Jul 13, 2010

I'll Give You a Ride - Remembering "The Extraordinary"

For me, the 1990s really were an extended prime-time fright-night geek-shriek fest.

Back when I was 13 or 14, I used to stay up to be terrified by the villains confronting Mulder and Scully on The X-Files (remember the stretchy-liver-eating bloke? The toilet fluke worm? The fat-sucking vampire dude?); then strap myself in for the out-and-out freakiness of American Gothic ("Someone's at the door! Someone's at the door!").

But my favourite scare 'em silly show was Channel Seven's The Extraordinary. This was Australian television's take on the supernatural, the paranormal, the bizarre and unexplainable, the eerie and spooky - all words which could be used to describe the voice of host Warwick Moss.

My rolling stones gather no
moss, if you know what
I'm saying.
Moss had testes the size of Texas, as evidenced by his deep, yet ever-so-roughly-edged vocal tones. Each Thursday at 8:30pm, the low synth keyboard of the show's opening theme song would pulse its way through to the synaptic cortexes of your brain. Then up would pop Moss, wandering about a plush-looking loft apartment somewhere along Sydney Harbour. Quite often he'd sit, one legged crossed over the other, staring straight down the barrel of the camera and INTO YOUR SOUL. Other times, he'd be seen with a beige jacket slung casually over one shoulder, paying some sort of smart casual respect for the ghosts and inexplicable psychic phenomena profiled on that evening's show.

Moss would then introduce a series of short "documentaries" about paranormal activity, conspiracy theories, or Yorkshire housewives writing literary classics. His lead-ins were normally a bit torturous and confusing, but you can forgive that voice a lot. I remember being absolutely shrivelled with fright after the very first episode - which featured the story of a man who was convinced he'd been cursed by a witch, and was found mysteriously dead in his bathtub surrounded by crucifixes and candles. It was powerfully scary imagery.

Which brings me to the absolute highlight of any story on The Extraordinary - the required re-enactment. Done in a style that could only be described as "Nineties Naff", they were nonetheless responsible for more goosebumps than R.L. Stine.

The example below is one of the most famous. While it had a local slant, The Extraordinary would still have to go offshore to the US or UK to bulk out the hour's running time. This story features actor Telly Savalas -not the kind of bloke you'd imagine hooking a finger up to a ouija board or paying a fortune teller. You'd think if Telly Savalas ever came across a ghost, he'd punch it in the face before throwing down a bottle of overproof rum and shagging the ghost's missus.

But apparently not. It turns out Telly Savalas once had a very mysterious encounter...

Now, I challenge you not to get through the rest of today without turning creepily towards a friend or loved one and saying in your best high-pitched ghostly voice "I'LL give you a RIDE..."

This is classic The Extraordinary. The tilted camera angle on Savalas. The spooky background music. The eerie spectre of the Cadillac driver, and his obsession with the "utility in-field for the Boston Red Sox". (Honestly, he sounds like a children's TV presenter on helium). The inexplicable piece of paper with the name and phone number on it. The mystery, the mystery!

The Extraordinary lasted for four seasons. It got sillier and sillier as time went by - or more likely, it was always silly, and I just grew up and got over it a bit. I think they did get a bit desperate though; the evidence required got skimpier and the subjects more tenuous. But still, it was a great show in its heyday. I certainly don't recall anything else like it on Australian TV.

I don't know whether you could produce a show like The Extraordinary anymore. The 1990s seemed a time when everyone Wanted To Believe. These days, shows are all about deconstructing the smoke and mirrors, and showing how it's done. It's all, you know, SCIENCE and stuff. But it's nice to surf YouTube and remember those days, huddled in my pyjamas, a pillow over my face, my heart racing, enjoying having the living daylights AND the bejesus scared out of me.


  1. This was only the precursor to Warwick Moss' greatest role - flogging shit on that Ten infomercial lifestyle show with Sarah McLeod's sister and that northern Irish chef who used to say 'THAT'S THE DOG'S BOLLOCKS' in an apparently affirmatory way.

  2. It was 1994, I was living in Murgon (which you would think provided more than enough ammunition for many nightmares already) with my grandparents, and I stayed up when I wasn't supposed to to watch this episode of The Extraordinary. And I hated myself for it. That creepy voice and Cadillac burnt itself into my brain, and it gave me nightmares for weeks. Convinced I was being punished for breaking a rule, I was even MORE of a goody two shoes than I already was for...well, the rest of my life, so far.


  3. Back in the fifties and sixties people would talk of being visited by angels, but then as the years went by angels sightings dropped off and were replaced with ghost sightings. Then in eighties the transition moved from ghosts to aliens.

    I think it's brilliant that now-a-days people have seen enough episodes of Mythbusters that these are dropping off as well but there's something wonderful about being 13 and scaring yourself half to death.

    My brothers and I used to do so with the Twilight zone and WereWolf. The twilight zone music still makes me terrified to look over my shoulder.

  4. Unfortunately, the longer shows like that go on, the more they go through the good stuff and the more they have to dip into the 'slush pile' to fill the time.
    I do recommend the show's spiritual predecessor, which scared the piss out of me in the 1970's, 'In Search Of...' hosted by Leonard Nimoy.

  5. ...and before angels, Dan, it was Fairies.

    In the future.. Iphone12 sightings!

  6. As for the death of 'spooky telly', unfortunately, as science has had to take on a siege mentality against a tide of religious nutbaggery, demanding we treat magical bible stories as 'science', it's also had to adopt a kind of zero tolerance.
    Where once, a scientifically-minded nerd could entertain thoughts of ghosties, ghoulies, and stretchy, liver-eating blokes without peril, we're now being increasingly polarized into the Richard Dawkins' 'hard atheism' camp or the 'elves and moondust wish fulfillment' camp of the intelligent design loonies.

  7. There's nothing like a hard atheist... wait... what are you talking about?

  8. I love sitting in a dark room with all the curtains closed and watching horror movies such as 'Signs'. I don't exactly know why, but I just love that thrill and adrenaline pumped through. I wish I had grown up the smae time as you, GC, I would have LOVED that show; I'm all for the supernatural ;) -Rose

  9. I used to always laugh at his attempt at a spooky sign-off - "I'll see you... in the future.".

    I mean really, nothin spooky about that, now if you see me in the past... THAT's spooky. Still, it was sufficiently memorable that I still use the line occasionally.

  10. lol me and my sister have been saying il give u a ride to each other since we first saw this back in the 90s- she lives in england now and i just sent her the link to this in facebook and she cant believe i found this lol. on a side not, marry me girl clumsy!

  11. you mentioned The X-Files and I also recalled my teenage stage when that TV show was my favorite and I did not miss any episode, so I know what you are talking about

  12. "I'LL give you a RIDE..." still freaks me out to this day.

  13. Why did I watch that I am going to have it in my head for another 15 years!

  14. "i'll give you a ride"

    Shit.... now im going to have nightmares for a week.

    Im 24...

    And a dude.