identity being the pair of severed kangaroo paws that the coroner failed to pry from his vice like grip. Fun stuff!

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