Monday, April 30, 2007

Episode 1: A Degree In Death

The students are revolting... and it's not just because they've got long hair and loon pants and smell of incense and mushrooms. The on-campus protest at Central University ends spectacularly when the Dean's car - and probably a fair slice of the opening episode's thousand-dollar budget - is blown sky high.

Funky Squad car explosion

Police suspicion rests on the protesting kids... Or is it a rival academic with his eye on the top job? Time to call in...

Funky Squad
Funky Squad.

In this episode we find out Cassie has a science degree, and she identifies chemicals stolen from the university laboratory as ingredients of a car bomb.

Funky Squad - Cassie

But why sodium chloride - better known as salt - would be kept under lock and key in the first place is anyone's guess.

We find out Stix went to Uni, where in true student style he flunked many classes and eventually dropped out.

Funky Squad - Stix

He obviously sees something in this bird, since he hits onto her in every episode, using such lines as I got the motor, you got the body, what say I check out your chassis tonight? And yet in the course of seven episodes, never once does she smack him down for using such lousy pick up lines. So much for womens' lib.

The undercover Squaddies hit Central University, in real life shot on location at Monash Uni's Clayton campus.

Funky Squad on campus

Funky Squad car bomb
Poncho stops Stix becoming the second person to rest in pieces.

Funky Squad car bomb
And retrieves the firecracker from under the car...

Funky Squad Grant

While Grant talks hip with the college swami.

Now, here's a genuine piece of trivia for you - despite being on the ABC, Funky Squad featured actual real ads. Actual real twenty-year-old ads for actual, real, long-since-defunct products, that is. There are a few spoof ads to come later in the series, but in this episode we are encouraged to sample RC Cola (that the ad features the well proportioned rear end of a young swimsuit-clad woman may or may not be a co-incidence. Say it alound if you haven't got it yet), Lime Fresh soap "With streaks of lime, so fresh it tingles!" and "VYI" who sold spectacles. Or sunglasses. Or something.

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Poncho's obviously learnt a thing or two from Harpo about how to describe women. So, Poncho doesn't talk, because - as we discover rather frequently - he got shot in the tongue. Let's not pause to wonder what expert marksman did that without so much as dislodging his stuck-on moustache and deviate instead into the weird sideways world inhabited by people with names like Blair Steele and Joey Alvarez. Apparently the fictitious Harry Zdalka Jr, a refugee from Nevaherdovitistan, didn't speak English well - again, let's not pause to ask how he got the role, then - so the bullet story was concocted as a way to get him to keep his mouth shut.

Funky Squad Poncho and Grant

Quotes of note

Cheif: No doubt you've heard there was an incident yesterday at Central University
Grant: Yeah.. Somebody celebrated Fourth of July under a flash set of wheels.

Swami: Violence is a hungry beast, but it feeds only on itself.

Mulvaney, a square cop who insists on going undercover to a student revolutionary meeting, and gets sussed. That he turned up in a police car probably didn't help: No, I'm not a cop! I'm a hippie like you! Make peace, not war! Ooh! Ouch! No!...

Ace the Revolutionary: It's always nice to see a new face around here... Especially one as pretty as yours.
Cassie: I'm not just a pretty face.. I've got a mind, too... And I want to learn all about your ideas.

Ace: You want to get high? Call me Kite Man... I'll be back before you can say Mary-Jane.

And I'll be back next time with Episode 2: The Art Of Murder.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


What is Funky Squad?

Funky Squad are a team of four young cops who take on a variety of cases from drug rings and diamond robbery to murder, while tazzing around in a red Ford Mustang convertible, wearing cool threads and being hip to the scene.

OK, now for the more sensible answer.

For the benefit of those who had better things to do at 8 o'clock on Monday nights in 1995 than watch ABC TV, Funky Squad was a seven-episode comedy series from the same generation of Aussie comics that brought us Frontline and The Late Show.

It was basically a pastiche of every 70s cliche you can imagine, rolled up into a cop show; tough-talking Chief in a poo-brown suit, sinister baddies with zee moscht outrrrrageoush ackshonts, sedate car chases with much tyre screeching dubbed on, and much leaping into piles of cardboard boxes. It was set in the 70s, made in the 90s, and apparently the costumes all came from op-shops, because the budget was in the order of $1000 per episode. To which I say Melbourne must have better op-shops than we do up here.

The writing team included some familiar names: Santo Cilauro, Rob Sitch, Jane Kennedy and Tom Gleisner. It started life as a radio show on Triple M, and when this place is finished - if it ever is - you'll find information on the radio version of Funky Squad in the archives, after the television episodes. Rob Sitch was in the radio version, but study committments kept him out of the TV show, with Allstar Tim Ferguson brought in to reprise his role.

And here he is, in character as Grant, the 'so cool you could use him if the fridge broke down' leader of the Squad.

So, if that's Tim under that ever-so-subtle hairpiece, and the character's name is Grant, who's Blair Steele?

In keeping with the parody, the front-end credits for the show used fake 'real names' for the actors, to reflect the kind of dodgy names actors had in 70s cop shows.

Here we are, another Funky Squaddie, another wig. Santo's under that afro somewhere.

Cassie, as played by Verity, I mean Jane Kennedy.

Tom Gleisner demonstrates his understanding of The Harpo Principle - playing a mute character means you get lots of physical business and no lines to learn. We find out in the first episode (and in every subsequent episode as well) that Poncho doesn't talk because he got shot in the tongue.

And here they all are together:

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See you next time with information on Episode 1: A Degree In Death.