Round the Twist
Have you ever
Ever felt like this?
Have strange things happened?
Are you going 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, the hilarious, 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 by the ACTF
(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. During the 7 years the show was off-air, The Genie From Down Under
(a similar but far less popular show also made by the ACTF, but with an explanation
for the unusual events that occurred) took its place.
The show was repeated in Britain on CBBC and in America on FOX's Fox Kids
line-up (around the time that the line-up was airing horror comedies, like Goosebumps
, Eerie Indiana
, and Toonsylvania
. Fox Kids even advertised Round The Twist
as an Australian version of Goosebumps
), hence have some recognition in both places.
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- 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.
- Eat The Camera - How the opening credits end.
- Eccentric Townsfolk - The whole main cast, although the Gribble family are particularly nasty.
- Enemy Mine - Every so often, the Twists would team up with the Gribble family to deal with a worse enemy or a bigger problem. In the first episode of Season 3, it's even lightly parodied when Gribble, Tiger and Rabbit, who have been chasing after Pete for the entire episode, are suddenly called upon to help him out, and the reply is "Okay, we'll give you a hand, but then we'll beat you up."
- 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.
- Flanderization: To some extent. If you watch from the first to the fourth series straight through, you'll see that Bronson in the first series is less obsessed with "toilet humour" and does not mix up his words as much, while Linda has a mild obsession with judo and Pete's obsession with girls is toned down. Come the fourth season, Linda has turned completely "New age hippy" and Bronson is obsessed with anything gross. Pete on the other hand winds up going through women quite a bit.
- Free-Range Children
- 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: So, so much. It becomes about ten times funnier when said show is aired during kids programming blocks. Aside from the examples mentioned under Moral Guardians, we also have:
- The entire episode of "Lucky Lips" basically has Pete getting kisses from other women via a tube of magical lipstick. The scene that falls past the radar in particular is when he uses it in the classroom and winds up "forcing" every girl in the classroom to kiss him — including Linda, and right through to the teacher. (When an unsuspecting Tony later tries on the lipstick, Linda groans "oh no!" and runs away as fast as she can.)
- The "Cabbage Patch Fib" has a scene with Matron Gribble bursting in upon hearing there's a baby present. She proceeds to greet Linda as though she's the one about to give birth. There's a scene at the end as well where Bronson finally gets the "talk."
- The "Wunderpants" episode has a couple of scenes involving Linda and Fiona flicking their eyes down to Pete's crotch. Also a good chunk of the second half has Pete wandering around completely butt naked after the bullies stole his clothes.
- "Little Squirt"...just Little Squirt.
- Linda gets the line "I'll always remember the time we pissed on the cold ear." in "Nails." (Her line is supposed to be "I remember the time we kissed on the old peer," but she messes it up, to the gleeful amusement of everyone else.)
- The entirety of "The Big Burp," which includes a Potty Emergency and, worst of all, an accidental pregnancy...involving a boy character carrying the child of a tree nymph.
- The entire "Viking Book of Love" arc that basically forces whoever is nearby to fall in love with whoever is in their direct path. And it turns into quite sickening love at some points, although it gets used for good at one point.
- Bronson swallows a whirling derfish. His penis basically becomes an instant propeller if you add water.
- "Linda Godiva" has Linda finding a way to turn invisible — but her clothes don't turn invisible with her, so in order to make use of hr invisibility she spends a considerable amount of the episode naked. One scene even shows the invisible Linda stripping out of all her (visible) clothes, including her underwear, and one scene shows her frantically dressing in order to turn visible again. In the last scene she accidentally becomes visible again without having dressed, and there is a full-body naked shot (shown from behind) as she rides off on the horse.
- One episode has full-body naked shots (again from behind) of Gribble, Tiger and Rabbit, after a ghost has made their clothes vanish.
- 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.
- Lampshade Hanging - During season one, Pete, Linda and Bronson are discussing the ongoing mystery of the mysterious music coming from the top of the lighthouse. Replies Bronson, 'Yeah, it always plays music when something creepy's about to happen' moments before they spot the mysterious sea chest that is that episode's weirdness of the week.
