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Why Australia Needs to Bring Back 'Cheez TV' Now More Than Ever

​I remember my first real taste of outrage. It happened in 1997 when a British royal died and Cheez TV got cancelled for the day.

by Patrick Marlborough
27 October 2016, 12:00am

A marvel of design. via Youtube.

I remember my first real taste of outrage. It happened early one morning in 1997 when I came downstairs to find my parents huddled around the television set. I watched for long enough to realise that some sort of British royal had died in a car crash. "What happened to Cheez TV?" I asked.

"It's cancelled," said dad, "Princess Diana has died."

This was a tragedy.

Cheez TV defined Australian childhood for a generation. Airing on Channel 10 between 1995 and 2005, the show was a lo-fi hodge-podge of cartoon wackiness and subversive humour.

This year, the show's former hosts, Jade Gatt and Ryan "Lappo" Lappin, have started a comeback, posting classic clips and touring the convention circuit. They've started a petition to reboot the show in a later timeslot with adult content.

If there was ever a time to do that, it's now. Australia needs Cheez TV more than ever.

Our boys. via Youtube.

Cheez TV was a garish rebuttal to the preening stuffiness of the Howard era. A small cultural insurgency hidden between aerobics and Bert Newton, slyly egging on the nation's kid weirdos and smart-alecks. A spastic cereal box sticking out in Australia's great age of conformity, the breakfast of champions that almost outlasted Howard himself.

There was something decidedly off about it: shows with similar formats were, in comparison, clean cut. Their cartoons were moralistic and bland, their hosts well-groomed NIDA graduates with straight teeth and unblinking eyes.

The same can't be said for Cheez TV. Their hosts Jade and Ryan were more Tim and Eric than Hamish and Andy. They had the air of the cool older cousin who showed you the most brutal fatalities in Mortal Kombat, or the guys working at a video rental who'd slip a joint into the tape case. They wore FOX caps and ¾ baggies. They were ratty. They were wild. They were loose, and their 10-year run as TV hosts is as much a miracle as anomaly. Along with announcer Mark Bellamy, and sometime-co-host Lenka Kripac, they pulled off stunts that would have had censors and producer's heads spinning.

Another marvel of (graphic) design. via Youtube.

Jade played a roving newsman named "Dick Wadd." Ryan did a creepily off-putting Dr Harry impersonation which heavily implied the TV vet was into bestiality. It's hard to find a clip that doesn't use a pun to allude to drugs or sex—be it to dropping acid or wanking. Their monologues and bits were formless and bizarre, filled with dirty puns and sly jokes about the entertainment industry and Australian culture.

In fact, it was Ryan's constant piss-taking of Rove that eventually did the show in, or so goes a persistent urban myth.

Then you had the cartoons themselves. Australian animation was barely a thing in the 90s, and it was slim-pickings outside of the ABC's (admittedly brilliant) animation block. Cheez TV was a gateway drug to freakdom with its seemingly unending bounty of anime, superheroes, and Street Sharks.

This was the Trojan horse that smuggled Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z into the country and set off national crisis, the trauma of which still reverberates with a swathe of Australian parents. Cheez TV had kids screaming "I'M GOING SUPER SAIYAN" in a thousand school playgrounds. It wriggled its way into the nation's collective conscious.

As was the case with ABC kids and the Channel 10 Simpsons/Seinfeld block, Cheez TV breached the gaps in an otherwise disparate nation. There was something malformed and dated about the media that we as Australian children were given to consume, and how we were told to consume it (think Agro). Along comes Cheez TV to throw the baby out with the Ritalin bottle.

Always film on a diagonal. Always. via Youtube.

I remember trying to tell my mum I was upset because I'd just seen Picollo blown in half while eating my coco-pops. That to me, was trauma on a Princess Diana scale, but Jade and Ryan were there to guide me through my grief.

Cheez TV is emblematic of the boomers vs millennials proxy-war. The echo chamber of shouting around affordable housing and smashed avocados is made slightly more stark by the unuttered question: "what gender was Frieza?" Cheez TV signaled the rift between the old Australia of Menzies and Holdens, and the new Australia of Biker Mice and Hamtaro.

Jade and Ryan were on the TV every morning yelling at us to ditch the Kool-Aid, fuck conformity, and embrace our inner freak-kid, and more than a few of us were sold on their pitch.

So it's unsurprising that Jade and Ryan's slow burn comeback this year has been met with such welcome. It's a heavy dose of nostalgia. Sure, these guys and this show are tied up in our iconography of childhood. But it's more than that. Cheez TV was sold to us as children as an alternative, in a time when alternative was not reflective of Australian society at large.

Now, the Australia of Peter Dutton and The Bachelor needs Cheez TV as much as the Australia of Amanda Van Stone and Big Brother did.

As for its replacement —Toasted TV? It can suck my dick wadd.

Follow Patrick on Twitter.

Tagged:
TV
90S
Australia
cartoons
Vice Blog
Cheez TV
Jade Gatt
Ryan Lappin