Darrell Vickers – Ted Zeigler Part Two


It’s 1959, okay? Cold war across the U.S.A. Our future manager and the rest of the bewildered Zeigler clan had scurried off to Australia, far from the nuclear winter that would soon melt the rest of us into sticky shadows on the sidewalk. This alcoholic penal colony was infested with squads of fussy little men zipping hither and yon in search of houses with television aerials. Apparently, much like Britain, Aussieland had a TV tax and if you didn’t possess the required pricey license to watch “Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo” or “The Flying Doctor”, someone would come a-rappin’ upon your door and damn well demand you purchase one. It’s uncertain whether Theodore ever threw a shrimp onto a barbie during his time “down there” but he did almost lose a number of his domino-sized teeth one bright aft, by puttering out of his driveway and ramming into a car not driving on the “American” side of the road.

Fortunately, unemployment was not something Ted had to worry about.   Before you could say, “Don’t lick that wallaby!”  Mr. Rubber-Face had landed on his shiny showbiz feet as the host of a television show out of Melbourne on HSV7.  It was a daytime variety mish-mosh called House Party. I have no idea why they thought an American host with a head the size of a water tower would be a good idea, but then again, Ted was an absolute pro and his natural affability and goofy every-man style fit daytime television like Russell Crowe’s lips fit a liquor bottle. He basically functioned as a master of ceremonies, introducing different regulars who would present segments on fashion, entertainment, cooking’ etc. Ted was also tasked with interviewing people of interest from the local community. One fine down-under day, Theodore was working his way through a group of local and hopefully interesting pet owners. The rollicking, balls-to-the-wall festivities began with a gentleman who owned a monkey, followed by an elderly lady with a parakeet that she’d taught to say a number of easy-to-pronounce words.

This was hardly Bette Midler singing “Set ‘Em Up Joe” to Johnny Carson but things were going smoothly and cutely until the monkey reached over with its long simian arm, grabbed the budgie from the startled woman’s finger and bit its head off. The octogenarian then proceeded to scream like Veronica Cartwright in “Alien” and the entire studio audience went apeshit – which ironically was what the budgie would soon become. All this sudden hubbub spooked the hungry monkey big-time. It bounded out of its owner’s lap and clambered up into the studio lighting like a mini-King Kong, still bogarting the decapitated, feathery head of Fay Wray. This was live television. Well… for everyone but the bird. For the next ten minutes or so, the Aussie home audience was treated to a “We’ll Be Right Back” card as the cast and crew attempted to revive various weak-hearted members of the crowd.

            Ted’s other fond memory of his time in the land of skin cancer and oil-barrel-sized lagers concerned an exhilarating plane ride. Zeigler was contentedly sipping herbal tea and nibbling on a tiny corn cob when an announcement came over the loudspeaker. Apparently, they were having some minor difficulty with the landing gear and the scheduled arrival time was going to be delayed. This was a tad concerning to our reluctantly airborne hero but luckily he was on a major national airline. They could afford the finest technicians and equipment money could buy and he felt reasonably confident that pushing a few back-up buttons or possibly pulling a lever or two would easily resolve the situation. He took another sip of his kombucha and leaned back. A few seconds later, the pilot opened the cockpit door and marched grimly down the aisle. At this point, Ted was feeling a little less certain about his original assessment of how the airline had spent its money. The pilot then mysteriously got down on his knees next to a confused and increasingly terrified Zeigler. Did he want them to pray together? That heightened anxiety only got heightened-er when the person who was supposedly in charge of flying the plane pulled back the aisle carpet.

What the flaming Irwin-Allen fuck was going on? The captain then yanked open a hidden compartment, took a small axe out of his pocket and began to vigorously chop his way through a very large electrical cable. Ted missed some of what happened next – and the remainder of his in-flight meal – due to the deafening screams and projectile vomiting spontaneously erupting throughout the cabin. Upon their eventual safe arrival, several passengers had mad, passionate sex with the ground and promised never to leave it again.

            After two short years – due to the shocking lack of atomic bombs dropping on Wrigley Field and the Australian government refusing to extend his visa – Ted and family returned to the shores of his un-blown-up homeland.

           Theodore L. Zeigler was back! But still not all that anxious to abide in his homeland. As fortune would have it, not long after he did alight, an opportunity to host another kids’ show reared its red-striped-jacketed head. In 1963, the understandably dizzy Ziegler clan found themselves on the road to a mysterious new land called Montreal.

            Upon his arrival, Ted was informed that the brain trust at CFCF TV wanted him to host a show similar to The Mickey Mouse Club. For some reason Canadian entertainment is either a cheap knock-off of a foreign show or Anne of Green Gables.

– Great Canadian Bakeoff,

– Family Feud Canada,

– Entertainment Tonight Canada,

– The Amazing Race Canada,

– The Bachelor Canada,

– Canada’s Drag Race,

– Canada’s Next Top Model,

– Real Housewives of Toronto,

– So You Think You Can Dance Canada,

– Storage Wars Canada,

– Master Chef Canada,

– Canadian Idol,

– Canada’s Worst Driver,

– Canada’s Got Talent,

– Mater Chef Canada,

– Undercover Boss Canada.


– Anne of Green Gables

You get the depressing idea.

