Children need bad, not bland

When you have to get up early with the kids to let your wife have a long lie of a Sunday morning, there’s a danger in having your brain turned to mush by children’s TV, with its bland combination of politically-correct American cartoons (with implausible English accent dubbing) and cataclysmically dull/irritating “craft” shows. The American ones, like “Clifford, the Big Red Dog” are awful morality tales voiced by women in their mid-to-late thirties trying to sound like 10-year-olds. As for “Big Cook, Little Cook” – where do I start? Setting aside the fact that the cafe where it’s set probably has the worst service in the world (the staff never even ask the customer what they want – they take a whole programme to serve up some awful children’s party food without considering that at this time in the morning, all that’s probably required is a fried egg roll and a cappuccino), the fairy stories the cast read have been neutered beyond recognition. In Little Cook’s version of Little Miss Moffet, for example, the spider doesn’t scare her – they become the best of friends, for crying out loud!

That’s the defining characteristic of children’s TV these days, it seems, or at least, of TV shows aimed at toddlers: any real conflict, any real villain, has been removed or sanitised so that instead of having a good old fairy tale where the hero battles against the odds (and a baddie) to win the day, he instead comes to understand the grievances of his opponent, who then becomes his friend. Bo-ring!

Carolyn disagrees with me on this. Life is difficult enough for children in later life, she says; they don’t need to be challenged or scared by programmes at an early age. Piffle and twaddle, say I. She doesn’t remember “Noggin the Nog” by Oliver Postgate, with its evil baddie, Nogbad the Bad (that’ll come in handy one day when you’re in a pub quiz, mark my words). My earliest, though vague, memory of watching TV was a black and white scene from “Doctor Who”, where a scientist hid behind a console while a monster (later identified as an Ice Warrior) scoured the room looking for him. Did the Ice Warrior intend to befriend the scientist, discuss environmental issues with him? No, it wanted to kill him in an excruciatingly painful way by frying his brain with his Martian weapon. Cool, thought I as I cowered gleefully behind the sofa (and yes, it’s more than a cliché, we actually did that in the ’60s and ’70s).

Kids need to see conflict, and they need to see good overcoming evil. They don’t need to have lessons in morality from badly-animated characters with voices that sound more like their mums than their younger sisters (“That’s why you should always ask how other people are feeling, isn’t it Clifford? … God, I feel like a fag… have we finished recording yet…?”)



Filed under Doctor Who, Family life, Media, Society

8 responses to “Children need bad, not bland

  1. tom2

    Yes thats what we need kids programmes where they learn to sort their differences out with weaponry.

  2. James

    As I remember , Watch with Mother, Bill and Ben (the flowerpot men in case it was before your time) weren’t exactly blessed with fine clear voices and I can’t recall Andy Pandy, Loopy Lou, The Wooden Tops or Muffin the Mule engaging in anything evil. By the time Dr. Who came on our screens, I knew the difference between good and evil.You just entered a world of fantasy for 25 minutes.
    Flobadob Tom.

  3. Martin Cullip

    I remember Noggin the Nog and I loved it. What scared me more was Ivor the Engine … I used to soil myself thinking a dragon was going to leap out of the oven whenever my Mum cooked yorkshire puds.

    (I was joking Tom2)

    As for Clifford the Big Red Dog – the theme tune scares me as a parent. It doesn’t scan or rhyme and has been known to upset my rhythm for the entire day. Could we please add it to the Labour ‘to ban’ list? 😉

  4. Stu

    Well, I grew up on He-Man and Teenage Mutant Hero/Ninja Turtles, followed by the awesome X-Men and Captain Planet. My sister was Teletubbies/Tweenies era, and now my 2-year-old daughter is absolutely mad on Charlie & Lola (which is excellent) and In The Night Garden. We all have our own memories.

    Equally my 2-year-old daughter also adores Doctor Who and has been obsessed with the phrase “there’s something on your back, Donna Noble!” for the past three weeks, so there’s just no telling what kids want to watch.

    My favourite advice: forget TV and get a big stack of old Disney movies. I’m talking Jungle Book, Snow White, Lady & The Tramp, Dumbo, Sword in the Stone, Peter Pan. Especially ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’. Even Fantasia has its merits.

    Big Cook Little Cook is just awful. Lazy Town is even worse. Avoid like the plague.

  5. The only solution is to have Sky+ and assiduously record episodes of The Wiggles and Hi-5 as these Aussie imports are far more entertaining than the pap on CBeebies.

  6. The Wiggles?! Are you serious? They’re a lot scarier than the Ice Warriors…

  7. CBeebies has its moments for your budding class warriors.

    Little Red Tractor – silly ass upper class toff farmer with big blue tractor regularly humiliated by hard working peasant farmer with little red tractor. Plus added diversity with rasta garage owner.

    Ballamory – silly ass English toff in pink castle made to pay for clearances by having to dance in public. Plus total diversity. AND, Miss Hooley with her amazing hair AND her Chicago pastiche.

    Then there’s the weird Scottish one with the repulsive Grannie Murray – presumably Andy and Jamie’s gran – working in a tenement basement. Plus lots of multi modal transport culled from various cities , trams from Manchester, and massive product placement for the late GNER.

    More seriously, at 4 the oldest Kray brother is ready to move on to Japanese animated films. Class 23 (obscure railway joke) loves Laputa City in the sky. Airships, chases, a super robot a young hero and heroine to identify with and some really bad, baddies led with Grannie Murray on speed.

  8. Dead serious. What other programme aimed at under 5s has had a guest appearence from fast bowler, Brett Lee?

    Presumably Balamory is banned in your household as being SNP propaganda?

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