OSN Comedy’s latest import, Better Off Ted, is one of the strangest shows we’ve seen in a while. Set in the world of Veridian Dynamics, a company that prides itself on being morally bankrupt, it revolves around a band of hapless scientists who are forced to work on products that are at best merely defective (racist motion sensors) and at worst outright evil (killer robots). It’s a very funny series, and a very odd one too, but it’s not the weirdest sitcom ever to grace our screens. Here, in ascending order of bizarreness, are five extremely strange shows from the past 40 years.
5 My Mother the Car (1965): When people talk about a show being a comedy vehicle, they don’t usually use the word ‘vehicle’ this literally – or ‘comedy’ this loosely. While his brother was living it up in hokey sitcom The Dick van Dyke Show, Jerry van Dyke ended up playing David, who buys a car that’s the reincarnation of his dead mother. Jerry gave up a starring role on Gilligan’s Island for this. Nice going, buddy.
Defining moment: Pretty much what you’d expect: in the pilot episode, David hears a car calling for him, climbs inside and finds himself in the creepiest Oedipal metaphor ever.
4 Whoops, Apocalypse! (1986): British satire is a treasure trove of absurdity, but few go as far as this show in which US president Johnny Cyclops, insane UK prime minister Kevin Pork, a series of clones of the Soviet Premier and an Iranian Shah squabble over a world-destroying bomb. You can guess from the title what happens at the end, but the journey is hysterical in every sense of the word.
Defining moment: Thinking he’s Superman, PM Kevin Pork lets his super-dog out for its morning fly around the block. Alas, poor Krypto cannot fly, and is hurled out of a window to his doom.
3 Heil, Honey I’m Home! (1990): A satire of ’70s domestic racial tension comedies – you know: racist white guy gets a new black neighbour, ‘hilarity’ ensues – this show had Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun (both played with American accents) living next to an overly friendly Jewish couple. It was dropped after one episode, which is for the best because it only had one, not very good, joke.
Defining moment: The opening scene: Hitler enters the apartment to a round of canned applause, delivers a Nazi salute and cheerfully announces: ‘Heil, honey – I’m home!’
2 Get a Life (1990): Part-written by Charlie Kaufmann (of Being John Malkovich fame), Get a Life was a hilarious, absurdist sitcom based around Chris, a man so stupid that he forgets how to open doors. Chris actually dies 12 times during the show’s run: causes include stab wounds, old age, decapitation, tonsillitis, choking on cereal and exploding.
Defining moment: Chris brings home an alien, Spewey, whose perpetual vomiting annoys Gus, Chris’s housemate, so much that Gus beats Spewey to death with a rake. Miserable, Chris goes on an eating binge and accidentally consumes the alien’s corpse. ‘Spewey used to melt my heart,’ muses Chris, ‘now he melts in my mouth…’
1 Xavier: Renegade Angel (2007): Xavier (below) is a self-styled CGI mystic with backwards knees, discoloured eyes, a beak nose and a snake for an arm; he searches eternally for the answer to the nonsense question, ‘what doth life?’ The show’s lack of continuity, perplexing stories and nonsense dialogue drove many away, but we love its brilliant wordplay and clever dream-logic.
Defining moment: On a quest to find missing babies, Xavier discovers that his left arm – which is also a snake – has been hoarding and eating them. He gives the snake permission to dispose of the evidence by devouring the remaining babies, arguing that he can’t let an innocent man go to jail, ‘even if he is me’.