But Ted had other thoughts and notions and possibly the odd inkling. He was an American after all and wasn’t afraid to try something a little different. Thus the legendary jellybean factory was born with Johnny Jellybean as its tour guide. The industrial set was full of bizarre devices and ludicrous noises, much like Ted’s own body. Goofy and surreal were like pleas for cash on the Trinity Broadcasting Network – it was a non-stop and unrelenting bombardment. Of course this was the ‘60s, so Ted got away with things you couldn’t possibly dream of in the kill-all-humor-dead-dead-dead kids’ entertainment world of the present day. Mr. Jellybean had an insect friend named Enzio Pesta – today, this would be deemed insulting to the Italian community. (We once couldn’t have Cheech Marin use his own accent on a show because the network execs considered it too demeaning.) Zeigler also had an ex-pilot switchboard operator named Jet Crash (heavens no!) who was an avid consumer of “Puffed Grass!” (Call the police!)

My Experience Writing for Children:

We are truly and tragically trapped in one of the darkest, most saturnine ages in the history of humor. Comedians from across the political spectrum veritably weep as the subject matter they can joke about disappears like the candles at a Nymphomaniacs Anonymous meeting. And this is especially true for children’s humor. I have tried to avoid children’s television like the plague on humanity it is for a number of years now but my decades in the medium have left me with scars deeper than a Peter Benchley novel. Andrew and I ran a comedy/action series for the Disney channel. 

We had a group of girls who, when the chips were down, grew breasts and became super heroes (I’m not making this up). In one episode, there was a train heading towards a damaged bridge that was going to collapse under its weight. Bingo! Our group of fantastic and magically bazoomed females jumps into action to save the day. Then, I got a call from one of the concerned execs. “We don’t want the girls to go near the train tracks,” he informed me. “Well, that’s fine then,” I shrugged, “We’ll just let every man, woman and child on that locomotive plummet to a mangled fiery death. Do you have any other helpful notes?”

Other examples of the lunacy that has taken hold in an industry built on flogging easily swallowable toys: On another show, we couldn’t have a newt carry a 900-pound air conditioner into a bathtub because it was “imitateable behavior.” In another, a guy couldn’t read the paper while driving because it was also imitateable behavior. Imagine the lives this prescient and conscientious note saved! The next time you pass a 6-year-old driving on the freeway with his head not buried in a copy of the Financial Times, you have that far thinking soul – nay, saint – at Teletoon to thank.

Back to Ted:

            Like Theodore’s budgie-eating show in Australia, Johnny Jellybean was shot live. Every second on set was instantly broadcast across Quebec and beyond. This high wire­esque atmosphere did not dissuade some on the crew from pulling the odd jape to see if they could make their amiable host break character.

For instance, Johnny would drink a glass of milk everyday (which would sound like Niagara Falls as it cascaded down his gullet). One lunchtime, Ted looked down into his glass of milky goodness and there was a pubic hair floating in it. Drink up, kiddies!!

Enzio Pesta lived in a little box on his desk. Often when Johnny would lift the wooden lid to have a chinwag with his six-legged pal, Ted would find himself staring at pictures of people involved in various acts of sexual congress not sanctioned by the Catholic Church… but possibly by Jimmy Swaggart.

            Each day, Johnny Jellybean would open the door to an unseen mailman who would throw a fistful of letters into his face. One show, Theodore opened the door and the unseen mailman was a stripper, complete with her own mail slot. 

            Oh, if only those kiddies at home knew about the real fun that was being had on that show.

            So Long, It’s Bean Good to Know You:

Even for the free-swingin’, anything-goes ‘60s, Johnny pushed the limits of kids’ TV. Ted would occasionally feature pictures of himself picketing the U.S. Consulate for any number of crimes against humanity. Near the end of his tenure, he created a segment entitled “Radio Free Canada” where he would report the weekly body count of children killed in the Vietnam conflict. He was telling children about war! In our day, on Nickelodeon, we weren’t even allowed to tell children about libraries (true story). Admittedly, this historically grim piece of children’s television history did receive a torrent of complaints and was dropped from the show. And soon – to the utter regret of younguns as far away as Trois Riviers and Gaspe – Ted would also be gone.

Apparently, there was an officious little toerag named Pitts working as the head of accounting for CFCF TV. For seven years, this pathetic adding machine with a bad haircut would sit at his desk and fume as he signed Ted’s paychecks. Canadians are a penurious people as a rule and whatever salary their daytime star was receiving for this highly rated show, bugged the living maple-syrup-flavored shit out of Pittsy. Their animus grew to the point where Ted eventually quit. As an expression of his appreciation, the Pitt-Man wiped every single Johnny Jellybean tape. Seven years worth! Five days a week!

            After leaving CFCF, Ted almost immediately created an uber-wacky show for the CBC called “The Buddies” with Peter Cullen and ended up right back in the very same studio that Jellybean was shot in. Pitty must have loved that. But, as much as Zeigler liked life in the birthplace of Poutine and spelling “Canadian” wrong, there was some serious trouble a-brewin’. Especially for its English speaking inhabitants. The separatist group, the FLQ, were at their terroristic height and his kids had to be pulled out of school twice due to bomb threats. It was when his local post office was blown up that Ted was heard to exclaim the children’s television version of “Fuck this shit!” and the Zeigler brood was once more on the march. This time, headed to Hollywood. A land where the only bombs were on CBS on Wednesday nights.  

Join me next time for a madman producer, a short guy that nobody liked and a tall guy that didn’t like anybody.



Darrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg.  CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay.  From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S.  He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.)   Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music.  Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com

2 Responses to “Darrell Vickers – Ted Zeigler Part Two”

  1. Doug Thompson Says:

    Don’t forget one of the original American knock off shows produced in Canada. Howdy Doody with Timber Tom instead of Buffalo Bob. You weren’t even born yet Darrell.

  2. Ah! The good old days on Cuff Cuff when you would race home from school at lunch time to catch the Johnny Jellybean Show. And you would still watch it if you were sick with the Mumps and you would cry in pain when you laughed.

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