With Lotis and EC, Beverly, Rocky and Us
We've opened our eyes and we're flying up high
And we're wanting, we're really wanting you to Lift-Off!
With Lotis and EC, Patches and Backsaks and all!
We've stories to tell, and the world as well
And a how-do-you-do Wakadoo!
OK, let's face it: there is little quality entertainment for preteens. Most of what the preteens get is geared towards scatological humour and general insanity, making the few shows that aren't such something truly special.
Lift-Off is one of those truly special shows. Created in Australia in the 1990s, it was envisioned as a way to bring quality entertainment to children thanks to the Australian Children's Television Foundation (the group that gave us Round the Twist, Kaboodle and Ocean Girl). It ran for three separate series in 1992, 1994 and 1996.
In a unique move for a TV show, each episode was formatted to run either as an hour-long block or as two half-hour episodes (each self-contained, bridged only by a song). The series focused on a bunch of kids living in a low-rise apartment block that was staffed by an eccentric Sadist Teacher-type administrator and a talking lift named Lotis. Other characters that would make appearances were EC, a faceless ragdoll that was capable of limited independent movement, and Beverly, a one-eyed pot-plant that would pop up just about anywhere.
Each episode would feature the kids dealing with an everyday problem, ranging from dealing with their friends' carelessness to learning An Aesop about teamwork. Once per Episode, we would get each of the following:
- A song that provided the episode title—each episode got half a song, although some of these songs would appear fully in the actual show. In cases where the episodes were strung together, the song would simply be the bridge. Each of these songs would be accompanied by a montage detailing the events of the episode in question.
- A segment at the Wakadoo Café, which would always be cued by a kid saying "Wakadoo".
- A segment featuring a plant called Beverly, a potplant with variable contents and a single Eye on a Stalk that would appear at any given location in the show. Each segment (which was cued randomly) would feature a zoom in to the eye, revealing a Stock Footage montage around a given theme.
- Appearances by a frill-necked lizard named Rocky, who would film the "two-footers" for films to show his "fellow frill-seekers" about some aspect of human society. Usually, his interpretation (which would be themed around a random aspect of the episode, coupled with more Stock Footage) would be humorously wrong, in a sort of subversion of Play School's "through the windows". The formula was such: He appeared with a camera at a random moment of the show, then a more conventional appearance (with the fellow frill-seekers) displaying a film relevant to his interpretation of what he filmed.
- A random appearance from the "Backsaks", animate backpacks that belonged to the kids (who they knew as "crammers")
- And finally, a story would appear in some sort of animated format.
This show contained examples of:
- Audience Surrogate: EC was intended to stand in for the children watching the show, and give them a character to relate to.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Obstructive Bureaucrat character spent one episode waving around a ban sign with a mirror on it, and was then convinced to turn it around...
- Inexplicably Identical Individuals: Mr Fish would randomly appear in other capacities, although this could have been borne out of a desire to use Mark Mitchell in every episode.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The forum administrator (this being the early 90's, that means a building forum rather than the online kind), who would dig up something new to ban in every episode. On a couple of occasions he claims that he doesn't make the rules, only to be called out on it by the kids.
- Once per Episode: See above.
- Title Theme Tune: The extended version of which managed to work in the titles of over two dozen of the individual episodes, coming across as Word Salad Lyrics out of context.