I haven’t specifically posted about tv yet, which is a galaxy sized omission by anyone’s standards. There is no secret conspiracy for this (I am not some kind of marionette who’s strings are pulled by big children’s book publishers) I just haven’t gotten around to it due to a mixture of Red Dead Redemption, X-Factor and Sons of Anarchy.
So, television is part of my children’s lives – for good or ill – and the fact that I haven’t written about it is doubly wierd because I have spent the majority of my professional career working within the coke-dusted, mwah fest that is children’s teevee.
Children’s teevee is in one sense a really interesting and exciting environment to work within. Because the children’s tv market moves so swiftly – the little urchins’ nimble fingers skipping across their remote control buttons like Yngwie Malmsteen (please check out the link if you haven’t heard of him – this guy is off the bloody chain and not in a good way) – the way that the channels build and retain an audience is sophisticated, clever and sometimes devious. Every trick in the book is used: prize giveaways, piggy-back programming, block scheduling; credit squeezes and give’n’get break bumpers. Schedulers and promotions producers are under intense pressure to lure an erratic market onto their rectangle of the EPG.
On the other hand is is sometimes difficult to commit to any form of sophisticated marketing strategy or promotion lest it go over the heads of the audience. This is, obviously, total bollocks as most kids are sharper than a bag of razor blades and ‘get’ whatever you pitch them – but the perception persists that they are somehow sub-human and it starts to wear you down working within that mindset. But, I digress…
So, even displaying a few symptoms of industrial disease, what do I watch with the nippers? It changes, due to taste and age, but the most popular are:
- Peppa Pig Ah, you can’t beat a bit of Peppa Pig. The playful piglet has more episodes that the People’s Republic has workers and I don’t think I have seen an episode broadcast twice. What is great about Peppa is the playful innocence of the subjects and the rock solid parenting of Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig. The other thing I like is that the animation is wonderful; beautifully timed and the detail is amazing. My only queries are that it seems strange that there are only two kids – aren’t pigs supposed to have huge litters? Also, when they go swimming Mummy Pig wears a bikini with a band top. Shouldn’t she wear an all in one? Don’t pigs have, like, 12 teats?
- (what’s New) Scooby-Doo? At the moment we are watching a lot of Scooby-Doo. Scooby-Doo works because it’s predictable, has memorable characters and makes a myth of monsters, ghosts and goblins – it’s just mean grown-ups in fancy dress. Crime never pays and the mysteries are always just that; and mysteries can be solved…usually by Thelma. I don’t mind the same set of clothes (which makes sense as they never have any luggage), or the predictable story-lines but – how do they afford it? They are living major trustafarian lifestyles; jetting around the world (and freighting their Mystery Machine as well), staying in hotels and seeing the sights. They must have some serious numbers behind them to afford to just wank about the world with a dog. It also occurred to me that I wonder what would happen if the monster actually caught Scooby or Shaggy? Would they commit murder? Rough ’em up a bit?
- Spongebob Squarepants Who lives in a pinapple under the sea? SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS!! S.B.S.P is underwater, animated Sienfeld for children. It’s zany, sometimes downright surreal and very funny. Anyone who doesn’t laugh at S.B.S.P is some kind of humour void. My son has actually pee’d himself with laughter – how many shows for grown ups have the same accolade? Friends? The IT crowd? Gavin and Stacey? Yeah, right…
- Bugs Bunny I know, I know: everyone is smoking, some of the jokes are lewd, they are remorselessly and repetitively violent and there are instances of petty racism and sexism. I know. But they are beautifully drawn and animated, the voices of Mel Blanc are superb, the characters are sublime (Yosemite Sam being a particular favourite) and they can be very, very funny. It’s all guns and dynamite and falling down, being hit with mallets and hammers and flattened by trucks and pianos and ten ton weights, anvils are used as weapons, shotgun blasts to the head leave you with a few powder burns and ACME facilitates it all. They really don’t make ’em like they used to.
- Mr Maker What is the Death Star, tractor beam pull of this be-gelled creative goblin? He is Tony Hart mixed with Mr Tumble, creating a Blue Peter Frankenstein’s monster of glue, old toilet roll tubes and a dodgy waistcoat. Neil Buchanan (off Art Attack) always seemed like he might lose it at anytime and the two eeijits off Big Cook Little Cook look like they really want to be anywhere but in that studio wearing aprons. Mr Maker jusrt seems dumb enough to not be threatening and just about every creation is achievable. Simply a great show.
- Tom & Jerry Again, violent as; but, Tom & Jerry is about cultural identity, friendship and morality (hear me out), Tom is a cat and cats chase mice. But, Tom never catches Jerry because he doesn’t want to, because it’s about the chase, the hunt. On the few occasions that he has (mistakenly) killed him (but turns out he hasn’t – merely dusted him with flower so that he looks like a ghost) Tom is distraught because he has lost a friend. So, they are fulfilling roles so that they can play together – it’s an act put on for their master. In addition to that, Tom and Jerry is awesome, just awesome.
With regards to whether kids watch too much television or not. I just don’t know. I insist of getting my kids out of the house – rain or shine – at least once a day. I will play with them, or paint or draw for at least a couple of hours a day. I cook every meal from fresh produce. I talk with them every day. I wrestle with them at least once a day. I let them watch their favourite shows on tv.
It’s about balance. It’s not lazy parenting if it fits into a day of other stuff, but it is if the other stuff fits around tv.