Transmission: 1989 - 1991
Little Johnny burrows into his nose with an eager finger as his other hand rummages deep into his pocket for Black Jacks engrained with dirt. His little sister, Jessica, enters and says "Oh, Johnny, you're such a frightful little urchin!". Johnny, finger still in nose and hand just millimetres away from the Black Jacks, burps in Jessica's face and shouts "EAT THAT BUM FACE!".
Howling in disgust, Jessica runs back to the sanctity of Polly Pocket and her Jason Donovan posters. Johnny is beside himself with laughter, so much so that he almost misses the ominous tones of his favourite TV show starting up. With Black Jacks, and goodness knows what else, in his gob he sits down to watch Round the Bend.
Deep Down in the Sewer
Doc Croc - yep, he's a crocodile - helmed Round the Bend which took pop shots at the inanity of magazine shows for children. Eschewing the bright and cheerful sets of Going Live et al, Round the Bend settled for a dirty, dank and dingy sewer! This is where Doc Croc found himself introducing a myriad of absurd and crude animations which teach children that they have a right to mock the world they live in.
Move over boring old He-Man and, instead, welcome in 'Wee-Man and the Masters of the Looniverse'! Assisting Doc Croc in running the show were a group of rats - posh reporter Jemimah Wellington-Green, optimistic and terrible comedian Vaudville Vince Vermin and, finally, whipping boy of Doc Croc, the artist Luchetti Bruchetti.
The Story behind the Bend
To find out how Round the Bend oozed it's way onto our screens we have to head back to the mid 1980s where Patrick Gallagher, Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers were trying to come up with a solution for a taxing problem. Viz had been a wild success for sniggering adults who were nothing but big kids at heart.
However, 'actual bona fide as per the trade description act' kids couldn't get hold of this top shelf laugh-a-thon for love nor money. Why the hell should they be missing out?! Well, apparently, the language was corruptive and sexual content was never far from it's pages or something whiny like that.
So, the only solution was to introduce a kid friendly version which trod the right side of offensive. And, hence, Oink was born! An anarchic comic far removed from the Beano with comic strips including Tom Thug, Horace 'Ugly Face' Watkins and Pete and his Pimple. After 68 controversial issues, Oink came to an end, but Messrs Gallagher, Husband and Rodgers were now ready to take their vision of adult humour for the kids to television.
Produced by Hat Trick productions for Yorkshire Television, Round the Bend managed 18 episodes over three series between 1989 - 1991. The puppets featured in the show were provided by the Spitting Image team and this is most evident in the three heads mounted on the wall.
Patrick Gallagher designed the puppets, sets, animations and anything else he could get his creative hands on. Along with Tony Husband and Mark Rodgers, Gallagher also helped to write the show. John Henderson - fresh from directing Spitting Image - took charge of the directing duties whilst the music was provided by Big George, Phillip Pope and Simon Franglen. Aardman Animations, who were beginning to gather steam with the launch of Wallace and Gromit, created animations for the show along with Catalyst Pictures.
Repeats followed on Nickelodeon, The Childrens Channel and Channel 4 (surely its spritual home), so the show found itself in high demand. It's success led to the ultimate honour of a quick cash in computer game adaptation. Released across a variety of formats in 1991 by Zeppelin Games, a quick look on YouTube shows the game to be a fiendishly difficult platformer. Frankly, if you can go 30 seconds without dying in it, then we doff our cap to you.
Re-venturing Round the Bend
Do we remember Round the Bend? Did Michael Barrymore star in Sebastian the Incredible Drawing Dog?! We loved Round the Bend! We tuned in religiously each week to laugh ourselves silly - Wee-Man instead of He-Man? We were literally rolling on the floor laughing.
The manic nature of the show and lack of anything serious appealed to our inner lunatic and we couldn't get enough. Asking our peers about the show, it seems to be one that some remember, but just as many don't. It was ripe for investigation by our curious eyes and, luckily, every single episode is up on Tony Husband's website.
So, how was it? Well it was good. It was funny. There are moments of utterly surreal genius such as 'False Teeth from the Stars' which is an amazing animation to be showing kids. It's a great way of exposing them to a sophisticated form of comedy without having to explain why it makes them convulse with laughter.
It's not just genres that come under Round the Bend's mocking glare either, individuals are targeted such as David Coleman and John Craven who are mercilessly lampooned. The viciously keen streak of satire and parody which rampages through Round the Bend marks it out as a unique slice of kids TV.
Some of the comic strips don't hit the target, so it's not hit after hit. However, the animations are all pretty nippy, so if you're not enjoying something you can rest assured that more laughs are just around the corner.
Doc Croc is a great host for the show and should be as well remembered as other animal hosts of the era e.g. Nobby the Sheep and Roland Rat, but perhaps his propensity for violence made him a bit too dangerous for some. We weren't overawed with the rat characters, so much, as Vince and Luchetti came across more irritating than entertaining, but Jemimah was a bit more interesting as her falls from grace were always satisfying.
Round the Bend is a show close to our hearts and it's a testament to the show's inspiring brilliance and manic energy that we remember it so vividly. Sure, some of the references are pretty dating and would leave kids of today scratching at their Joey Essex styled heads, but there's still plenty of timeless material in it. We still love it now and a part of us will forever be little Johnny trying to shock, outrage and defy people for nothing but our own amusement.