Round the Twist
Have you ever
Ever felt like this?
Have strange things happened?
Are you going round the twist?
Round the Twist was an Australian TV show that every Aussie and Brit in their teens, 20s and even early 30s (the first season was broadcast in 1989) remembers watching when growing up. The show was about the Twist family -- 14-year-old twins Pete and Linda, little brother Bronson and widowed father Tony, a.k.a. "Dad" -- who live inside a lighthouse that seems to be a beacon for the supernatural. Ghosts, weird creatures and mysterious magical objects abound--from magic gumleaves to haunted toilets to super-power-inducing underwear, the show revelled in the weird, the revolting, and the downright disturbing.
Also appearing in the show were the Twists' neighbour Nell, the former lighthouse keeper who knew more than she let on; Fiona Richmond, Pete's love interest and Linda's best friend; Mr Ralph Snapper, their strict and unlikeable teacher, and Ms Fay James, Bronson's teacher and Tony's love interest. In the antagonist role were Harold Gribble, the slimy real-estate agent and later mayor, his uptight wife Matron Gribble, their school bully son James Gribble, and James's sidekicks Tiger and Rabbit.
Four series of 13 episodes each were made altogether, produced in 1989, 1992, 1999 and 2000. The first two series were based on the short stories of children's author Paul Jennings, who also wrote the scripts. Due to "creative differences" Jennings left the show after that, taking the rights to his stories with him. When the show was revived seven years later (presumably to up the number of episodes to 52, i.e. one for every week of the year), it consisted of original stories written by a new team of writers. Of course, the overall quality went far downhill.
The show was repeated in Britain on CBBC and in America on Fox Kids, hence have some recognition in both places.
- Butt Monkey - Poor, poor Pete.
- Cool Old Lady - Nell.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive - Gribble is a small town version of this.
- Do-It-Yourself Theme Tune - Tamsin West, the original Linda, sings the opening and closing themes. They kept the same music even after Linda was recast.
- Eccentric Townsfolk - The whole main cast, although the Gribble family are 'particularly' nasty.
- Ensemble Cast - Pete, Linda, and Bronson - no one is the main character, but Linda probably gets the least plotlines revolving around her.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep" - Matron Gribble, a hospital matron, is called "Matron Gribble" by everyone (except, obviously, for the rest of the Gribble family). Her actual first name, Cecilia, is only spoken once in the very first episode.
- Free-Range Children
- Freudian Trio - The three kids, with Bronson as the id, Linda as superego and Pete balancing them out as the ego. In the 3rd and 4th season, Pete's obsession with girls shifts him closer to id.
- Gender Flip - The character Nell is based on Stan, the old lighthouse keeper from Paul Jennings' short story "Lighthouse Blues". Originally, Nell was a man named Tom in the show but Jennings changed the character into a woman when he was told there were too many male characters. The name "Tom" was re-used for Nell's dead older brother.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: This show was almost banned in Australia at the time of its premiere because it contained a 'lot of things' deemed Harmful to Minors, such as mild death, nudity (including references to genitalia), underwear, incest (Kissing Under the Influence), mild sex references (a lot of the stories have to do with supernatural female characters in search of a human male to be an unwilling groom and one episode -- "Lucky Lips" -- centered on a magical tube of lipstick that attracts females... Not just human females, either), and your typical grossed-out humor staples (e.g. body odour, Toilet Humor [both urination and defecation] and plenty of vomit shots).
- Half Arc Season - Each series had an arc subplot that was finally resolved in the season finale. For the first series, it was the mysterious music coming from the top of the lighthouse. For the second series, it was the ghosts of brothers Matthew and Jeremiah who kept appearing unseen around the lighthouse. For the third series, it was the Viking Book of Love, which would make whoever a poem inside was read to fall in love with the reader. For the fourth series, it was the mysterious figure Ariel who kept appearing out of doorways in the air. There were also shorter arcs in the second and fourth series involving Bronson: the first time was the question of why he was never taking off his shoes, and the second time was why he was collecting foul smells with his "Smell Sucka". Additionally there was Mr Gribble's continuing efforts to acquire the lighthouse and sell it in the first series, and his run for the Senate against Nell in the second series.
- Incredibly Lame Pun - Many, particularly from Pete.
- Last-Name Basis - The Twist kids all call James Gribble "Gribble" (at least in the first two series -- in the revival, they call him "Gribbs" like Rabbit and Tiger do). Gribble and his gang accordingly call them "Twist".
- Lighthouse Point - Where the family lived.
- Minored in Asskicking - Sometimes Linda comes across as a soppy, intellectually-bent spiritualilty-geek. For all that, she could kick your arse.
- Moral Guardians - the show had trouble being exported to Britain because of its unusually sordid (for a kids' show) subject matter.
- Mundane Fantastic
- Not Allowed to Grow Up - Over the whole series, Pete and Linda have only aged from 14 to 15 and Bronson from 7 to 8. They always have the same teachers and appear to always be in the same year at school, despite the school year having apparently ended twice (in the first & third series).
- Only Known by Their Nickname - Rabbit and Tiger. (Although we do find out Tiger's surname, Gleeson.)
