Monday, May 7, 2007

Episode 3: Little Girl Lost

Welcome to exclusive Fernhurst Ladies College, where strangely-accented girls play a trading card game based on classic English portrats like Gainsborough's The Blue Boy in between practice on the school croquet lawn. Tiffany Hartwell, blue-ribbon pony clubber, captain of the debating team, daughter of a senator and all round sickening little brat, is abducted.

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The ransom note says "no cops" but nevertheless, it's time to call in...

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Funky Squad.

But before we examine the episode itself, it's time to discuss the burning question: where the hell is Funky Squad set? Most of the regular cast have American accents with varying degrees of authenticity, and later in this episode we see the Senator pay the ransom with a briefcase full of American currency. But the girls at the posh school in this episode all sound British (well, more British than American, anyway) and the lifestyle at the Hartwell's place seems reminiscent of British upper-class life. All the vehicles are right-hand drive, with bothersomely Australian-looking numberplates, and quite a few of the incidental characters, particularly older ones like the janitor from episode one and a very funny drunk we'll meet later, have Aussie accents.

Here's my crack-brained theory, which is about as convincing as some of those accents, so it should be right at home: Funky Squad is set in an alternative version of Australia which, sometime around World War Two, became an American state. Federation probably didn't happen, we remained a British colony til the Americans took over. So... we already had a nation's worth of road infrastructure set up for driving on the left by the time the Yanks arrived, so they let us keep doing it, which explains the vehicles. Younger Australians like the squaddies grew up taught American at school, and older ones who knew what was good for them, like the Cheif, soon learnt to talk the talk.

So there you are. Retro-continuity taken to a new level.

Now back to the story... The squaddies are obviously moving up in the Chief's eyes - after pouring scorn on their theories and having a go at them for their youth-type sympathies back in Episode 1, he now calls them his "most highly skilled undercover officers". They all turn up at the Hartwell's place and do some police-type stuff, including a chat with Oscar, the chauffeur.

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Much fun is had at the expense of what was considered luxury in the '70s. Ever Mr Technology, Poncho is fascinated by the concept of the dimmer switch...

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While Stix checks out what's on the idiot-box. That big box thing attached to the telly by a thick cable is apparently the remote control. I wonder if they got that at the Salvos?

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While the Hartwell kitchen effortlessly serves up comedy-luxury food like caviar, frogs legs and that cold soup with the funny name for an extra four people...

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Meanwhile, there's a plot in here somewhere, and Poncho wants to get on with it.

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There's something fishy. Or more precisely, boozy. The ransom note's on the nose and someone who must have been a scientist because he was wearing a white coat and a bow tie identifies the mystery odour as brewer's malt. Add a phone tap to the mix...

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And the squaddies are ready to track down the missing kid before her mother explodes from the prescription tranquilisers she's shovelling down.

Meanwhile, there's some character-development-by-sledgehammer for the Chief, played in FunkySquadLand by Baldwin Scott, or Barry Friedlander as he's known here on Planet Earth. There is much dramatic crushing of plastic cups because "Tiffany reminds me so much of my own daughter... if she was alive..."

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At which point, thankfully, something happens before he can elaborate.

This week's ads saw the second of ABBA's promotions for National. (That Panasonic DVD player's working, by the way, but only coz I swapped the tellies around. Never did get it to talk to teh one it was supposed to.)

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The next one I think is for Sportsgirl, although whether that's Sportsgirl in the sense we know it is anyone's guess, since the ad was just a series of closeups of women doing things like smiling, crying, or smoking. Then there were Cool Charmers, recursively described as "deodorants that smell nicer than deodorant." Returning to FunkySquadLand, Tim Ferguson in his Blair Steele guise flogs hairspray, somehow oogling a girl's cleavage yet still looking camp as a row of pink tents.

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Quotes of Note

Grant: Senator, Mrs H, we know this is a heavy scene, but I’m afraid it’s question and answer time.

Stix: Hey, get a load of this! Remote controlled colour! Man, this place has got it all!

Stx: Psst! Cass - this soup’s cold.
Cassie: It’s vichyssois - it’s supposed to be cold.
Sitx: well, I dig these!
Cassie: Frog’s legs!

Robert: Has Sir finished with his plate?
Stix: Not yet Silvertop, this black stuff really hits the spot
Robert: Beluga caviar, Sir
Stix Mmmm... Say what?
Cassie: Raw fish eggs.

Cassie: Hartwell’s swimming in cash. Could have spared themselves all that heartache just by upping Uncle Oscar’s wage sheet.
Grant: Senator figured the smoke was coming from higher up, couldn’t see the fire in his own backyard.

Before I leave you in peace until Episode 4, an instance of scripty-type cleverness. When the girls are playing their strange Eighteenth-Century-Portraits trading card game, you'll hear one say "I'll give you Pink Girl for The Blue Boy" while the card on top is the Gainsborough painting of a little brat done up in a blue suit. I was doing some research - partially to remind myself who Gainsborough was - and discovered that there is a portrait called Pinky, of a girl in a pink dress, which is considered a partner to The Blue Boy. The two paintings were done at different times by different artists and have no connection at all, but they were displayed as a set in the 20s and the association's stuck.

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