Friday, 12 May 2017

DJ Kat and The Call Of The Simpsons

There's only so much justification to offer when confronted with the amount of hours spend watching a giant headed ginger cat in a leather jacket introduce battered old cartoons from decades previous. I was young, I needed the pocket money...but the truth is that for a large section of the early 90s, my early mornings and afternoons were dominated by The DJ Kat Show.

On which every night is bins!
Ive mentioned in a previous blog how my family were fortunate, depending on how you look at it, to get a second hand Sky dish at a time when subscription for regular channels wasn't needed and I learnt - out of sheer boredom, very much the theme of this article - that if you waggled the card around just right, you could also unscramble the movie channels too. In my older much more aware years, I take pride in this little spit in the general direction of Rupert Murdoch and his, lets be honest, bloody awful satellite service which now is full of new dramas and a big investment in comedy but prior to a certain yellow family moving in - more on which shortly - it was thin gruel of the old US sitcoms Channel 4 didn't want, very cheap game shows and imports from Fox TV in the States. Oh and Lonesome Dove. Many many hours of Lonesome Dove. When you consider the technically superior and much more interesting BSB was halfway through its all too brief lifespan that year, its amazing the absolute brass knackers Sky had.

My Dad maintained we got the dish originally so I would have something to watch in the boring six week summer holiday such as satellite's own dedicated children's channel, The Childrens Channel which also happened to a channel which also finished at 10am every morning so the Lifestyle channel (for WIMMIN!) could share its channel (or transponder) number and wouldn't be joined by the likes of Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network for another three years. Looking back at this time, particular with all the recent EU nonsense, I'm overwhelmed with nostalgia and our rare opportunity to see a window into what the rest of Europe were doing, connected to our neighbours across the water. But if I'm honest back in 1990 I was mostly very very bored. I mean, I even went outside and stuff. BY CHOICE.

Original DJ Kat (left), mental eyed American upstart variant (right)
One of the few things seemingly aimed at young viewers on satellite then was Sky's kids slot presented by the aforementioned DJ Kat, a bafflingly ugly and allegedly feline puppet that didn't seem to do much in the way of DJing bar the irritating mid-Atlantic twang of a jock, a trait which thankfully gave way to a regular London accent after a while. Later I discovered this was sort of a transition period for the character which had recently been taken over by puppeteering legend Don Austen when production of the segments moved from Amsterdam to London. An early production for John De Mol (soon to form production giants and Big Brother inventors Endemol), the DJ Kat of old was a husky voiced - and even uglier - American-voiced puppet performed by Robbie Hahn and presented by John De Mol's sister Linda, beginning for Sky Channel in 1986 on a budget of about 3p and half a Twix.

I also learnt that as well as there had been ANOTHER DJ Kat on New York channel WNYW which just so happened to have recently been bought by Rupert Murdoch's Fox. He was also American although that made slightly more sense and was partnered with the "Flexitoon Puppets", a comically rubbish name that can never possibly live up its sheer Simpsons-joke sounding promise.

It was The Simpsons that undoubtedly became one of the big reasons my friends suddenly all wanted Sky themselves and I recall much jealousy (and a bit of inviting themselves round) when the yellow family made their exceptionally hyped arrival in September 1990. Far from a kids show, despite what most dreadful "BEST KIDDIEBOX SHOW EVERS" polls say, 6:30 on a Sunday became an instant family-centring ritual which was upheld until pretty much me moving out from my folks. I would happily watch the first Sunday showing AND the same week repeat on Thursdays. Sky even had a "Simpsons week" once they'd actually just shown enough episodes to fill five days in a row. And we'd have been there watching them all again.

Its not even like season one is especially that good but telly we could all agree on wasn't always that common in our house. It was almost always tuned to something my Dad wanted to watch (hopefully monster trucks on Screensport) so finding something we all liked was a huge bonus. Indeed, I can recall quite a few huffs when I was denied my daily episode of "Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles" (CALL IT BY ITS NAME) even though, looking back, it really was a load of old shite.

I could still watch terrestrial episodes in my room of course but it was pretty sweet to watch ones your mates haven't. Not that I'd abandoned Children's BBC or ITV but it was nice to have a choice of programming back then, even if it was ratty copies of "Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors" or "Beverly Hills Teens". By the time it had finished in 1995 "The DJ Kat Show" was from all reports (I'd long drifted away thanks to likes of The Big Breakfast, MTV and being asleep in a morning) quite a respectable beast having morphed from a simple puppet and presenter format to live games, sketches, multiple cast members and cartoons even from the same decade.

DJ Kat will never be as iconic or remembered in the same way Edd The Duck, Round The Bend or knowing the full words to Willy Fogg is to my generation but it holds extremely fond memories for me as a time when telly was still finding its feet and Sky TV was the punchline to every single Jasper Carrott routine. In the same mental basket as adverts for Mini Dickmann's, Army Of Lovers' not especially subtle "Crucified" video every fifteen minutes and Keith Chegwin presenting the godawful Sky Star Search, not to mention the lightest in Saturday night Bavarian pornographies.

Fun Factory was fucking shit though.


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