Above: Still from Pat a Mat animated series.
I could never understand the timing of Italian television programming. Things came on at random; nothing on the hour or half hour, the way we have everything neatly lined up here. One morning, we had the TV on and for a few glorious minutes my boyfriend and I were mesmerized by Pat a Mat, a Czech program. I have always been a sucker for stop motion animation; I love the painstaking workmanship behind it.
In each episode an issue arises and Pat and Mat scheme to fix it. But their imaginative solutions create more problems. Things go from bad to worse as the hopeful instrumental soundtrack plays; their messes are almost painful to watch. Part of the beauty is the characters’ silence. Perhaps, my favorite part of all is their distinct handshake that ends episode (my husband and I often reenacted this around this house).
I never did figure out the TV schedule. I was just happy to catch as many as I could, squinting, wishing I could read Czech credits and know more about them. I think what touched me most was that somehow, when everything was terrible for them, Pat and Mat would be ok.
When I got back to the U.S. I found a bizarre compilation of episodes on Ebay. And now, fortunately, many can be seen on YouTube. I think my favorite is still the first one I ever watched, when Pat’s TV gets scrambled while he’s watching a soccer match.