A few weeks ago I had a truly disturbing experience.
The little man had been ill. Mostly recovered but still suffering from an unexplained rash, I’d had to take the day off work a until we could see a doctor. While my lessons for that day were covered, I still had things to do and needed to sit down and do some work. Unfortunately, he was determined to spend the entire day clinging to me like a limpet; never quite happy to sit still and equally unhappy to be more than 2 inches from my lap at any time. There was a time, shortly after returning to work, when I would have relished the opportunity to spend a day cuddling and playing. But not the day before my performance management and first observation since returning to work. I needed at least an hour to get stuff done!
I tried putting him down for a nap. I failed.
I tried to wear him out by letting him toddle around while hanging off my fingers. I failed.
I tried to distract him with building blocks and stacking cups. I failed.
I resorted to the one technique which always works. My failsafe, shut the baby up and keep him occupied while I get on with housework technique. The one thing guaranteed to keep him quiet and independently happy for at least 10 minutes. I gave him a rice cake. It failed.
Tired, grumpy and at my wits end, I gave in and switched on the telly.
I was not prepared for the barrage of bizarre, disturbing, migraine-inducing, all-singing, all-dancing technicolor nonsense which attacked my senses with all the force of a hurricane on a small, defenceless town. What is this nonsense they call CBeebies?
First of all, there’s Peppa Pig. I always quite liked the idea of Peppa Pig. We even have a Giant George toy watching over our living room as if it were standing guard. The characters seem like fun and the drawings are cute,but the storylines are a weird mix of ludicrous and mind-numbinglymboring. In the only full episode I’ve seen, Peppa moans so much that she wants to go to the seaside that her parents relent and take the whole family to the beach to go swimming, despite the fact that it’s so cold it’s snowing, and then everyone’s surprised when they’re freezing at the end of the day. That’s not fun. That’s just bloody irresponsible parenting!
Next, let’s explore the steaming pile of poo that is The Adventures of Abney and Teal. I can’t even describe how boring it was, except that it was so boring and weird that it failed to hold even the little man’s attention. And he claps every time it makes the plinky plonky winding down noise on Pointless. Every single time.
Moving on to a programme that genuinely gave me nightmares: Baby Jake. I understand the concept; kids love babies, babies love babies, make a programme about babies and you’ve basically got a guaranteed success. The problem is when they take a real baby’s head and stick it on to an animated body to make it go on adventures. So freaky! Didn’t they ever see Chucky?
Finally, scariest of all, is Justin’s House. In any realm of the real world, if a flamboyant middle aged man invited pre-pubescent children round to his house where he entertained them with a range of his weird and wonderful friends wearing a shiny waistcoat which would make John Virgo envious, we’d all be a little bit worried. In my husband’s words, ‘I hope he’s CRB checked’.
Just in case Justin’s lawyer is reading (presumably in an exceedingly shiny waistcoat), I am in no way accusing anyone on CBeebies of any wrong doing (and neither is my husband).
I also recognise that I am not the target audience of any of these programmes, and while I was ready to bang my head against the living room wall rather than watch another minute, the little man did actually enjoy Justin’s House and joined in with all the clapping, albeit not as much as he does when someone wins Pointless.
I also realise that kids TV in my day was equally nonsensical and in many ways worse – clearly designed by people who’d had a bit too much of the fun stuff over the weekend and were still in their own little world when they came to write their scripts on Monday morning. But let’s be honest, it was much better.
Abel and Teal’s adventures in the woods versus Bert serving ‘him upstairs’ in Trapdoor? An easy choice.
In the Night Garden versus Willo’ the Wisp? Kenneth Williams wins hands down.
Grandpa in my Pocket versus Thundercats? They would whoop his ass!
Peppa Pig’s trip to the seaside versus Dangermouse’s fight against the custard mite of Glut? Seriously. Do you need to ask?
You always hear parents talking about kids TV as something which has unavoidably become part of their everyday life. I always hoped to avoid it, and definitely intend to do so if this is the state of moderkids TV. My husband regularly berates me for my encyclopaedic knowledge of eighties cartoons, claiming I must have never left the house (look up that custard mite of Glut reference, it’s real). Maybe he’s concerned that I’ll pass my addiction to our son. If this is the current state of TV, Idon’t think he needs to worry. I have always been strongly against drugs. No one has ever persuaded me that downgrading classifications of commonly used narcotics is a good idea. But give me another year or two of kids’ TV designed by totally normal, un-chemically affected people and I may just change my mind…