Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Round the Twist (1990 - 2000)

Children's series
52 episodes x 30 minutes

Series synopsis:

In series one of this bright and quirky comedy series, based on short stories by popular writer Paul Jennings, an eccentric sculptor, and his three children – thirteen-year-old-twins and an eight-year-old – move to an old lighthouse. Many bizarre things happen to the Twist family in their new home including ghosts, a green baby, cloning, a scarecrow that comes to life, and a bombardment of bird droppings.

Each episode of Round The Twist is a self-contained story with a surprising ‘twist’ at the end, but it also has a series story arc that gradually develops across the thirteen episodes. The mystery of ghostly music playing from upstairs in the lighthouse is finally resolved in the final episode, ‘Lighthouse Blues’.

Following on from the success of series one, series two – also based on Jennings short stories – included magic mixes of exploding ‘yuckles’, a hypnotised cat, an upset water sprite, a boy covered in fingernails, peeing competitions, all-powerful gym boots, a failed ghost, life-giving lemons, and an opal-eating goat. A strong conservation theme is evident throughout this series with the Twist’s having to thwart Mr Gribble’s development plans in stories such as ‘Little Squirt’ (episode 3), ‘Sloppy Jalopy’ (episode 6), ‘Smelly Feat’ (episode 7), ‘Yuckles’ (episode 10), and ‘Seeing the Light’ (episode 13). The recurring story arc in this series is the ghost whose story is finally revealed in final episode ‘Seeing the light’.

In series three, the craziness continues, this time from new writers. There is a human ice-cream machine, whirling ‘willies’, truth microphones, buckets of brains, talking walls, the Big Burp, and a Neanderthal Beast with a three foot beard. The series story arc is the Viking Book of Love, which casts a spell of love on everyone who reads from it.

In series four, bizarre happenings include a monster under the bed, invisibility, out-of-control shadows, a werewolf, time travel, the super hero ‘Skunkman’, and the Twist family discovers what it’s like to be controlled by their TV. The series story arc is the story of a strange person called Ariel, a lost child from Atlantis.

Curator’s Notes:

Round the Twist is now seen as one of Australia’s most successful television series, but the first series (1990, 13 episodes) faced a formidable challenge to get funded when potential distributors declared the scripts 'too rude’, ‘disgusting’ and 'outrageous’. Executive producer Dr Patricia Edgar eventually persuaded the Head of BBC Children’s Programs, Anna Home, to make a commitment to the project, which helped to raise the required funding.

The first series of Round the Twist is based on short stories written by popular children’s writer, Paul Jennings. Experienced director and scriptwriter Esben Storm worked closely with Jennings to develop the overall setting and central characters as the basis for the series, and to tie together the quirky but unrelated original stories. Storm then taught Paul Jennings how to write the TV scripts, a challenging but ultimately rewarding undertaking for both. Jennings describes this process in his book Round the Twist (Puffin Books, 1990).

Based on the universal themes of family, home, love and relationships, much of the magic of the series comes from an unpredictable mix of slapstick, fantasy, teenage embarrassment, first love, heartbreak, monsters and conservation, mixed of course with lots of the signature Round the Twist ‘yuck’ factor which is extremely appealing to young audiences. The added ingredients of greed, dishonesty, vanity, selfishness and opportunism help to keep the stories rolling along. Much of the humour of the series comes from the ongoing conflict between the very likeable heroes, the Twist family and Nell, with the one-dimensional, selfish, greedy Gribbles. There are lots of hilarious comeuppances for the baddies along the way.

Located on one of Australia’s most spectacular coastlines along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road at Aireys Inlet, this comedy series achieved remarkable success around the world. Series one was followed by three more series over the next eleven years. Series two (1992, 13 episodes), written by Paul Jennings with Esben Storm, was also based on Jennings’s short stories with Storm receiving a co-writer credit for this series. Round the Twist Series two won the prestigious Prix Jeunesse (Germany) award in 1993, an AFI award (1993), was nominated for an International Emmy Award (USA), and was one of the highest rating children’s program in the UK for 1993.

Unfortunately, the inspired collaboration between the two creators of Round The Twist, Paul Jennings and Esben Storm, did not survive beyond this second series as tensions developed between them. As the ACTF owned copyright in the name Round The Twist, the concept, the characters and the setting, it eventually went on to produce two more series without Paul Jennings.

Esben Storm worked with a new writing team to generate ideas for series three (1999, 13 episodes) and four (2000, 13 episodes), which were then created by other writers and directors.

As the four series were shot over a period of 11 years, many of the actors changed to keep the characters at approximately the same age across multiple series. The main cast remained the same for series three and four as they were shot in close succession. Director Esben Storm plays the teacher Mr Snapper across all four series. Paul Jennings appears in a cameo role as Ben Byron in series one – episode 12, ‘Without my Pants’.

Titles in this series

Round the Twist – Series One – Skeleton on the Dunny 1989

Eccentric sculptor Tony Twist (Richard Moir), and his three children – thirteen-year-old twins Linda (Tamsin West) and Pete (Sam Vandenberg), and eight-year-old Bronson (Rodney McLennan) – move from the city to live in an old lighthouse in an ordinary seaside ...

Round the Twist – Series One – Spaghetti Pig Out 1989

Chaos reigns after a bolt of lightning hits the Twist family’s video remote control – it now works on people! Unfortunately Gribble Junior (Lachlan Jeffrey) gets hold of it and Pete (Sam Vandenberg) is desperately trying to get it back. ...

Round the Twist – Series Two – Nails 1992

Linda (Joelene Crnogorac) is attracted to Andrew (Eamonn Kelly), a mysterious new boy at school who never removes his gloves. Andrew lives on an island with his grumpy father Mr Shelford (Peter Bensley). Linda discovers Andrew’s hands are covered with ...

Round the Twist – Series Two – Next Time Round 1992

Pete has been hypnotised by Linda and every time someone says the word 'now’ he behaves like a chicken for ten seconds. Unfortunately, Linda can’t undo the hypnosis so Pete gets into some serious trouble at school.