Review of Flipper — Flipper and the Mermaid
Note: I decided to go into this blind, not having watched an episode of Flipper in about 40 years.
If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s about a preternaturally intelligent dolphin given the stupid yet addictive name “Flipper” whose main role in life is to help humans out of jams caused by their own stupidity.
Original airdate: September 18, 1965 — (S02E01)
The show’s “cold open” (to use modern terminology) is a bunch of underwater footage, in color. I truly forgot just how revolutionary it was to see such lush marine landscapes for the first time on television, Jacques Cousteau basically having singlehandedly perfected the underwater camera just a few years earlier.
Alas, the lighting lets you know that the cold open is just stock footage of some random coral reef complete with fish swimming by lazily. For a few minutes, though, you might think you were just watching a nature documentary.
The “mermaid” is then revealed as a woman wearing a pink bathing suit and wearing a ruffled pink bathing cap swimming around and using a hammer to tap on rocks. She then spies a group of scary looking fish and recoils, banging her head.
Flipper then shows up, and she grabs onto his dorsal fin to get a ride out of underwater Dodge.
We see two shirtless men in the water hanging onto a rope tied with orange floats attached to the side of a small boat called the Thunderbird.
We then see a little ugly freckled kid on the boat trying and failing to perform basic arithmetic. The kid then shouts, “Hey Dad, there’s Flipper!” but doesn’t see the woman hanging onto Flipper’s fin.
Note: The name Flipper will be said approximately 99 times in every episode.
Flipper shows up with the “mermaid” in tow. Dad takes one look at her and then tells his son to forget about her. He then asks the kid for his “chipping hammer” ostensibly to perform repairs on the rope with orange floats.
The stupid boy then spots the woman dressed head to toe in bright pink and shouts, “A girl!”
The two men in the water, whom I now remember is the father and his oldest son, a teenager, begin talking to the “mermaid,” whom we can now see is wearing make-up.
The Mermaid tells Dad and Teen Son how scared she was when the barracudas “circled around her”, and Dad sneers and tells her that it’s her own damn fault for wearing a shiny silver medallion around her neck.
WTF? Why is this woman diving while wearing a a giant silver necklace?
The Mermaid, however, is nonplussed. She says, “Sometimes, divers just want to have fun!” in a flirty manner.
Dad, however, is angry. He just wants to get back to work fixing the floaty rope, damnit! Dad then tells her that he’s the ranger of a marine park and calls her an amateur diver.
The Mermaid replies, “I’ll have you know that I’m a graduate oceanographer!” as if that has anything to do with diving. Dad then says, “Only idiots dive without a partner!”
Mermaid reveals she’s named Ulla, and that she’s in the park because of her “studies.” Dad says, “Oh yeah, where’s your permit?” Ulla: “It hasn’t arrived yet!”
She then steals Dad’s chipping hammer and swims away. Dad looks angry but his two sons are making googly eyes at Ulla’s disappearing backside. Dad hangs onto the silver necklace Ulla handed him earlier and grimaces.
Dad churlishly shouts, “Get back to work!”
And cut… time for the opening credits. Wow, I totally forgot that they hadn’t played yet.
Hmm… not when I was younger, but now that it’s 2018, I couldn’t help but wonder just how “rapey” Flipper was. I know male dolphins can be quite sexually aggressive when they want to be.
Ok, time for the theme song… a kind of swinging Frank Sinatra-style tune with groovy ‘60’s-style cartoon elements.
Wait! What’s this?
Beware of Flipper!
He’s such a lover…
Hand to Jesus, those are the real lyrics.
INTERJECTION: Ok, I looked it up. All the “Flippers” used in the show were actually female dolphins. Whew. But now I’m wondering why they wrote him as a male.
Cut to family eating at home around a table with four chairs. The empty fourth chair is being used to store Dad’s utility belt and pistol.
Wow… guess they’re not expecting female company any time soon, eh? LOL
While Dad stirs his coffee manfully, Teen Son quizzes Boy about arithmetic, but the Boy just makes random guesses. It’s clear that the Boy is an idiot.
The landline rings!
Wow, so loud…
Dad: “Hello, this is Warden Ricks.”
NOTE: I just remembered that in some episodes, he calls himself Ranger Ricks, which made me LMFAO when I was a kid.
Dad is angry as all heckfire when he finds out that Ulla (the Mermaid) wants to “rope off the whole area” in his park. Dad protests, but he gets silenced by his boss, the park commissioner, who overrules him.
The kids can’t believe that their dad was deemed less important than a woman, and Dad woefully has to admit just how emasculated he is.
Dad stands up and then tells Bud that that he (Bud) has to wash the dishes instead of going out on the boat to help rope off the lagoon.
Bud: “Awww.. on account of some dame?”
Dad: “Yep, on account of some dame.”
Keeping it real classy, folks!
Woah, we see another underwater shot, this time of a bright orange mini submarine.
Flipper swims around it a bit.
Wow, I want one of those submarines for myself.
Cut to studio interior pretending to be Ulla inside the submarine. Without her swim cap on, we can now see she’s a “real beauty.”
Dad and Sandy show up in their puny boat, which will never be as cool as Ulla’s submarine.
Ulla sees them and surfaces her sub near their boat. Dad, meanwhile, is manfully putting buoys into the water. Flipper screams something dolphiny.
Ulla flips a bunch of random switches and turns a few dials and then pops out of her submarine to chat/flirt with Dad while Sandy smirks lecherously.
Dad asks Ulla who her sugar daddy is who bought her the submarine, and Ulla gets angry.
