Sunday, 22 September 2013

Flashback: ROUND THE TWIST (1989, 1992; 2000-2001)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

If you're a thirtysomething Aussie or Brit, chances are you watched children's television series Round the Twist in 1989 and 1992. It was also revived in 2000, but I'm guessing original fans weren't so keen on that millennial remake—in the same way fans of Eerie, Indiana don't have much time for Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension. But that's a whole other flashback..

For the uninitiated, Round the Twist was an Australian TV show that first aired on the Seven Network, running for a total of four series over 11 years. It concerned the city slicker Twist family—widowed father Tony, teenage twins Pete and Linda, and nine-year-old son Bronson—moving into a lighthouse and encountering bizarre events in the town of Port Niranda. It was a kid's Twilight Zone to an extent; featuring shipwrecked ghosts, a reality-controlling device, lipstick that made the wearer irresistible to females, living clothes, hypnotism, a hat that can make you fly, water spirits, and much more. Many of the earlier episodes were based on existing stories by English-born Australian writer Paul Jennings, who created the TV series.

I was a big fan of this show as a lad. It helped that UK culture was highly attuned to Aussie shows 25 years ago; post-Crocodile Dundee, in the heyday of soaps like Neighbours and Home & Away. Australian accents and humour was part of everyday television when I was growing up, but obviously the main selling point of Round the Twist was its universal weirdness and humour.

However, the thing most people remember about Round the Twist is its fantastic theme tune (sung by original Linda Twist actress Tamsin West), which weaved in phrases from nursery rhymes like 'Humpty Dumpty', 'Rain Rain Go Away' and 'There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly'. I've embedded it above, sung over the original opening titles. Indeed, the music of the show is what arouses the strongest memories from me; as the score almost squawks at you throughout each episode, giving the whole thing a very odd feel.

I've always known Round the Twist fell victim to the issue of re-casting, but I didn't realise just how many times the show changed its actors until researching online. The kids from 1989's first series (Sam Vandenberg, Tamsin West, Rodney McLennan) were replaced in 1992 by Ben Thomas, Joelene Crnogorac and Jeffrey Walker; with Richard Moir providing continuity as their screen father, together with Bunney Brooke as local kook Nell, and Robyn Gibbes as Fay the schoolteacher. Most of the supporting actors also changed in its "classic years"; and the show was almost entirely recast when it was revived on cable in 2000—although Mark Mitchell returned as greedy businessman Harold Gribble (although he wasn't even the original Gribble, that was Frankie J. Holden). It's all very confusing.

Anyway, LOVEFiLM are streaming every episode of the Logie Award-winning Round the Twist right now; which means there's a total of 52 half-hours to enjoy if you have the right subscription. I recommend you let your kids take a look, because while the show's aesthetic and fashions have dated it's otherwise quite a timeless and charming idea. A good example of children's telefantasy, and one where the foreignness of its production just seemed to improve matters.

Why not click here to visit the show's still active official site. Isn't this show due another revival?