Thursday, 25 June 2009

Kids TV used to be so good...

...didn't it? Button Moon? Trap Door? Captain Planet? Thundercats? I'm sure it did, but I'll have to take your word for it on most of them, if I'm honest, because I'm pretty sure I wasn't born when the majority of these much-revered badly made cartoons were around the first time. I'm a member of a very small percentage of people who admit that they never saw these programmes. I used to work for a well-known entertainment retailer, and there in the DVD aisles customers would have seemingly endless discussions about TV shows they had watched in the past that were quite good. Confusingly, sometimes these customers were younger than me, and would be enthusiastically singing the theme tune to the Clangers (was there one? Surely there was) as though it was a fond childhood memory. What a bunch of fibbers. I certainly never saw the clangers on Telly, and I watched morning TV solidly from the age of 3 until SM:TV Live died.

It's not that I care immensely about people lying about such an inane subject - what gets on my nerves is that the subject of children's television is used as a safety topic in every pub, party and social gathering you'll ever be a part of. It is a comedy trampoline held out under the 20th storey conversation window, after everybody has finished gushing about their fucking Gap Years or their Placement Opportunities. Everyone has watched telly. Everyone can talk about it. Everyone can remember and then recreate simple theme tunes, even if they had never watched the show in question. I am fairly certain that if a person asked me to partake in a conversation about Rainbow Brite, I'd be able to do so with gusto. I'd go as far as to re-enact my "favourite episode" and everybody would laugh and say "Oh yeah!" extremely excitedly, thus wedging me firmly into their group of people they consider to be "sound bastards". The thing is, my episode would have been entirely fabricated, but nobody will have noticed, because nobody watched it anyway, because it was shit. This is my point. Most kids programmes are, were, and always will be utter bollocks.

Obviously there are exceptions to this rule - Playdays was a masterful mix of entertainment and education, with just the right amount of Dave Benson Philips, creepy waking-dead puppets and oddball Uncles sprinkled in the mix to make it enjoyable throughout childhood; Come Outside was a brilliant show too, and I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it several times before. What my generation needs to accept is that we grew up only just cuffing the arse-end of the 80s; by the time we were old enough to gawp at anything and actually understand what the bloody Jesus was happening, "good" kids TV had gone, and had been replaced by less handmade cartoons, and more CGI and live action. Badly acted series' like Brum became the standard, and quite honestly, nothing made post-Tots TV has been of any importance. Postman Pat, Funnybones...since then it's all gone to shit. Now you'd be lucky to catch an episode of kids TV's last bastion of hope "The Tweenies", because the schedule's clogged up with so much irritating repetitive patronising eyevomit.

It's extremely easy (and totally idiotic) to link bad kids' TV to the apparent "state of the youth today", and every so often a new show will be lambasted by parents and the media alike for turning the country's tots into burbling dribbling imbeciles - remember all the fuss the Teletubbies caused? They didn't speak properly, and so kids were copying them. That's just like those stupid 3 year-olds, speaking like idiots to be cool like their heroes on the telly. Oh, and the bigger one was a guy and had a handbag, and this was also subject to much abuse and pariahs, despite his gender never being fully revealed, and even despite the fact that it was only a fucking handbag. In ten years time though, drunk first year freshers will be singing the theme tune and talking about how bloody "brilliant" it was. "Brilliant" and "absolutely fantastic". "Oh! And what was it they ate?...TUBBY CUSTARD! That's it! TUBBY TOAST! BRILLIANT!" The truth is, children's television programmes are a lucrative money-making operation, because of the darling little screamballs' "I WANT A POCOYO LUNCHBOX" pester power, and because misguided adults looking for a way to show their kooky personality will always own a Bagpuss backpack. So in order to make this jump from TV show to Woolie's-style merch (It's back! Didn't you see the news?) ideas for these programmes are becoming more "sellable". I made that word up. What I mean, as I'm sure you smart young things gathered, is that as soon as you catch sight of one of these new concepts, you can instantly see cuddly toys, clothes ranges and chocolate biscuits. This is the only difference between "now" and "then" in my opinion, as far as TV shows are concerned - in the 70s, the people who made Fingermouse had no idea that 30 years on, grown men with adult beards and childish minds would be wearing tshirts bearing the very same character. Now, we have become much wiser. Characters are brightly coloured and engaging. You have distinct favourites. You WANT to OWN it as a TEDDY, NOW.

