Hey, Dad…! was a brilliant piece of Australian television history… for the first two seasons, then “Nudge” (Christopher Truswell) left the show, and things went downhill pretty quickly. Sure, we had all the staple elements of a classic sitcom; the straight character (Martin Kelly, or “Dad”) and the loveable, goofy off-sider (Betty), the three kids, Simon, Deb and Jenny, all nice looking people without a hint of personality, so they really all could have been put into the one character, and the afore-mentioned Nudge, the “next-door-neighbour” character with the one-liners and vacant expression. As the show’s writers ran out of ideas shortly after the pilot, they picked up on the fact that everybody loved Nudge (which is the name of my new sitcom) and decided to base every show around his mad-capped antics.
Enough’s enough, thought Nudge, and he pissed off to do… something. Last I saw of him, he was playing the guitar with Lucky “Bargearse” Grills on The Late Show. So they brought in Matthew Krok, “Arthur Macarthur”, who would soon become known as “The Little Fat Kid from Hey, Dad…!” In a nod to the future, this tubby little shit became every kid; smart-arsed, fat and annoying. He had two expressions, one was the “I’m fat, so laugh at me” face, and the other was “I’m fat, give me sympathy”.
Somewhere along the line, Deb left the show, and was replaced by cousin Rachel; then Simon left and his best friend Ben moved in. I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would live with their best mate’s parents, when the best mate was no longer living there, spoken of or thought about by the other family members. Jenny’s character remained, although the actress changed. For the life of me, I have no idea why they didn’t just throw her into one of the giant plot holes that were rife at the time. Oh look, they did. In what is now apparently a common theme in an Australian series, the most useless character in a show is sent off to boarding school. See you later Jen, thanks for coming. See you in a few episodes when you come back as a goth, having had some trouble fitting in, learn a lesson about ‘being yourself’ and then piss off again. So with the original kids all gone, some randoms and some more randoms moving in, it was hardly the ideal setting for a show called “Hey, Dad…!” What else to do but fill up one of those plot holes with some clever writing? Mr Kelly is sick of being called “Uncle Martin” or “Mr Kelly” or “Fagchops” and would prefer if all these people in the house would call him “Dad”. Twisted much, Mr Kelly?
And so Hey, Dad…! began its decline into becoming a parody of itself. “Dad” left the show, and everyone thought, “Well, that’s it. We can’t have a show called Hey, Dad…! without the dad. That would be like having a show called Full House that was about a house that wasn’t full. Speaking of Full House, did anyone else find it weird that no-one really cared that Uncle Joey and Uncle Jesse still lived with the family, even though they were mid-30s? And then Jesse gets married, has kids, and still refuses to move out? Becky must have been pretty patient or super stoned to allow that to happen. How the hell did they find the time and privacy to have sex with 72 other people in the house?
Anyway, Mr Kelly moves out, but the producers decide not to let this dead horse go. There’s still a race to be won here. They bring out the bigger whips and start flogging like no one has ever flogged before (except for Uncle Joey on Full House; that guy never seemed to be getting laid), and replaced Dad with… Uncle Greg. The marketing geniuses realised that a show called “Hey, Uncle Greg…!” didn’t have the same ring to it, and so they went back to that oft-used well, which was by now a dirty, boggy puddle of algae-infested scum that people would normally pay $1 per day to stop some poor starving African from drinking, and Uncle Greg asked the leftover cast to call him ‘Dad’, even though (a) the only thing Uncy Greg and Mr Kelly had in common was that they were architects. Who worked from home. I guess those guys are hard to find, so maybe it was THAT kind of “brotherhood”, and (b) he had other kids that he left behind in his home city, who would probably have preferred to call him Dad, rather than this troupe of fucktards and bogans that now sat around the couch, calling anyone and everything “Dad.” I don’t really think I needed an (a) and (b) scenario there, but I wanted one anyway.
In honour of this magnificent tv show, I am going to ask my mousepad to call me ‘Dad’. And I will in turn call my left shoe ‘Dad’. And then when I change shoes, my other shoe will be ‘Dad’ and no-one will mind.
I salute you, Kelly family, as large and obscure and non-related as you all are, for filling the Wednesday night void from 1989 to whenever it was that someone put you all out of your misery. The best part about Hey, Dad…! was that the sets for the house were also used for Alf and Ailsa’s house on Home and Away. I wish I could say that they saved money on sets and spent it on scripts, but I can safely assume that that didn’t happen.