IN the past there was no CGI and actors were off their faces on booze and drugs, meaning animals had to step up and star in these classics:
Mister Ed, 1961-1966
AnAmerican show starring a talking horse and his owner Wilbur. The duo formed a comedy partnership with Mister Ed lip-syncing to a voiceover and only audible to Wilbur, a situation understood by modern-day middle-class princesses and their ponies.
A Rough Collie hangs around with kids who have lost all sense of risk and consequently stumble down wells on a weekly basis. Lassie then goes and wearily barks at an adult ‘The dumbshit’s hanging off the edge of a f**king cliff again’ to an adult, who repeats a censored version out loud.
A bottle-nosed dolphin who acted as a hairless, clicky, wet Lassie, perpetually saving his young friend and acting as emergency services for a US marine park. Billed as the King of the Sea but would have been seriously f**ked up if the emergency had ever been a killer whale.
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, 1967-1969
A third iteration of the same idea, this time with a kangaroo supposedly giving a shit about children stumbling into the deadly hazards littering the Australian outback. Kangaroos make little sound, so Skippy communicated a child’s location, the type and severity of his injuries and which venomous snake was approaching by smacking his lips.
Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion, Daktari, 1965-1969
A lion that couldn’t talk to humans but had ophthalmic issues. Rode in a jeep frequently. Miraculously the show was cancelled because of low ratings, not because Clarence killed a junior co-star.
Hammy Hamster, Tales of the Riverbank, 1960-1992
The breakout star of a BBC kids show in which actual rodents had adventures on jam-smeared boats and aeroplanes. Shown late at night in America, it made Hammy a cult star among weedhead freaks and got him his own spin-off. It’s reasonable to assume he met the most sordid possible end.