A new show aimed at young children launched by the BBC has all these aspects at its disposal, in order for it to be a resounding success. It even has a small population of indignant middle-England in a harrumph about it, which can only work to boost it's viewing figures. Waybuloo is a happy friendly TV show about being happy and friendly and nice in an idyllic woodland setting. The characters are cute, and have interesting nonsensical names. Sounds like your basic cut-and-paste children's TV show to me, nothing too bad, certainly nothing too offensive about that. Of course, everybody's favourite newspaper, the Daily Mail has other thoughts on the concept. SLAMMING the BBC with the headline "The new Teletubbies? BBC unveils animated, yoga-loving hippies that teach children to get in touch with their emotions" they can REVEAL that by watching the show "viewers will be encouraged to hug each other to achieve happiness and the show's characters float when they achieve the zen-like condition of 'Buloo'." Dear God, I thought the tellybox existed to keep the ratlings as far away from human contact as possible? What will be the point of a show which openly suggests parental interaction? SURELY WE ARE NOT BEING TOLD HOW TO RAISE OUR KIDS? OFCOM! OFCOM!!

[As yet there are no finalised merchendise plans for Waybuloo, however you can pre-order the DVD from the BBC Shop]

[Also, as a side-note, you'll notice the author of the Daily Mail article is named as "Daily Mail Reporter" which often means "Re-hashed C+P Press Release." So it could be a clever publicity stunt by the BBC. It'll be interesting to see if this is the case.]


Andy said...

You sound like a right scrouge here, but I totally agree!

I'm bored of Thundercats T-Shirts and anything that you can buy from Topman, such as Mr Smiley or Mr grumpy T-shirts.

The conversation thing I totally agree about, it's an easy subject to talk about with strangers. Next time I have the conversation I'm going to say, nooooooo not this conversation!

I think we need a name for it?

Childhood Television Syndrome?

Something like that, but better.

chestymorgan said...

AHEM! 4 year old Isla is indeed leaping about to Waybuloo as I write.
Some excoriating insights there,I bristled in recognition at the Bagpuss backpack reference I must say. Katie fantastic?I think so:D

Richard Vivmeister Hirst said...

Top-notch stuff (as per fucking usual, you quality-blog-hog!)

The Daily Mail's campaign against kids TV (and anything vaguely 'nowadays') continued today:

Katie said...

I sound like a Scrooge? Oh no! I am totally sick of the "OHMYGOD and do you remember this?" conversation. My answer used to be "umm..." but now it is a flat out "No." I might start asking if people watched Prime Minister's Question Time, because essentially it's just a competition to see who watched the most leftfield and rare cartoons as a kid. Say you watched Yes Minister, and surely you'll win.

Chesty - did Isla like it? I want a 4 year old's review on this page please! :D

Viv - thanks for reading, and thanks for the kind words! You are fuckawesome.

chestymorgan said...

Isla LOVES Waybuloo.She's not down with humans in kids tv at all but colours,creatures,robots,or narration by an endearing old Queen(as heard on In the night garden & Pocoyo)works for her.

She's been spoonfed a lot of the stuff 30 year old moi loved too & Bagpuss,Paddington&The Wombles are the favourites there.

She refuses point blank to watch Morph unfortunately tho cos of that bit in the Screenwipe kids tv spesh where the researcher seems to be eating him

CTerry said...

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing innit.

I DID watch Thundercats as a kid, and you know what, it wasn't nearly as good as it was made out to be.


And now I am going to Thundercats hell where anthropomorphic cats will claw at my face.

thebernoullitrial said...

