Remote Control - Saturday 12 October 2013

Skippy's lasting fraud
Skippy's lasting fraud
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Kangs of guilt over Skippy’s lasting fraud

The other week part of my childhood was shattered when I saw Blackpool’s illuminations.

Far from being a magnificent spectacle, there were missing bulbs on the corporate-sponsored tableaux, made the more miserable by the dank evening. And on Tuesday, Skippy: Australia’s First Superstar (BBC 4 11pm) sullied many an afternoon spent watching the telly.

The documentary told the story of Australia’s “most cherished TV star, Skippy the bush kangaroo, the crime-busting marsupial who conquered the world in the late 60s and early 70s”.

The BBC said: “It put Australia on the map and – for those of a certain generation – the heroic marsupial is synonymous with their childhood, often in more profound ways than they realise.”

Or as the documentary said: “The most intelligent Australian I’ve encountered.”

Apparently there were 91 episodes, it broadcast to 128 countries watched by 300,000,000 viewers a week.

Then the facts emerged.

The character was created by desperate marketeers in a focus group looking to have a home-grown rival to Flipper the dolphin to combat the Americanisation of Asutralian TV.

Gramsci would have a field day analysing that push for cultural hegemony.

And Gramsci would have been just as suitable a tag as the possible names that were dismissed, Jumpy, Hoppy and Springy – ahh the collective minds eh?

Which other marsupials were considered?

It makes you wonder whether a Kippy the Koala was rejected.

Then there wasn’t actually a Skippy at all.

There were loads of them, possibly more than 14 – “some were anorexic and some were plump”.

They weren’t even the same colour.

Kangaroos are “dumber than sheep”, one woman saying: “I don’t go for talking pests.”

Filming was nigh on impossible because of an instinct to bolt to the bush.

There’s loads of Skippies out there mocking us with their freedom and the fact that scene two’s Skippy is more silver and not as fat.

Then there was the voice.

Far from being equipped with the ability to chat to Sonny, that chuntering noise was all down to a sound engineers “lubing himself up with whiskey” so he could make up Skippy’s voice.

The producers made whichever Skippy who’d not hopped off that day chew on a rubber band so it looked like he was talking, to be overdubbed with a drunken Queenslander.

I’ll save the worst til last.

You remember how Skippy could play the drums, open safes and pick up keys?

Far from having dexterity, by all accounts Kangaroo hands are good only for scratching.

So how did they pull off the scenes?

By using two amputated kangaroo arms, held by just-off-camera prop men.

I’ll never trust another kangaroo again.