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Professor Jasper Farndark
(An appreciation submitted by an anonymous fan)
He worked for KTVB in Boise Idaho. The most distinctive feature of the show was the meandering tuneless oboe melody that played in the long segments between movie clips. Farndark sat on a sparse set (with a window whose view was the black backdrop, and a low table). He showed movies like Equinox and the Christopher Lee-Hammer remakes of movies like Phantom of the Opera.
It came on after Saturday Night Live, which was Midnight Saturdays... It was very popular in high school. (I graduated in 1981.) In an English class a teacher made us write a page a day -- and one day I wrote a whole page about Peculiar Playhouse. This was 1980 -- and I'm ticked pink I have a chance to pull this out and pass it on... I wrote this almost twenty years ago!
Around midnight on tired Saturday nights, the widely accepted satire of Saturday Night Live wound down to their closing, and after a station identification, a favorite program of mine began: "Peculiar Playhouse."
It began with a strange series of notes, slowly played in succession by the deep bass tones of a bassoon. Then, some unseen videotronic operator caused the title to appear over an unfocused shot: "Peculiar Playhouse." Gradually, the focus returned, clarifying a globe on a low circular table.
Seated on a couch behind it was the host, clad in a loud, tacky suit (plaid), wearing spectacles and a head of unkempt grey hair, with his legs, no doubt, crossed. Professor Jaspar Farndark.
The backdrop was a bare wall, as I recall, with a window behind it, and bushes visible through them. In one opening, the room was empty and Farndark appeared at the window stating he had locked himself out. He reappeared seconds later to say the front door wasn't open. Likewise, the side door. Finally, he fell into the room, accompanied with plaster and wood. The roof, he said, was his entrance.
Holding the globe, he once sang, "I got the whole world in my hands..." He once jumped head first from his chair saying he was practing for the Olympic diving team, but didn't have a pool. Later he reverted to less humorous guests, and some better filmed segments shot outside the studio. Farndark did commercials, too, but many remember him best from "Peccy Playhouse," as he once abbreviated his show.
[Back to 1996...]
The actor's voice was deep and mellifluous, so he had to have the wild wig of grey hair to make himself look crazy. During one movie, there was a tense moment where, each time the clock ticked, the camera cut to a different shot. The door! The clock! The test tube! The clock! The door! Farndark's head! Yes, he spliced himself in for those two seconds, waving...
Once he brought a guest on the show (a technician, wearing a latex mask), introduced as GlorpVik MuckZooberVickle (though the name was spelled as a random series of characters). Or a quartet with masks singing a doo-wop tune. ( I think it was the 50's song "Gloria.") There'd also be filmed segments--like Glorpvik's run for office.
The show went off the air for a few months. Farndark said "I'm not leaving until I get the pink slip!" -- at which point, someone threw a pink women's undergarment at him. He returned that fall, saying he'd gotten a lot of letters. "This one says, 'We sure missed the professor,' and this one says 'We want the professor back', and this one says 'We sure missed the professor,' and this one here says 'We want the professor back'..." He was, of course, re-shuffling the same two letters to try to impress a stagehand.
My favorite was "How to Play Golf." In a beautifully-timed bit of pantomine -- in a single shot! -- Farndark narrated pompously, "Make sure the path between the ball and the hole is clear." From 20 feet away, Farndark's opponent tapped a putt towards the hole. It banked with the slope, slowly arcing directly toward the hole. As it moved within a few feet of the hole, Farndark stepped forward to brush aside a pebble for his opponent -- deflecting the ball to the side.
Farndark also did ads for a local TV station. One was for a stereo store. He appears in the last shot, saying he liked the store "because of all the friendly people!" Boom! Someone hit him on the head... The actor also appeared -- sans professor costume -- as a scientist in an ad for some local company, playing the manager who answered the research scientist's complaint, "This rock won't burn." ("Keep Trying...")
He had a deep, gentle voice, making it unpredictable whether he was about to make a subtle, funny mistake, or the occassional big, wild pratfall.
(Remember....don't use my name!)
END of Professor Jasper Farndark guest article