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Series / The Ferals

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The Ferals was a television series created and broadcast in Australia for 1994 through to 1995. The series is set in a nameless town somewhere in the Australian suburbs and focuses on a specific house being rented by two university students, the eccentric yet affable Leonard (a science student), and the simultaneously more and less grounded Robbie (a medical student and a girl, despite the name). The show revolves around the interactions between the two students, their landlord Joe, and the motley crew of four noxious animals living in their shed — Rattus P. Rattus (a black rat), Modigliana (a feral cat), Mixy (a rabbit) and Derryn (a feral dog).

After it was cancelled, it spawned a successor series: Feral TV. When this in turn was cancelled, Mixy became a host for the ABC Kids programming block for some time, while Modigliana would become the puppet cohost of Creature Features. Before that Rattus and Modi both starred in a recurring segment on the edutainment show Numbers Count.

The Ferals includes examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The Ferals annual reveals a backstory for each member of the gang and shows how they all came to meet.
  • Amusing Injuries: All the time, of note is the episode where Rattus keeps getting injured as he attempts to go to the moon, until finally he's on crutches for the final act.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The Ferals spend the majority of their time insulting and beating up each other ...but even Rattus breaks down when the gang temporarily believes they'll have to go their separate ways.
  • Batman Gambit: In one April Fools episode, Rattus claims that he's not going to bother joining the other Ferals in their usual prank celebration. After a long and complex array of events, Joe is frantically scrambling to try and get the place back in order in preparation for the "Honorable Society of the Musk Oxen", the latest snobby, uppercrust club he's tried to join... and the club turns out to have been made up entirely by Rattus, meaning every last humiliation and panic attack Joe has gone through all day, as well as all the humiliations suffered by the Ferals as they tried to prove they could pull off a prank without Rattus, is ultimately the climax of one big prank. Then when it's pointed out that pulling this reveal just after midnight so as not to violate his "prank insurance" means Rattus' prank isn't "square" because it's no longer April Fool's Day, Rattus reveals he turned all of the local clocks forward by one day — so it's only just turned April Fools'!
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Mixy is generally the most reasonable and sweet-tempered of the gang, yet quite capable of bullying the others into following her lead when she feels inclined to stand up for herself.
  • Black Comedy: One of the reasons the show is fondly remembered is because of its macabre stance towards humor. Mixy's name, for example, is admittedly derived from Myxomatosis.
  • Butt-Monkey: Everyone.
  • Catchphrase: "Gonna get ya!"
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's very rare that Leonard's latest invention won't have some impact on the current plot, either causing the crisis or in some way contributing to its resolution.
  • Christmas Episode: One that hilariously deconstructs a lot of the usual tropes. The Ferals try to help Joe out, but that's only because they want in on his Christmas dinner. Their efforts in doing so fail so spectacularly that they break Lenny's camcorder and the results end up on 'Australia's Worst Home Videos' (and even then it's because it was the only entry). The Ferals celebrate anyway because they now have a huge sack of presents, but unlike most Christmas stories where everyone would come together and share, the episode ends with everyone fighting over the prizes.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: The first episode begins with Rattus and Moddi smacking each other out through the shed window, only to run back inside and do it to the other. This is not an isolated incident.
  • Compressed Vice: "School's Out" has Robbie suddenly reveal that she needs glasses, which appears to mainly set up an excuse for the Ferals to 'borrow' them to help them cheat in an upcoming exam (Leonard puts a small camera on the glasses and Derryn wears them so that it can transmit the exam paper to Robbie and Leonard). At the conclusion, Robbie confirms that she's now wearing contact lenses.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The Ferals annual reveals this about Mixie. She was initially bought as a present for a bratty kid who clearly didn't want her. Her owners neglected her (including leaving her in a mountain of her own poop). Eventually the delightful family ditched her at an animal testing facility where the other Ferals found her being dipped into experimental chemicals, perhaps explaining why she's pink.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Derryn, who is also an example of Dumb Is Good, being the sweetest, nicest and most na├»ve of the Ferals.
  • Dragged into Drag: In "Four Ferals and a Wedding", when the other three Ferals are tied up, Modigliana only agrees to free them if (among other forfeits) Rattus will swap clothes with her for a month as she's always admired his leather jacket.
  • Easy Amnesia: One episode has Mixy lose her memory after the gang send her out to bury what they think are gold coins; Mixy only learns while she's out that they're actually chocolate coins. After Robbie leaves Derryn in charge of Mixy's care, she regains her memory when Derryn tests something he saw on TV and hits her over the head again.
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: Modigliana has a fantasy of one when she thinks she's dying, complete with Rattus as a fan bearer. He insists that, "This isn't cat heaven, this is rat hell!"
