Hey Hey It’s Saturday.


Happy fiftieth anniversary to the pioneering kids TV show Hey Hey It’s Saturday.
In 1970’s staid, backwards, bogan, conservative Australia, this was just the show the kids of Australia needed to wake them up to thinking outside the square. In it’s golden years, this show was unmissable.

What happens when a network needs to fill three hours on Saturday morning, the hosts are hungover, our parents were doing the washing or mowing, and the tv station boss is asleep? absolute anarchy is what happens, genuine tv anarchy.

In the early days no one was paying attention, the parents were happy if the kids were sat quiet in front of the telly. For three hours on a Saturday morning the kids of Australia got to taste and experience the thrill of knowing what we were watching was radical, outside the normal cartoons and entertainment being rammed down our throats from the UK and America. This was OUR show, and we knew it was genuine mischief, unlike contrived anarchy like The Gong Show.

Our parents would pass through the lounge room, catching a glimpse of a character, but not lingering long enough to realize what was being said and insinuated. It’s not inaccurate to say that a lot of what was going on was borderline surrealist and absurdist. Talking microphones, camp unseen voiceovers, parody’s of soap operas and the celebration of the mundane. It truly was a show where you just had to be there, trying to explain it does not make sense.

I remember as a little kid sitting in front of the telly, eating my ‘Grainous’ semolina porridge, watching Gavin Wood read out his ‘Pop report’. This day as Gavin spoke the sound of chickens could be heard, then a shotgun blast. Dropping on Gavin from high above was a chicken egg, which would explode when it landed on his desk, or on him. The blasts and dropping eggs continued all through the segment, until at the end there was one final loud blast. With that, a large plucked dead chicken crashed down onto the desk, it’s neck and head flopped over the front. Nonchalantly the voice over said, ‘That was Gavin Woods pop report’, and then cut to a cartoon. The kids of Australia looked on, and continued to eat their Weetbix, because this was the norm.

I was so lucky as a fourteen year old to be taken to a rare live audience broadcast in Sydney. By this stage all the cool hip young adults, basket cases and stoners had cottoned on to what was happening on Saturday mornings. No matter how hungover you were, you always got up by 8.00am to watch Hey Hey. Being in the audience was incredible, at least 80% were adults, all in outrageous fancy dress. Dangling above us for no reason at all were parrots strung up by string with arrows through their heads. I recoiled when I saw Jackie McDonald smoking, and during the ad breaks John Blackman would come down and told the most foul jokes to keep us primed. It was also interesting to see during the same breaks, floor crew would go and discuss things with Ozzie Ostrich, not Ernie Carol, they spoke to Ossie.

I bailed on the show about 1985. It was so popular they shifted it to prime time Saturday nights, for me, and many others, it lost its spark. A big part of the attraction was it was like a secret club. As a kid I ‘never’ fit in (I still don’t). I have a vivid memory from second class of a girl saying to me in the playground, ‘You’re weird!’. My mind and thought processes were always abstract, strange, outside the square. Hey Hey It’s Saturday lit a spark in me that helped me see the world a little less constrained than was being presented to me everywhere else.
This celebration of the obtuse later allowed an appreciation of the absurd to blossom under the guidance of people like John Waters.
Thank you Hey Hey It’s Saturday for helping make my formative years tolerable.

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