- The Other Darrin - Every single character was recast at least once over the course of the whole show. All the kids in the cast were recast after the first series and again after the second series, due to having aged. Tony was recast for the last two series due to the original actor having severe Parkinson's Disease. Nell was also recast for the last two series due to the original actor having terminal cancer (of which she died in 2000). Mark Mitchell replaced Frankie J Holden as Harold Gribble after the first series, and Matron Gribble was recast after the first series and again after the second series. Fay was recast for the third series and again for the fourth series. Finally Mr Snapper, who had been played by series producer Esben Storm, was recast for the fourth series.]
- Parental Obliviousness - Tony, on almost all occasions.
- Quirky Town - Port Niranda.
- Series Continuity Error - There's a whole bunch of them from series to series. One major example is that Nell is elected to the Victorian Senate in the final episode of Series 2, as the culmination of a continuing storyline throughout that series -- come Series 3 this is completely ignored.
- Alternatively, this could just be Negative Continuity between series, depending on how you look at it.
- Regarding Nell: her name is Nell Rickards throughout the show except for Series 2, where it appears on her campaign poster as Nell Sands.
- Also, Nell says in Series 1 that she never married, but in Series 4 an episode revolves around Linda & Pete travelling back in time to the 1940s and interacting with her and her future husband.
- The number of times Tony and Fay have been engaged and have broken it off can be a little confusing, but it all tracks -- up till Series 4. Tony had proposed to Fay again in the final episode of Series 3, and Series 4 has a continuing storyline about them having a baby -- and when the baby is born in the final episode, there is yet another marriage proposal between them despite there never being any indication they weren't still engaged.
- The characters' changing appearances due to the recasting could count as well, particularly if their appearance becomes a plot point -- for instance, Bronson's red hair becomes important in a Series 2 episode while Series 1 Bronson had brown hair, and a Series 3 episode involves all the characters being related to a particular 8th-Century Viking woman while Series 2 Fiona was Aboriginal.
- Arguably the worst is how Series 3 & 4 saw Linda and Pete actually de-age to 13, even though they actually arrived in Port Niranda at 14.
- Supernatural Soap Opera - There were always elements of this in the show, but the third seasons takes it to extremes.
- Surreal Theme Tune - It mashes up the words to several nursery rhymes for its verses, including "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly", "Rain Rain Go Away" and "Humpty Dumpty".
- Toilet Humour
- Weirdness Magnet - Have you ever, ever felt like this? When strange things happen, are you going Round the Twist?
- What Could Have Been - if it hadn't been for "creative differences", there could have been a Round The Twist movie instead of Series 3 and 4.
Tropes of season 1 and 2
- All Just a Dream - Several episodes ended this way, as a result of being adapted into a continuing series from standalone stories.
- A particularly bizarre example is "Santa Claws," which not only has Pete falling asleep in the first scene, thus establishing All Just A Dream right away, but features a Framing Device within the dream - Pete telling the story of how his mouth was shrunk.
- And You Were There - The episode "The Gum Leaf War": Nell appears as "Aunt Tuneless", Mr Gribble as her feuding neighbour "Foxy" and Gribble as "Foxy Jr".
- Bad Bad Acting - In the episode "Nails", for the school play auditions.
- Butt Monkey - Poor, poor Pete.
- Rabbit in the second series becomes this within the trio of bullies.
- Christmas Episode - A very Australian take in Season 1.
- Cloning Blues - Adnil, the mirror-image duplicate of Linda in the episode "The Copy".
- Clothes Make the Maniac - Linda's magic hat in "Copy Cat".
- Creator Cameo - Aside from producer and director Esben Storm's recurring role as Mr Snapper, several crew members make cameos through the first series -- including Paul Jennings as Ben Byron's ghost and director Steve Jodrell as a hospital doctor.
- Fictional Political Party - When Mr Gribble runs for the Senate in the second series he belongs to the fictional "Progressive Conservative Party", who have the same party colour (blue) as the real-life Liberal Party.
- The Hat Makes the Man - In "Copy Cat", Linda's magic hat alters her personality.
- Hat of Power - Said magic hat also grants the power to fly!
- Hypno Fool - One episode featured Pete acting like a chicken whenever the word 'now' was mentioned. It also featured a counting chicken which was made to regress (or ascend) to a past life of being a mathematician.
- Mall Santa - Nell ends up being this in the Christmas episode. She gets attacked by the 'real' Santa.
- No Party Given - Nell, when she runs for the Senate against Harold Gribble. She uses the colour green, like the real-life Australian Greens -- who were founded the same year the series was broadcast, so it's unclear if she's meant to be a Green or not.
- Or Was It a Dream? - Episodes which ended with All Just a Dream would incorporate this into their final scene, to suggest the dreams were real in some way.
- Our Ghosts Are Different - Lots of variation. The ghosts often seem bound by different rules - some ghosts are mute, whereas others can talk. While most ghosts have Unfinished Business, one episode a ghost that needed to pass his 'scare test'. Also featured are a ghost dog, a ghost seagull, among other things.
