So yesterday was a mad rush and as such I only got to write about one of my favourite TV shows from childhood for R (Robin of Sherwood – catch up here), so today I bring you part 2, with two other shows, both children’s TV shows and both quite quirky and unusual. One British and one Australian. (Aussie shows have featured more heavily than I’d have thought they would in this A-Z challenge!) Anyway, we’ll start with my next entry for R which is for…
Oh where to start with Rentaghost?!
It was possibly just the oddest oddball of a TV show I ever watched as a child, but I absolutely loved it. A kids’ comedy show from the BBC it was pretty surreal (as I’m beginning to think most TV shows from the late 70s were!) Although Rentaghost ran from 1976 to 1984, I would not have seen the early series with the Mumfords. I only remember Harold and Ethel Meaker and the fact they had an array of strange ‘ghosts’ living at their home, (it might have been their office – shady memories) although the original idea from the first series was that the ghosts were rented out, hence – Rentaghost and so I think that was set in an office run by the Mumfords who rented from Harold Meaker. I only remember the Meakers, though and them always been really annoyed at Timothy Claypole (the jester, and my favourite character who often sat cross legged on the counter top and reminded me a little of my uncle for some reason – not that he used to sit on the counter top!) But Mr Claypole was mischievous, medieval and funny with his little mini magic Mr Claypole on a stick which he would wave around and cast spells with.
He used to materialise and cause havoc at the most inconvenient of times, along with an assortment of other weird and wonderful characters such as Miss Popov (played by Coronation Street’s Sue Nichols). She was Dutch (though sounded more German!) and used to be able to transport herself by sneezing, and she loved Timothy Claypole. There was also Hazel McWitch, Scottish of course, with her glittery cheeks and terrible puns, and then there was the pantomime horse – Dobbin, who I could never fathom out what he was actually doing there! Was he a ghost pantomime horse? I don’t know, but I didn’t really like Dobbin. He irritated me for some reason. I remember the next door neighbours – the Perkins, Rose and Arthur, and the fact they had this weird glowing flashing amulet type thing which sat on their side table in the hall and granted them strange ‘wishes’. For example if they wanted to ‘spell it out to the Meakers’ about the weird comings and goings, the amulet would glow and they would almost be hypnotised into ACTUALLY spelling out everything they said! The poor Perkins were simply trying to live their ordinary suburban semi detached lives, but the ghosts at the Meakers would always make sure something strange was happening and Harold Meaker was always having to avert disaster hitting the Perkins. Of course every episode ended in complete disaster, usually with a bemused looking Mr Perkins, a cross Harold Meaker and the ghosts chasing around like headless chickens! Great fun!
Five years after Rentaghost finished though, another weird and wonderful fantasy/supernatural kids show landed on our shores all the way from the land of Oz. And one with probably my all time favourite theme tune to a kids TV programme at that. Yes, R, remarkably is also for…
Round the Twist
“Have you ever? Ever felt like this? When strange things happen,
Are you going round the twist?”
Round the Twist was brilliant with, as I say, the BEST theme tune. It was cleverer than Rentaghost and, being around on the cusp of the ’90s when it started, probably not quite so unintentionally weird as intentionally weird!
It followed the lives of a widowed dad, Tony Twist, and his three children (two of them teenagers) who come to live in a lighthouse. The lighthouse it seems is haunted and every episode something strange and supernatural happens to one or all of the kids – Linda, Pete (teenage twins) and Bronson their younger brother, but never really in a super scary way. The things which happen were always just so bizarre and surreal that they made me laugh rather than feel spooked. What I really liked about the series (well the first two as I never watched the later two series when the actors playing Linda and Pete left) was that it was kind of like Byker Grove as in there was the usual teen story-lines with Linda and Pete battling crushes and teen friendships, battling with their own identity and growing up as well as always having to get one over on the bullies – James Gribble and his side kicks, Rabbit and Tiger. The Twists were always seen as outsiders and weirdos because of all the odd things which would happen to them. I think I identified with their slight oddball natures. I liked the character of Linda as she was in to Judo and would regularly see off the bullies. Not with Judo necessarily, but she was tough and single minded. Definitely a teenage girl for another teenage girl to look up to. Pete, by contrast, was a ‘bit of a dag’ (haha – to coin a good teen ’90s Aussie phrase!) and a little wet around the ears a lot of the time! Definitely no teen crush there! The younger brother, Bronson, was obsessed with smells and trailed around after Pete and Linda a lot.
Some of the stand out surreal storyline moments for me were: The episode where Bronson finds a green baby in the cabbage patch who holds its breath and then turns purple! The episode where Linda finds herself in the past (it was a dream I think) but she gets a really big nose (as she has a complex about the size of her hooter, and the episode exaggerates this feeling she has). The other episode I loved was the one with Pete’s ‘Wunderpants’ which were a pair of ordinary white Y fronts (at least they looked ordinary) but were in fact magical pants (as in underwear not in the American sense of the word). I can’t remember the details, but I’m sure they made him run faster or be able to jump really high or something daft like that!
The wonderful thing about Round the Twist was that there were no rules. You just didn’t know what was going to happen from one episode to the next. What very strange and bizarre adventure the Twists would go on next. I do know I always wished I was with them though! If you want a flavour of what it was like, watch this episode called “Without my Pants”. Just fabulous fun! Enjoy!