John-Michael Howson has written collections of short stories, children's fiction, and works about the cinema. He co-wrote the scripts and appeared as Fifi the Bear in the popular children's series The Magic Circle Club (1965-1967), and created the long-running children's television programme Adventure Island (1967-1972). In addition to writing most of the script for the latter series, Howson also played the part of Clown. Among his other early television writing credits are Hey You (1967 television comedy).
Howson has written for and appeared on many Australian television and radio programmes since the early 1970s, and later came to be a regular guest on the Midday Show, reporting on entertainment and celebrity news from the United States. He co-wrote the Australian musical Shout! (2001), based on the life of Johnny O'Keefe.
Adventure Island1967-1972series - publisher film/TV children's fantasy science fiction
Adventure Island was conceived as a replacement for the axed Magic Circle Club, when Reg Ansett, then owner of the Ten Network, refused to relinquish his ownership of the Magic Circle Club concept to another network.
Like its predecessor, Adventure Island had an explicit pantomime element, with a mixture of light entertainment and songs, as well as a strong focus on a 'good triumphs over evil' morality. Structurally, Adventure Island ran a single continuous story arc each week, beginning on Monday and wrapping up with Friday's episode. Stories often revolved around the machinations of the kingdom of Diddley-Dum-Diddley's various villains: with the exception of the scatter-brained Clown, whose perspicacity often saved the day, the kingdom's inhabitants were largely unable to see through disguises. Similarly, the inhabitants were often reluctant to use their magic powers, reserving them for particularly special occasions (perhaps as a result of the technical difficulties of enacting 'magic' on television). The program also had a science-fiction component in the form of a computer called 'I Know', which could answer any question a child could ask.
The program was originally hosted by Nancy Cato, who had previously worked as host of The Magic Circle Club. When Cato departed, she was replaced as host by Sue Donovan.
The program's axing in 1972 (which some have suggested was politically motivated, given Godfrey Philipp's involvement in the Australian Labor Party's successful 1972 'It's Time' campaign) caused an uproar, particularly since the program was to be replaced by American import Sesame Street. Despite the 'Save Adventure Island' campaign of several MPs (and the subsequent questions in Parliament), the program's final episode aired on 22 December 1972.
The program did linger in the public consciousness, however: for example, the costume for Percy Panda was recycled on the ABC's Late Show in the form of 'Shirty, the slightly aggressive bear.'