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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Complete Series


Starring: Simon MacCorkindale, Melody Anderson and Michael D. Roberts
Fabulous Films / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £34.99
Certificate: PG
Available 27 August 2012

It is a cold January day in 1999; the final sprint towards the new millennium. A brand new television show is about to be aired in America. It will be called Sopranos and it will change the face of the television series. A member of a much maligned group, beaten, down trodden and cast by the road side, will rise up and cast off the shackles of their evil producer overlords whipping any creativity out of them with his weapons of ratings and a need to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The writer will write. The writer could now produce a well written, intelligent plot and it would be filmed.

We rush forward to the midpoint of the first decade of this millennium. Another television show is about to hit our screens. Now this series too will change the prospects of a genre but this must be handled a little more carefully. This genre has a worse reputation than animal porn and if this genre was widely associated with this new show it would produce about as many viewers. First, we have a good looking cast of people who have stepped straight from underwear photo-shoots and grainy black and white perfume adverts. Second, we introduce the more “fantastical” side of the show later, once everyone is hooked by the writing and acting. This show was to be called Lost. And it was science fiction.

Now to a time before these changes. When budgets consisted of loose change and a whip round by the crew. Where writers still suffered under the yoke of catering for the “average” viewer and science fiction was silver cigar shaped spaceships, rubber headed aliens and attacks from the Fifty Foot Lesbians from Venus.

More camp than Kenneth Williams and Larry Grayson conducting an around Britain tour of Butlins in a bright pink bus. It's Manimal, a unique portmanteau of the words "Man" and "Animal". He's a man who can transform into any animal but more than likely that will be a hawk or a panther. There is some indication of how he acquired these powers but it is largely hand waved as magic or something.

God rest the soul of Simon MacCorkindale, he was a game old dear throwing himself whole heartedly into this splash of '80s nonsense. Delivering terrible animal puns with a wry smile and always impeccable in his suit and tie (even transforming back into it when we have clearly just seen it being ripped in two during his transformation scene).

It's hard to imagine anyone watching this at the time with a straight face. This type of show has been parodied to death. It has it all: establishing shots that are clearly stock footage, bit part acting, plot lines that have holes the size of binary stars and a brief run down of episode before the show actually begins.

I understand these shows have cult value. I know all about cult value. I have a certain rose tinted fondness for Starsky and Hutch and The Sweeney. However don’t make my mistake and try to watch these shows beyond the opening credits. You will be disappointed.

As to the score, it’s almost impossible to give cult programs a decent score because on face value they are cheap and tacky but that’s the appeal and the charm. I did raise the score by one point simply because of the amusing fact that Manimal and Automan were shot back to back on the same set. In one episode you can see Automan through the window of the café and on the same episode of Automan watch Manimal sat in the same café.


Dean Smales

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