As a parent of a young child, CBeebies is amazing enough to be worth the BBC Licence fee in itself. Sure, it can become irritating, but that is only if you let your pre-school child watch enough of it to do so, which is your own fault.
A current shared favourite is Dip Dap. This is a simple, line drawn animation series of short, relentlessly fast paced, inventive and humourous adventures of the eponymous character against the scenarios drawn by “the line”. The sheer joy of its execution and its use of sound effects and incidental music make it something which could easily find a place on a mainstream channel between programmes for grown ups. At any one time there’s usually half a dozen episodes available on iPlayer and spending half an hour watching each of them two or three times as OMB shouts “again!” and clicks on the remote is fun for even the most resistant adult (although my wife is right that I probably ought not to have revealed the existence of the possibility of accessing iPlayer and YouTube to a 4 year old who is literate enough to spell out his favourite programmes).
Another recent smash is the Octonauts. I have learnt almost as much about marine biology from watching this as from the whole of David Attenborough’s wonderful “Blue Planet” series. Particularly with the “Creature Report” summaries – 2 minute long appallingly catchy songs encapsulating the key factual parts of the longer shows. Seriously! Curiously it is an animation series where the telly version is superior to the books it is based upon – the books have nice art-work but the language and diction is peculiar. The books are also more purely fiction in that they don’t attempt to have a core of natural history fact to them.
Other highlights are Rastamouse (Rastafarian mouse investigators who always try to make a bad ting good), Zingzillas (musical primates mentored by a sloth called DJ Loose who could be played by Russell Crowe in the movie), Grandpa in My Pocket (James Bolam shrinks to pocket size when he puts on his cap and has adventures with his grandson), and Mister Maker (simple but effective art and craft techniques that are fun to watch and easily doable even by uncreative parents like me). Something Special has also advanced the rights of disabled children more than many other attempts – a programme which in another time might have been separately scheduled overnight to be recorded for use with those with learning disabilities is a favourite of most pre-school children who simply don’t see that it is aimed at and stars disabled children. Its star, Justin has gone on to the more mainstream Gigglebiz (quickfire comedy sketch show – not great fun for adults because it is so well-pitched for small children’s humour) and has become a superstar receiving honours and being mobbed at personal appearances (at Camp Bestival the other year apparently he had the longest queues of people wanting to meet him and get his autograph). For younger children In the Night Garden provides a curiously hypnotic effect. Far stranger than the once controversial Teletubbies.
The only real lows for me are the deliberately worthy programmes which combine being old-fashioned with a modern excess of PC. For some reason most of these seem to emanate from BBC Scotland. Worst offender is Me Too, closely followed by Same Smile. Balamory nearly falls into the same trap but avoids it by being fun, Nina and the Neurons by providing an introduction to scientific method and good attempts at comprehensible answers to questions without patronising.
I’m glad that the window of OMB being in the CBeebies target demographic is a short one and soon to close, but compared to a steady diet of Ben 10 or Spongebob Squarepants or the strict rations of pre-digital TV childrens’ offerings, the last couple of years have been great.
– It looks like there’s a whole genre of adults blogging over-seriously about kids’ TV.
http://bit.ly/r0kFRC is a neat blog, even if I can’t bring myself to agree entirely about Sarah-Jane Honeywell.
http://bit.ly/ox53PQ I’m still not quite sure whether this Marxist analysis of Thomas the Tank Engine is meant to be serious
http://t.co/F3bKajt Some nice reviews of the Mr Men stories.