Children's television is a remarkable world filled with both works of wonder and imagination on the one side and complete pap and nonsense on the other. Some children's entertainment is engaging enough to hold the attention of any adult; deft works of fact or fiction that rival productions specifically aimed at the adult market. However, there are also efforts that don't even captivate their intended youth audience, and while novelty value maintains interest for a while, this soon wears off. The series Metal Mickey comes somewhere below the borderline of average, running from the late 1970s until the mid-80s.
A common, run-of-the-mill family becomes the unwitting, adopted family of a massive robot called Metal Mickey. The family consists of a mother and father, a couple of children and their grandmother. The robot has limited understanding of the world at large, has all the dexterity of a brick and seems to attract trouble and misfortune like a bad karmic magnet. Mickey was capable of various feats, but was at the height of his power after consuming an Atomic Thunderbuster - the liquid version, apparently, of a Scoobie Snack which is a much-sought-after (by both dogs and some humans) dog biscuit which imbued the eater with energy and courage in the cartoon Scooby Doo.
This was Saturday morning entertainment in the UK aimed, apparently, at children who hadn't quite gathered their senses enough to notice that the plots here were regularly thinner than tissue paper and usually relied heavily on slapstick comedy, blatant misuse of inoffensive, thrown liquids, and freak incidents. Much of the activity in the series took place inside the family home, but often the action spilled out into the streets and other common, everyday locations.
Micky Dolenz, of The Monkees fame, co-created, produced and directed this London Weekend Television series.
Metal Mickey looked like an escaped extra from the Tom Baker period of Doctor Who. He was a huge, vaguely human-shaped robot; this was presumably a necessity to allow someone to lurk inside to move all the bits around. Primarily metallic silver in colour, he also had a liberal scattering of coloured plastic panels and blinking LEDs. He had a head like half a two-foot wide Smartie 1 with ears that stuck out like metal-and-plastic waffles. Mickey had round, red eyes with wandering eyelids, a wide, thin mouth, and his head was crowned with curls of a thin metallic material to simulate hair.
The robot's torso was split between a chest and abdomen section, tapering towards the bottom. The chest section had two plastic panels, the larger on the left with multi-coloured, blinking lights behind it, and the smaller on the right with a glowing red heart. Mickey's arms and legs were chunky and jointed, the arms terminating in two-fingered, clamping hands and the legs ending in massive, clunky, brick-shaped feet.
Overall, the whole robot was ponderous and probably scared small children. No matter how funny you try to make it look, a monstrosity of metal and plastic is always going to have an inhuman edge that is going to disturb the young and innocent.
The series starred Michael Stainton as the father of the household, with Georgina Melville as mum and Irene Handl (venerable screen star of what feels like most of the century) as the grandmother who Mickey affectionately referred to as 'old fruitbat'. Metal Mickey was always billed as being played by 'himself'.
We can perhaps be thankful that no major TV channels have shown any interest in providing Metal Mickey with a fresh airing, even in the dead of night. The series ran for several years, the robot making several guest appearances on other shows. There was some limited merchandising, with annuals and models of the robot, but very little else. Mickey was a short term fad amongst the masses of the young until something else came along and stole his crown.