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  1. #1
    loob lor geezer
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    Skippy: the kangaroo that became a megastar

    Skippy: the kangaroo that became a megastar

    As BBC Four shows a tribute documentary to the valiant marsupial, James Walton salutes the stars of Sixties television series Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.



    By James Walton
    Published: 3:43PM GMT 12 Feb 2010
    Comments 1 | Comment on this article

    Actor Garry Pankhurst and a kangaroo in the Sixties television series Skippy the Bush Kangaroo.


    Tomorrow night, a BBC Four documentary will tell the story of the first international TV star from Australia. But this is not, as you might have thought, a programme about Clive James, Barry Humphries or even Rolf Harris — whose combination of novelty songs and painting inexplicably failed to crack America. Instead, it’s about a small female kangaroo who starred in 91 episodes of a late-1960s drama series.
    Skippy: Australia’s First Superstar (whose sweeping subtitle might well annoy fans of say, Dame Nellie Melba) is certainly aware of the comic side of the Skippy phenomenon – but the documentary is also a serious reminder of just how huge that phenomenon was. Indeed, this was one of the first surprises for its director, Stephen Oliver. “I knew before I started that Skippy was big,” he says, “but not that it was broadcast in 128 countries and watched by 300 million people every week.”


    Liza Goddard, the English actress who as a teenager added a rare touch of human femininity to the cast, experienced this global popularity at first hand. “I remember flying into Japan and there were all these people at the airport and I thought, ‘Wow, I must have been travelling with somebody really famous.’ I looked around and realised it was all for me.”
    Admittedly, for those of us who were once among those 300 million viewers, tomorrow’s programme does contain some shocks. For a start, it’s soon clear that like so many of our childhood joys, Skippy was the result of hard-headed commercial calculation by the grown-ups. Visiting Hollywood, the show’s creator Lee Robinson was struck by the success of the TV series Flipper – featuring a widowed marine park ranger, his two sons and a virtually omniscient dolphin. He then cunningly “adapted” the idea for Australia by creating a widowed bush park ranger, his two sons and a virtually omniscient kangaroo.
    Next, he worked hard on coming up with the most appealing possible name for his lead, and after rejecting Springy, Hoppy and Jumpy, settled on Skippy. Just as wisely, he also commissioned one of the catchiest theme tunes in television history. And once the show had taken off, the world was flooded with the kind of merchandising that still accompanies any children’s hit now – although these days there are perhaps fewer commemorative ashtrays for the kiddies.
    The biggest blow for our childhood selves, though, is that Skippy wasn’t actually as clever as we thought. He couldn’t unlock doors, serve tea, operate radios or play Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport on the piano at all. As it turns out, these effects were achieved by a man off camera holding two fur-covered sticks with claws on the end. Worse still, Skippy didn’t make a sound either, let alone emit a series of clicks that his human friends could interpret with astonishing precision. (“He’s in trouble? His car’s broken down? He can’t get to the show? Is that it, Skip?”)
    Not that any of this was the programme’s fault. Kangaroos are by common consent “dumber than sheep” and can’t be trained to do anything, even to stay on set. The solution was to have at least a dozen on hand at all times – which is why Skippy often changes size, shape and colour.
    “The kangaroos,” Goddard remembers, “were always bogging off into the bush, and there was a prize for whoever captured the most Skippies at the end of each day. You’d also have to try and act while a man lay on the floor holding a kangaroo’s tail to prevent another escape. They weren’t house-trained either, so the interior scenes were disgusting, especially in that heat.”
    Since hanging up her bush hat and plaits, Goddard has watched the programme with her children, and now with her granddaughter. Her own explanation of why Skippy became so all-conquering and has remained so loved lies in the simple stories where good people triumph – and where children can roam free through the Outback. For Oliver, another reason is that the show provides “a fantasy of what people desperately want Australia to be like: blue skies, funny-looking animals and decent blokes.”
    In fact, his only regret about tomorrow’s documentary is that it couldn’t also include “a boring environmental point” about the down side of this massive continuing affection. Kangaroos need far less water and grass than cattle, and so are a much more ecologically sound source of food. Yet even today, he says, many Australians avoid kangaroo meat on the grounds that “we can’t eat Skippy”.





    Almost as memorable as Flipper, although a kid I prefered ' The Magic Boomerang '
    How I fantasised about the great things I could have done with one of those !!

  2. #2
    loob lor geezer
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  3. #3
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    Great i watched every one i think , it was a real kids program, in the UK.

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    Skippy: "t-t-t-t"

    Sonny: "Wot's thet, skip? Helicopter cresh at Wurrimarundi Falls?!?!?"

    Skippy: *silence*

    Cue music and dashing rescue mission...


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