Most will probably best remember Metal Mickey from his early Saturday evening ITV sitcom, but this wasn’t Metal Mickey’s first television appearance. He first appeared on UK screens as part of the presenting crew along with Bill Oddie and a very young Susan Tully (later to appear in Grange Hill and then of course EastEnders) on saturday morning kids show Saturday Banana in the late Seventies.
If you’ve never heard of Saturday Banana then I will forgive you. It was aired at the same time as Tiswas, and which ITV region you lived in dictated whether you got to see Tiswas or Banana. I lived in the Southern television reason (as it was back then) so we got Saturday Banana and initially missed out on Tiswas.
Anyway, that explanation out of the way, on to Metal Mickey himself. Mickey was a robot, based on that iconic design from the 1950’s of what a robot should look like, which was basically a big silver humanoid decked out with flashing lights. In real life he was little more than a radio controlled thing whose mouth would move when his creator, Johnny Edward, spoke into a microphone to provide Mickey’s voice.
On TV though, Mickey was the kind of characters most kids loved to watch. Cool to look at, and a bit cheeky with some of the things he would say to other people. Aside from Saturday Banana, Metal Mickey was often seen on other TV shows as a special guest, and it was his appearance on an episode of Jim’ll Fix It that eventually led to him getting his own TV show.
The first series of the Metal Mickey show was aired in 1980, and the storyline was that Mickey had been invented by the youngest member of an otherwise fairly typical suburban family. Mickey had been invented to help out with household chores, though more often than not he did more mucking about than tidying up. Mickey had nicknames for most of the family, with the funniest being reserved for the always moaning father, who he called Bootface.
Whilst most of the cast were relatively unknown both then and now, there was one very well known member of the cast. Irene Handl played the grandmother of the family, and was probably the biggest bad influence on Metal Mickey. He called her “his little fruitbat” whilst her pet name for Mickey was “fluffy”, presumably due to the shock of curly metal hair he sported on his domed head.
Of the rest of the cast, Lola Young, who played friend of the family Janey, is now dubbed Baroness Young of Hornsea for her work in culture and the arts. Behind the scenes a notable name was Micky Dolenz, formerly of TV pop group The Monkees, who was producer and director of the show.
So popular was Metal Mickey that his on screen treat of choice, a sweet known as an Atomic Thunderbuster, actually got turned into a real sweet, which was a very fizzy type of boiled sweet that often found its way into the selection of Penny Sweets available in your local sweet shop or newsagent. I remember being quite partial to them, but they were a bit like sherbet lemons in that they could make the top of your mouth feel a bit sore if you sucked too many of them in a short space of time.
The TV show lasted until 1983 and notched up three series, which are available on DVD now. Metal Mickey pretty much disappeared from our screens after this, but it is now possible to hire him to come to your special event and entertain the guests, and work is under way to recreate him using computer graphics as an animated character.