She then delivers a sick burn to Warden Ricks by revealing that she’s in the park with her submarine on behalf of the Navy.
Oh well, if it’s for the Navy…
Dad feels his testicles shrivel some more.
Sandy and Dad decide to enter the miniscule submarine, and there’s a hilarious scene of them shimmying their way into the cramped sub.
Flipper, meanwhile, starts yelling about how they abandoned their boat, but nobody pays any attention to Flipper.
We then find out Ulla is keeping several hamsters inside a cage in her submarine.
She tells Dad and Sandy, “They’re my underwater family!”
Then there’s some science pseudo gook about how the Navy commissioned her to use hamsters in her sub to “detect cosmic rays,” but also some stuff about “studying” animals with “intriguing formations.”
We then get a few minutes of the sub cruising around underwater and random footage of fish and turtles swimming by. The three humans then see Flipper through the window, and Ulla says, “Oh yah, Flipper is awesome. I’m going to hire him to help me with my project.”
Dad throws a temper tantrum and says, “Listen, Flipper is my son’s pet!”
Ulla: “I’m sure Sandy won’t mind if I borrow him for the summer.”
Sandy’s in love with Ulla, so he agrees to let Ulla take Flipper.
Dad forgets everything he learned in anger management class and says, “Well, I do! Bud was looking forward to spending his summer with Flipper!”
Wait, what? First, it was Sandy’s “pet”, now it’s Bud’s nanny?
Ulla then smiles charmingly and reminds him that she’s there on Navy business.
The Navy, bro!
Dad, meanwhile, has a beet red face while sitting directly behind Ulla in a tiny space.
Ulla then kicks Dad and Sandy out of her submarine, dropping them off back at their boat.
Ulla is in a junkyard and pays a local hick $30 to tow a giant metal buoy out to sea for her. The hick inquires why she’s so “generous” and wants to do all this. She says, “To build a fish farm.”
After some back and forth with the hick, we learn Ulla has another scientifically goofy scheme to use electricity to “emit pleasant sounds” from a sunken metal buoy in order to “attract fish.”
The hick thinks its a swell idea.
Bud is trying to call Flipper with an underwater megaphone, but Flipper fails to answer the summons. Bud angrily asks why Flipper isn’t obeying, and Sandy tells him Flipper is busy “eating or working, or whatever dolphins do.”
Bud then learns that Flipper will be working for Ulla all summer. Bud yells at his dad, “But I thought you wanted me to play with Flipper (in order) to keep me out of trouble!”
Sheesh, this family has issues.
We then see Ulla in the water next to her giant metal buoy. Flipper shows up and hands (well, “noses”) her a big cardboard wrench. Ulla uses a real wrench to open the “sink hubs” and let the buoy sink to the seafloor.
What happens next is beyond stupid. Using a weird video edit, we next see the buoy on the seafloor but it has Ulla “trapped” beneath it. She has a dive tank but only a limited amount of air.
Luckily, Flipper is right there, and so he goes for help.
Flipper finds Bud walking along the beach and starts screaming and going apeshit. Bud completely ignores Flipper, “threatening” to get a new pet dolphin and then storms off angrily.
I just noticed that Bud has a really annoying New Yawk/Joisey type accent, but his Dad and his brother Sandy don’t. I’m pretty sure that Bud was cast in order to get people to hate watch this show.
Flipper then rushes over to the boat with Dad and Sandy. They, too, ignore Flipper going apeshit.
Sandy says, “Sorry, we’re busy,” but then a second later, Dad says, “All right, that’s the end of it. Let’s head for home.”
Flipper’s chittering, splashing, jumping around, and walking on his tail. Sandy and Dad, meanwhile, make lame jokes for a few minutes until they finally realize oh hey, Flipper’s trying to tell us something.
Dad manfully zooms the boat up to top speed and follows Flipper to where Ulla is trapped. There’s some weird shit about using a ladder as a fulcrum to wedge the buoy off of Ulla’s foot that never pans out, but after a few minutes, Dad and Sandy manage to rescue Ulla and bring her back up to the surface.
To be fair, the underwater action scenes in this section were actually quite good. You could tell it was the real actors from the show, which impressed me a lot.
Hilariously, Dad is super tanned on the upper part of his body but his butt is as white as a fish belly. Dad, I forgot to mention earlier, always — and I do mean always — goes swimming in long pants.
We’re looking at the front porch of the Flipper family (oops, I meant Ranger Ricks’s family).
Ulla is barefoot and seated in a cheap lawn chair. She’s wrapped in a large blanket. Dad comes out of the house and hands her a cup of tea to “warm her up.”
Ulla spontaneously starts insulting herself, declaring that she’s a “stubborn, harebrained female” who should’ve never been “allowed” to be out there in the water.
Hold on a minute… what the literal hell is this?
Dad then gives her a lecture on the perils of diving alone. Sandy volunteers to work for Ulla, but Dad says no. Dad then volunteers himself to be her assistant for the summer!
Ulla smiles and then says that because Ranger Dad is going to help her, she doesn’t need Flipper anymore.
Okay. I guess one guy with a farmer’s tan is a better assistant than a dolphin?
Bud then celebrates Flipper’s “liberation” from Ulla’s employ by running and jumping off the dock to go play with Flipper, who chitters happily.
True fact: I just found out that Flipper’s “talking” sound is actually a remixed audio of a bird call. Literally, my whole life, I thought dolphins truly made that “chittering” sound.
Thanks for nothing, Flipper!