Another great post, Biscuit (loved your cooking vids too, btw). It reminds me of a JazzDad post a couple of months ago...

I think my comment there is apt here too: "You will soon come to realise that kids' TV is just like everything else in life… 90% of it is complete shit. And as you journey into the Heart of Darkness, as I have, Daddy-o, you will eventually meet The Horror… The Horror has a name, and its name is Barney the Dinosaur."

Katie said...

:( Barney the dinosaur.

Kids TV can be so evil.

mazzlestar said...

Katie! Katie, oh God, Katie, I OWN A BAGPUSS HOT WATER BOTTLE COVER! am I still allowed? xD

Loved the blog as usual x

Katie said...

hahaha that all depends on whether it has ever been a self-conscious personality statement, bought in the hope of starting up many nostalgic conversations.
Was it?

mazzlestar said...

No, it was donated by an ex-boyfriend (don't tell G D:) to cover one of my many many hot water bottles. I barely use it now; I have four hot water bottles, all with covers, and I tend to use the bunny one my mum bought me *shame*

(And I never saw Bagpuss on TV, but we had videos and I was named after the rag doll in it cos my older brother loved it. So that's okay, right?)

Katie said...

Breathe. I decree that this should be acceptable.

Ben said...

Usually I agree with everything you write, however I have two words to blow the whole theory apart.

Wonky Donkey.

I'll be 21 at the end of this year and the genius of Wonky Donkey has yet to be beaten by any form of TV, kids or otherwise.

Katie said...

Hey - that's not disagreeing, did I or did I not mention SM:TV Live as being one of the "good guys"?

"All hands, all hands, all hands on Dec" I loved that one. It was such brilliant literal humour.

ponderexplosion said...

As I said to you on twitter, I have a love of stop motion animation, which makes up a fair amount of old kids shows. I genuinely do like old children's programmes (especially the work of Ivor Wood) because of this. However what you write about puts me off buying DVDs and I sometimes worry that people might think my purchase of The Wombles is so that I can sit around with my mates getting drunk and laughing about it. Although having Amélie with me does prevent this.

I also get disheartened at the state of modern children's television because of it's bastardisation of older era children's animation. Postman Pat stop motion isn't high speed enough for today's children apparently (reflective of the postal service in general?) so that has to change. The next series of Thomas the Tank Engine will be in full CGI, no more models. I can't express how much this saddens me (I'm a loser, I know), there are a few GCI train programmes out there and I can't believe that the wonderfully crafted sets and more natural look of Thomas will be lost to CGI.

Although saying that there are still a lot of great children's programmes around, both from a parents point of view and an animation geeks. Amélie's just starting to get into Waybuloo and Third and Bird the latter has several songs which she's quickly learnt and looks very cute when she sits around singing along (sometimes just randomly on her own). In the Night Garden, is absolutely wonderful too. All this nonsense about children's TV having a bad effect is just that. The repetition of colours and numbers etc helps children learn in a different way. I know that some things have helped Amélie understand the concept of colours and helped with her development of counting and language.

Anyway sorry if I've rambled on too much or not made much sense, rather tired but felt the urge to write. Very good blog by the way!

Katie said...

I agree I agree I agree....I don't think I've put it across very well, but I *DO* think that old stop motion kids shows were better. My disguntledness was aimed at the shit old cartoons people talk about to be cool. Postman Pat used to be one of my favourites, and seeing it now makes me get all happy, because it's one of the few fond memories that have actually stayed the same (don't you hate it when you remember how good something was and then see it again with adult eyes and realise it was god awful?)

Once again, you have succeeded in making Amé sound like the cutest child in existance. I can't wait for my sister's baby to get old enough so I can send them decent old shows and books. No Lazytown for this bubba, no sir.

lidia said...

I always put an end to those conversations straight away cos most of the shows I watched no one else has ever heard of! :( Thanks a lot mum for buying cheapo 80's videos from the charity shop!


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