Two seasons ago, the Family Channel began offering original programming, tepid stuff like the sappy Western Bordertown. This season, the cable network is at it again (Mickey Rooney in a TV version of The Black Stallion — mmmm boy, can’t wait), but at least one odd, original show managed to get through the Family gauntlet. Maniac Mansion is the first live-action TV show from George Lucas’ Lucasfilm (so you know the special effects are good). It stars SCTV‘s Joe Flaherty (so you know it’s off-kilter).
Flaherty is an inventor named Dr. Fred Edison; he lives with his wife and three children in a rambling old house nicknamed Maniac Mansion. Now comes the odd stuff: The kids’ names are Ike, Tina, and Turner. And a wayward experiment by the father has transformed 4-year-old Turner into a hulking 6’4”, 250-pound young man (he’s played by adult actor George Buza). The house is also inhabited by the children’s uncle Harry — who, through another failed experiment, is trapped in the body of a housefly (you know it’s Harry, though, because he has a tiny human head).
What with all this foolishness, Flaherty doesn’t have to bother much with plots or punch lines — he just lets the family chatter while he does a lot of SCTV riffing, such as impersonating Bing Crosby and Broderick Crawford to cheer up a depressed Turner. What jokes there are include recondite cracks about James Joyce and John F. Kennedy’s assassination. How the heck did this ever get on the Family Channel? B