- 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 Ass Kicking - Sometimes Linda comes across as a soppy, intellectually-bent spiritualilty-geek. For all that, she could kick your arse.
- Moral Guardians: The show almost didn't see the light of day (and was the subject of a lot of censorship issues) in its native country of Australia and when it was exported to the UK (though not America, surprisingly), due to its gross-out humor (most of which centered on vomiting, urination, body odor, and defecation), mild sexual content (references to incest, Kissing Under the Influence, pregnancy, and interspecies romance), and subject matter that most Moral Guardians wouldn't find appropriate for children's TV (nudity, death, dangerous stunts, and Nightmare Fuel).
- Motor Mouth - Tiger, who can never resist playing commentator to whatever's going on. It's especially prominent in Season 1 when he's played by Cameron Nugent, but to an extent in the other seasons as well.
- Mundane Fantastic
- Nightmare Fetishist - Bronson. Most of the characters, actually.
- 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.)
- Parental Obliviousness - Tony on almost all occasions, though often it's because the kids are deliberately keeping him out of the loop. Fay, though she only gradually becomes a parental figure to the kids, is also a frequent victim of this and may in fact be a worse case than Tony.
- Poor Communication Kills - A staple of Fay's relationship with the Twists. It sort of makes sense, because Fay in many ways is the newcomer who hasn't quite figured out how the family works and as such tends to miss obvious cues or take everything at face value. Still, it's noticable how much trouble everyone could have saved themselves if the kids, and to a lesser extent Tony, had just bothered to explain things to her — or if she hadn't been in the habit of jumping to conclusions every time something weird happened, because the conclusion she usually jumps to is "the kids hate me."
- 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.
- Another pretty bad one is how in Series 3 & 4 everyone seem to forget all their experiances with ghosts. It gets directly laughable in Series 4's Face the Fear, where the Gribble gang try to scare Bronson with ghosts, and he somewhat nervously claims that ghosts don't exist. Despite him having encountered ghosts several times in all four series. Even his nervousness doesn't make sense, given how most of the ghosts he's met have been non-malevolent or even friendly.
- 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".
- Title Theme Tune
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.
- Bowdlerise - The episode "Birdsdo" is based on a story called "Birdscrap".
- 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.
- 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 neither of them know he is a merman at the time and his transformation is one-way.
- Plant People: The Cabbage Patch Fib
- 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.
- Re Tool: 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.
- Scary Scarecrows - Having discovered a trunk filled with circus clothes, Tony decides to dress their scarecrow in a clown outfit, causing it to later come alive and chase Linda, thereby successfully managing to combine Scary Scarecrows with Monster Clown in one easy step.
- Shameless Self-Promoter - Harold Gribble, once he becomes a politician.
- Strawman Political - Harold Gribble, arguably. 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". He's contrasted with the more reasonable mayor.
- 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.
Tropes of season 3 and 4
- 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.
- Horny Vikings - A group of them shows up in the second episode of Season 3. They leave behind "The Viking Book of Love" which ends up being a recurring element in the season.
- Hollywood Nerd - Anthony has strong shades of this.
- Living Shadow - The episode Shadow Play
- Mr. Seahorse - The first episode of season 3 is "The Big Burp", where a dryad lets Pete pee on her tree while running away from some bullies, and Pete learns that when a man urinates on a dryad-possessed tree, he becomes pregnant.
- Mystical Pregnancy: Pete's predicament in the above-mentioned Season 3 opener; one of the rare times when a male character is exposed to this trope.
- 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
- Reality-Writing Book - The Viking Book of Love
- Remember the New Guy - Anthony, the Twists' nerdy friend (and Dogged Nice Guy to Linda) shows up in Season 3 without any introduction, and the other characters treating him as if he'd been there all along.
- Re Tool - In Series 3 & 4, the series loses its focus on ghosts and their Unfinished Business and became an Australian version of Eerie Indiana.
- Soapbox Sadie - Linda becomes this, sort of, when a botched haircut gives her the power to 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". It winds up being turned on its head though as the Twist kids use this to their advantage and threaten to reveal the truth about their "heroes."