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
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.