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: It's made repeatedly clear that the main reason anyone tolerates Joe is that he's their landlord; the cast each have their moments where at least one of them annoys the others, but Joe is the one most regularly the victim of the events that befall the group because his arrogance lands him in trouble and nobody cares enough to help him.
  • Grand Finale: The shed and flat are destroyed so the Ferals go underground and Lenny and Robbie move out, leaving Joe alone and ruined.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Modigliana likes to pass herself off as a prima donna, but is one of the nastiest of the group, and a frighteningly skilled brawler when she gets her temper up.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In "School's Out", Joe attempts to get the Ferals forced to go to school by sending a letter to the education commissioner revealing their lack of an education. However, when the Ferals are forced to sit an exam to determine their fate, Leonard and Robbie agree to help the Ferals cheat as they're sitting the exam on very short notice and have been genuinely trying to improve, while Joe is forced to sit the exam himself because the letter he sent had such atrocious spelling and penmanship. As a result, the Ferals all pass the test with flying colours while Joe is faced with being sent back to school himself because he failed the test.
  • Idea Bulb: Often. Derryn once has an idea candle and Lenny has an advanced bulb.
  • It's All About Me: Rattus has heard of compassion and empathy but he's not quite sure what they are. Modigliana isn't much better.
  • Jerkass:
    • Joe, the landlord; greedy, narcissistic, self-absorbed and desperate to get more power.
    • Rattus and Moddi as well.
  • Mad Scientist: Leonard, or "Lenny", seems to be studying to be this. The house is full of his weird inventions, with one episode revolving around his attempt to build a robotic helper, which Joe promptly tries to market without Lenny's permission, and another revolving around a matter cloning machine he creates accidentally while trying to create a printer that won't jam.
  • Once per Episode: Leonard will invariably give an overly complicated scientific explanation for something and then 'dumb it down' once it's clear nobody else understood it.
  • One-Steve Limit: Defied; one episode saw the Ferals assume that Robbie was going on a date with Joe, when in reality she was having dinner with her uncle Joe.
  • Pet the Dog: The Ferals are not nice or good people but they clearly have a soft spot for Robbie and help her out from time to time. This includes them allowing her to cat-scan them for a university project and encouraging her to ask out the sexy dentist she's attracted to. In "Prime Suspect", when Mixy claims to have witnessed Robbie murder Joe (actually just part of Robbie's rehearsal for a play), the other Ferals are shocked that she would even think Robbie is capable of such a thing.
  • Punny Name:
    • In one of the darkest examples to ever feature on children's television, Mixy, from Myxomatosis. note  Doubles as Parental Bonus, considering almost no-one in the target audience would have understood the joke, and when they did...
    • Joe King. The pun is not lost on the other characters.
  • Realistic Species, Cartoony Species: The human cast is played by actual people while the animals are played by puppets.
  • The Scrooge: During the period when he thinks he's won a million dollars, Joe clearly comes across as one, willing to spend thousands on an expensive car for himself but becoming outraged when he finds that Lennie has thrown away a near-empty tube of toothpaste as 'wasting money'.
  • Something That Begins with "Boring": Mixy doesn't know anything other than "shed". But Rattus has his own way of making it fun.
    Rattus: (While holding a cricket bat) I spy with my little eye... somethin' ending in "Ow!"...
  • Spin-Off: After The Ferals ended, Mixy became the host of her own programming block on ABC in the morning, featuring programmes such as Bananas in Pyjamas and Play School aimed at very young children. In hindsight, it was a very bizarre choice.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Frequently one or all the Ferals will turn to the camera and say "Uh Oh..." when they realize something bad is about to happen. But the crown jewel would have to be when Derryn follows it up with an Aside Comment while standing between the shed and an oncoming wrecking ball in the Grand finale.
    Derryn: This may not be the smartest thing I've ever done.
  • Tomboy: Robbie (as if the name doesn't give her away), who is constantly getting into weird hobbies.
  • Trash the Set: The finale sees the Shed and the human's flats demolished. Joe first ordering the demolition of the shed and Robbie and Leonard's flat out of greed, then the Ferals taking out Joe's flat as payback.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Lenny on occasion. He demonstrates the power of suggestion to the Ferals by telling a sleepwalking Derryn to lie down. The other Ferals start to abuse this to prank Kylie and Keith, but then Rattus has him steal the cakes Joe brought home from work, leading to the Why Am I Ticking? situation below.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Ferals are not good people. They are not nice people.
  • Wham Episode: In the season two premiere "A Change is as good as Holiday", a series of accidents leads to the destruction of Robbie and Leonard's flat. The flat remains wrecked for the rest of the series.
  • Why Am I Ticking?: "Ratty Ratty Bang Bang" has the cast believe Rattus has swallowed a bomb buried in a pile of cakes he had Derryn steal from Joe. Subverted as the ticking turns out to be Joe's watch, which had been left beside the cakes, only for Derryn to find the real bomb seconds later.
  • With Friends Like These...: There isn't a scene that goes by without one of the Ferals insulting or hitting at least one of the others.
  • Yuppie Couple: Keith (a koala) and Kylie (a kangaroo), the 'Bogans from the Bush', who basically sit around mocking the Ferals and looking down on them for being noxious introduced species.