Wednesday, 3 August 2016
456 Metal Mickey
First viewed : 6 September 1980
Metal Mickey was an odd one. I found it very annoying but something drew me to tune in again the following week.
Metal Mickey was a five foot high robot with a limited number of movements who first appeared on a Southern Television show The Saturday Banana in 1978 . The Beeb generously allowed him to feature on Jim'll Fix It and LWT's Head of Comedy noted the response of the children in the studio to him. He then commissioned Colin Bostock-Smith to write a series around him and brought in Monkee Micky Dolenz as director and producer. It went into the Saturday teatime slot usually occupied by Happy Days or Mork and Mindy.
Mickey was placed in a middle class household presided over by Mr Wilberforce ( Michael Stainton ) a joyless miser who managed a building society and delighted in turning down mortgage applications ( remember that the eighties hadn't quite got into gear yet ). He had an empty headed wife and three teenage children , college geek Ken ( Ashley Knight ) who had built Mickey , punky layabout Steve ( Gary Shail ) and the lovely Haley ( Lucinda Bateson ) who worried that her boobs weren't growing enough although they looked more than fine to me. Also in the household was Granny ( Irene Handl ). The other regular cast member was the girl next door , a black Amazon called Janey ( Lola Young, at 29 way too old for the role ) who inadvertently brings Mickey to life in the first episode by feeding him a sweet.
Mickey's capabilities were basically whatever the plot demanded ( a bit like Orac in Blake's Seven ) though his main function was to crack one liners in a metallic monotone . His biggest pal in the family was Granny his "little fruitbat" and for me that was the series' weakness - too much Handl, playing the same aggravating character as in Maggie And Her.
I should say that I think I only watched the first season ; Handl didn't feature much in the latter two due to ill health..
The draw for the 15 year old me was that it was slightly smutty for its time slot so you kept tuning in to see how far it would go especially with someone as delectable as Bateson in the cast.
The show ran for four years with 41 episodes made before he was scrapped. Of the youngsters, Knight is still a jobbing actor, Shail a polymath who acts, directs and makes music and Young a peer of the realm since 2004 after holding a long string of public sector arts posts in London. As for Bateson she just disappeared after the series finished. Her name pops up in forum threads about first TV crushes and the like but there's never any clue about where she went.