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.  

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