A 1988 children's show from Canada | Movies / Reviews | Coagulopath

Zardip is a robot alien whose body keeps breaking down. He’s come to our planet to learn about diet, nutrition, and exercise, and other things that would be useless for a robot.

The show’s concept shines through like a radioactive skeleton: Mork and Mindy, but educational, and for children. A typical episode features Zardip interacting with his new human friends, misunderstanding something related to health, and being corrected. All the usual cliches make an appearance. Is there a rap song about the importance of health? Yes. Of course. Does air contain air?

The show’s name is its best part: clunky, overlong, grammatically challenged, redundant (is there such a thing as “Unhealthy Wellness”?), plus it features the word “Zardip”. Some TV guides didn’t even print the full title, shortening it to “Zardip’s Search”.

Zardip’s Search For Blah Blah is live action and is mostly shot on the same 2-3 sets. To break things up there’s cutaway scenes featuring 2D animation, claymation, and even a few seconds of CGI (which must have cost a fortune in 1988), giving it the air of a variety show. It provides basic medical information mixed with dubious factoids – it repeats the “43 muscles to frown and only 17 to smile” urban legend, for example. The end credits thank a “Dr Robin Williams”, which I want to believe is a joke.

In the late 80s and early 90s, Canadian broadcasting achieved an international presence that it never would again, particularly among the British Commonwealth. I’m not sure why or how, but at the time studios like Nelvana and Atkinson’s Film Art were easier to watch in Australia than, say, Hanna-Barbera.

Zardip’s Search doesn’t belong in a class with Babar and Heavy Metal. It was briefly syndicated but achieved no lasting fame or notoriety. It’s one of the hundreds of shows that existed, and then abruptly didn’t.

Wikipedia claims that “the show has a cult following among Canadians who attended grade school in the late 1980s and early 1990s”. This cult must have drank zero sugar Kool-aid and died from excessive Healthy Wellness(tm), because I can’t find them online. The IMDB entry for Zardip’s Search has just seventeen ratings (averaging 7.8/10, higher than the last Quentin Tarantino film) and only two reviews. A VHS transfer exists on Youtube with about two thousand views per episode. It likely won’t come to Netflix tomorrow.

By the way, Zardip is played by a striking child actor called Keram Malicki-Sanchez.  He turns in a surprisingly powerful performance, reminding me of David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth. What happened to him? I Googled his name,  praying that Zardip’s Search for Healthy Wellness wouldn’t be among the top results. It was. Ouch.