Unbeknownst to many of his fans, Metal Mickey was actually already a minor showbiz personality before his eponymously titled series was first broadcast. In 1978 he released a novelty record, ‘Lollipop’, on the EMI label and on the back of this started making appearances on some of the most popular television shows of the time: TISWAS, The Generation Game, Jim’ll Fix It and Game for a Laugh to name a few. He was then invited to become a presenter on the morning show The Saturday Banana with Bill Oddie, as well as continuing to make music on his Mickeypops record label. He then signed a contract for his own series with LWT in 1980, and his career hit the big time.
Going out at primetime in the Saturday teatime slot, Metal Mickey was typical of the shaky set, dodgy special effects and farcical plotline sitcoms of the time – with the jokes on many occasions bordering on the politically incorrect. The show had some impressive credentials however; written by Colin Bostock-Smith (who went on to pen episodes of Naked Video and Spitting Image as well as creating As Time Goes By) it was also co-directed and produced by the one and only Micky Dolenz of The Monkees. Which makes you wonder how it came to be so bad.
The programme followed the lives of the Wilberforce family: Mum, Dad, their three children and everybody’s favourite batty grandma, Irene Handl. The youngest child, Ken, was an inventor who created Mickey (straight from the Blue Peter School of Making Things out of Rubbish You Can Find in Your Kitchen) to be a help around the home, although of course many of the laughs in the programme came from the fact that Mickey was fairly naïve of the world around him and therefore often responsible for creating much of the ensuing chaos. If he didn’t create it, he certainly wasn’t an awful lot of help clearing it up.
Mickey looked rather how you would imagine Zippy from Rainbow would appear if he’d been invited to a space themed fancy dress party. With silver sprayed cardboard box limbs, ‘My First LED Science Set’ glowing red eyes and a distressed Brillo pad on his head, he was less futuristic, more nursery art class. Whenever he got excited and started dancing there was always a moment of tension when you wondered whether his head was going to fall off. He had a heart that pulsated whenever he was happy (often when he mistook a vacuum cleaner for a lady robot) but it was hard to feel any emotion with him as the rest of the time he was fairly devoid of a personality. Despite this he was loved by all the Wilberforces, but his most special relationship was with Granny, who named him ‘Fluffy’ (there were often oblique references to her other special relationship – gin - which may have explained this…). Mickey returned the compliment by calling her ‘my little fruitbat’. He also referred to his inventor as ‘Clever Clogs’, the dad of the family as ‘Bootface’ and the sister as ‘Stringbean’.
At the height of his fame his management team brought out the obligatory plastic tat merchandise; lunchboxes and annuals were amongst other items that early ‘80s children were receiving in their Christmas stockings. They also created a real version of his favourite sweets, Atomic Thunderbusters, which sold over 90 tons.
The series ran for 39 episodes, and finished in 1983. Mickey was quickly forgotten by the general British public, and despite repeated use, his catchphrase ‘Boogie Boogie’ didn’t become a national favourite. He hasn’t given up pursuing fame however, and he does now have his own website where he states he is still available for personal appearances…Oh, and he’s also on Twitter.