The first I ever heard of The Littlest Hobo was through Bo’ Selecta, so you can imagine my surprise to find out that this much-loved Canadian TV show is actually about a homeless dog, not a rubber-faced Jamaican stereotype version of chat show mentalist Trisha. And the surprises keep on coming.
Before the internet made cats king, dogs ruled the airwaves, with Lassie and chums doing a spot of mystery solving and noble posing, which apparently made for good tea time viewing in the 1960s. Now animals have been revealed for the dribbling idiots that they are thanks to YouTube and Photoshop, and our teas are rudely interrupted by the swollen scrotums of Embarrassing Bodies or the meals cooked up by TV chefs which we salivate over whilst shovelling Dr Oetker pizza down our massive faces. Perhaps it’s time we turned back the clock to those simpler times when animals were clever, every child had a cherry blossom smile and The Beatles used to wash your car at the weekend.
The Littlest Hobo began life in the dizzying days of the 60s, but was revived in the late 70s and ran into the mid 80s, which is the series that is coming to DVD for the first time. It features an incredibly perceptive dog with no name, travelling around the country and taking on temporary owners while it solves their various problems, criminally caused or otherwise. If you changed out the twee music for some sinister tones, the dog’s intelligence could easily seem frightening, but you go along with the whole charade because the beast doesn’t actually talk. Back when they couldn’t use computers to manipulate the mouths of animals they had to be a lot more imaginative, it seems. And films like Eddie Murphy’s Doctor Doolittle series were blissfully distant on the horizon. And national debt problems could be solved with a whipround at the village fete.
If you loved this show as a kid then there is probably a huge well of nostalgia which you can draw on as you view the episodes again. The human acting is hit and miss, and the restoration of the old film has made it look cheaper than ever, but the fun comes in part from guessing how they got the dog to perform the endless array of tricks and actions that are involved in the episodes.
The first series of The Littlest Hobo is coming to DVD on the 26th of April, although oddly it is only getting a Region 2 launch for the time being. I think there are some older DVDs for other regions out there, and fans of the show will no doubt know all about these.