- Our Mermaids Are Different - Linda falls for a merman at one point, though she doesn't know he is a merman at the time and his transformation is one-way.
- Posthumous Character - Although the show does have a large number of ghost characters, there is one character who properly fits the trope: Nell's "nutty" older brother Tom, who is referred to numerous times throughout the first series. He lived in the shack near Ghoul's Cave and owned the rubies from the episode "Birdsdo"; he also invented the cloning machine in "The Copy". Tom actually makes a non-speaking appearance in ghost form in the first series finale "Lighthouse Blues", along with the rest of Nell's family.
- Reincarnation - Played for laughs in Next Time Around.
- Retool: And how. The first episode is actually rather different to the rest of the series, introducing several ideas (Pete's false tooth and love of awful jokes) that are never used again, and being the only episode to not feature an opening title sequence. Also, this is the only episode where Nell is not referred to by her given name.
- Nell is called by her first name later in the episode -- it's only when she's being introduced that Tony calls her "Ms Rickards", and he's arguably just being polite. It's not a retool so much as the characters just getting to know each other better.
- Running Gag - "Without My Pants". Runs the risk of turning into an Overly Long Gag, but it's pitched so well that you're still finding it funny when poor Pete clearly isn't.
- Shameless Self Promoter - Harold Gribble, once he becomes a politician.
- Strawman Political - Harold Gribble, arguably.
- In a party called the "Progressive Conservatives"?
- Well, y'know, he is pretty much the "evil developer" straight up and down: trying to force people out of their homes and carelessly damaging the environment in the name of business and "progress"...
- But is he an evil man keen on developing, or evil because he is keen on developing? In a Season Two plot he is contrasted with the then Mayor who is all for developing land as Gribble proposes, but is shown to be fair minded when she seriously considers objections environmental implications that make it not worthwhile. In contrast, Gribble actively seeks to discredit the objections by foul means, and is unconcerned when someone appears to die as a result.
- Oddly enough, the show aired on the CBC in Canada. I wonder if they altered the name of the party in respect for the then-active party of the same name.
- In a party called the "Progressive Conservatives"?
- Throw It In - Tiger's commentating began as an ad-lib by the actor, which worked so well that it was written into subsequent episodes.
- Tongue on the Flagpole - Bronson gets stuck to an ice sculpture he kisses.
- Transfer Student Uniforms - The Twist kids themselves at the beginning of the series. Later, the boy who turned into a merman.
- Two-Teacher School - Mr Snapper (Pete & Linda's drama/literature teacher) and Ms James (Bronson's teacher) are the only teachers we ever see at the school. In one episode we see the principal, Mr Splodge who gets turned into a baby at the end of the episode.
- Unfinished Business - A big part of the series when Paul Jennings was still writing. Most of the ghosts had this as their reason for hanging around, notably the ghosts who formed the Story Arc for Season 2.
- What Could Have Been - the first series was originally supposed to end the way the short story "Lighthouse Blues" had - Nell is killed while trying to stop the demolition, and her ghost joins those of her family to scare off the developers. Thanks to an Executive Veto, Paul Jennings was forced to rewrite it.
Tropes of season 3 and 4
- Chained Heat - Pete and Gribbs in "The Big Burp".
- Express Delivery - Also happens to Pete in "The Big Burp".
- Casanova Wannabe: Pete was Flanderized into one in the third and fourth seasons.
- Godwin's Law of Time Travel: Pete and Linda's time-travel back to 1944 saw them distract a look-out who missed an (unnamed) enemy fleet, thus leading to the South Pacific New World Order...where everyone wears their underwear on the outside.
- Gross Out Close Up: "The Ice-cream Man Cometh" Nasal ice-cream
- Heli Critter - Bronson gains the ability to use his penis as a propeller in "The Whirling Derfish".
- Invisible Streaker - Linda becomes one in series 3 episode Linda Godiva
- Jekyll and Hyde - Linda becomes possessed by her shadow in the episode "Shadow Play"
- Freaky Friday Flip: Pete Twist and Harold Gribble switched bodies for the day, In a true twist ending, Harold's mind gets swapped with a mouse, cue credits- but What Happened to the Mouse?
- Living Doll: Linda and her old abandoned dolly, which then plays out like a typical horror movie scenario.
- Mad Scientist: Anthony, who swapped Linda and Pete's brains for a science experiment in "Brainless". He also has a crush on Linda.
- Mister Seahorse - Pete falls pregnant by holding hands with a dryad after peeing on her tree in the episode "The Big Burp".
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Pete gets bit by a Transylvania Flea from a flea-circus, he transforms into a hairy wolf. He then has 'puppy love' with Fiona's dog
- Retool - In Series 3 & 4, the series loses its focus on ghosts and their Unfinished Business.
- Soapbox Sadie: Linda becomes this, sort of, when she has hair that can read minds
- There Are No Adults: In the episode "The Big Rock" all the adults in Port Niranda are sucked into an alternate universe after the final poem in the Viking Book of Love is read. Naturally, the town goes to hell in a few hours.
- Trapped in TV Land - The Twist kids in "TV or Not TV"