The story goes that by the early sixties, writer Wim Meuldijk had had grown tired of coming up with new adventures for Pipo de Clown and Mamaloe, so he proposed to create with a brand new children's show for VARA television in 1962. Mik- Mak was about a couple of tramps (dressed like sailors for reasons unclear to me) who were of course named Mik (Donald Jones) and Mak (Ger Smit).
Jones was the clearly the most popular of the two, speaking with a genuine American accent and possessing a dancers' grace. Smit, who is probably best known for providing the bulk of the male voices on De Fabeltjeskrant (his real voice resembles Zoef de Haas) had the thankless part of being a straight-man to Jones. This became even more apparent whenever Mik began to talk to the camera and having discussions with himself, using a deeper voice as some kind of Jiminy Cricket conscience. It would seem he didn't need Mak to reason with at all.
The two wandering buddies settled down at Mak's grandma Tingeling's little house, which just happened to be located on the crossroads of the four cardinal directions. This meant that in every episode all sort of eccentric and unexpected visitors would literally drop in, driven along by the wind. Mik & Mak decided to take advantage of this by building a gas station and manning it for 'their' granny (Magda Janssens).
Although the exact location of this gas station was never disclosed, it was apparently far enough from Holland that the series could only be broadcast when the so-called Vertel-Star was in the right position. Never seen but voiced by Ans Koppen, this Vertel-Star introduced each episode and also announced at the end how many days would pass before the next installment could be broadcast (the difference in length varied each time). Vertel-Star was of course a typical Wim Meuldijk play on words on the at the time brand new communication satellite Telstar. Meuldijk loved to give his characters puns for names and often had them sprouting play on words that would most likely fly over the young viewers head's (Tingeling's dialog was especially full of it).
The only other residents nearby are a rather useless Sheriff called Psop (Bert van der Linden) and a scoundrel of a shopkeeper called Meneer Humdrum (a Dick Dastardly kind of fellow). Humdrum spent his time thinking up schemes to get his hands on Tingeling's little house, in particular her little golden good luck charm. This character, and Jan Apon's interpretation of him soon proved to be the kind of villain the youthful audience loved to hate. Of course each week his plans would be foiled by Mik & Mak and a frustrated Humdrum would break either his walking Cain or his cigar in half.
After 15 episodes and an impressive list of guest stars (including Donald Jones' then lover Adèle Bloemendaal) writer Meuldijk became bored with the fixed setting of the series. In the second to last episode Mik expresses his desire to go on the road again and rather ironically, in the final installment Wim's most famous creations Pipo de Clown and Mamaloe turned up to offer Mik a life of adventure on the road. In what surely must be one of the first crossovers in Dutch television history, Mik became a supporting cast member in the next Pipo adventure 'Pipo en de Waterlanders'. However, he was soon replaced by the even more popular bumbling Indian (sorry, native American) Klukkluk (Herbert Joeks).
However, when Pipo tried to make his comeback recently in 'Pipo en de p-p-Parelridder', Mik returned in favor of the potentially politically incorrect Klukkluk. This time performed by John Wijdenbosch with a fake American accent, the character was a complete enigma to all the viewers seeing Pipo for the first time, and even those familiar with Pipo but not with Mik-Mak. Still wearing a sailor suit, but now carrying a portable cassette recorder with a microphone, 'Mik with the mike' acted as narrator in the movie version, but failed to make a connection like Donald Jones had done all those years before.
Having recently seen some of the episodes for the first time on the cable channel Hilversumbest, I must confess the show does not hold up very well for today's audience. It is slow, talkative and the stories are just plain silly. But still, I appreciate seeing this piece of television history. 12 of the 15 episodes still survive, which is more than can be said of most Pipo de Clown adventures from the sixties as well as many (more renowned) programs that followed it such as "Ja Zuster, Nee Zuster", "'t Schaep met de 5 Pooten" and "Kunt U Mij de Weg Naar Hamelen Vertellen, Meneer...
7 out of 10
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