For those of you who don’t know, I became a father for the first time last year, taking to it like a duck to ice sculpture and showing some remarkable Dad Skills from day one by instantly becoming massively, blinkeredly opinionated on absolutely everything. So, like a good pushy parent should, even though Lucas is just five months old I’m already attempting to get him nicely acquainted with our old family retainer and his lifelong babysitter to be, the TV. So far he seems to like the F1, some football, bits of Top Gear, Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, Sharpe and Hornblower. All of which suits me.
However, awkwardly, there are times when he won’t settle on anything but those programmes aimed directly at children and, as my recent exposure to them has made woefully apparent, made by the mentally ill. Today was one of those days. Lazily reclining in bed, his mother out having one of the cats probed at the vets, I sat flicking through the channels, desperate to find something to engage his attention and distract him from the fact that he was now sitting in a living-horror poo-nami, at least until his mum got home. Dutifully then, I headed to the CBBC (or whatever it’s called) end of the televisual spectrum and discovered things I find impossible to describe. Well, not that impossible…
It’s hard to know where to start with the bad acid eye-abortion that is Justin’s House. A garish set made up of a palette of colours that go beyond the dynamic range of the human eye forms the ‘House’ part of the nightmarish equation, while Justin himself is a fat, grinning narcissistic retard that forces all his “friends” – the hundred-strong audience of children he’s rounded up like a latter day child-catcher – to sing an overlong intro song that, like some kind of dictatorship’s national anthem, is all about establishing beyond a shadow of a doubt exactly whose house it is.
Co-habiting with the vainglorious Justin is a robot who’s camper than C3PO and some kind of horrific green GM rat that’s apparently loose in the skin of the house and liable to appear anywhere at any time and chew your face off. Or something. It’s known as ‘Little Monster’, which sounds harmless enough, except when you remember other famous monsters include the Monster of Florence whose 20-year murder campaign left 16 people dead.
Add to this Justin’s friend Dee Livery, a unicycle riding unitard postwoman played by Jane Deane, a veteran of Butlins and Haven Holidays deathcamps and who, according to her website is “a highly accomplished pantomime performer”, and you’ve got a show the Beeb call ‘Mad cap’… and which I can’t help but think I should record so that when Lucas is old enough to understand I can easily explain what paedophiles are.
Highly accomplished pantomime performer? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?
Maybe it’s just me, but what was wrong with the old days when kid’s TV was all about sinister stop-frame animation that always ended with a harsh reminder of your own mortality? You know, life-lesson things like Bagpuss, The Moomins and Ivor the Engine? Now it’s all about encouraging your kids to jump up and down screaming until they spew like something out of The Exorcist, as though they’d been pre-pumped with the nastiest, E-number enriched Happy Shopper Orange Concentrate available.
Take Gigglebiz, a painfully surreal collection of ‘comedy’ sketches, featuring a range of wacky characters all played by the same bloke, without any discernible storyline to link them together. In fact, come to think of it, the whole thing is not dissimilar to what you’d get if someone gave James Cordon a camera crew and carte blanche to make his own comedy series. Except Gigglebiz is rather more sophisticated and not every sketch punchline is simply that he’s fat.
Disturbingly, said Gigglebiz bloke seems to enjoy getting into drag quite a lot too, even though none of his characters are actually supposed to be ropey transvestites, and… wait a minute, it’s him again, isn’t it? It bloody is too – it’s bloody Justin from bloody Justin’s House. His ego and disturbing hunger to gain the acceptance of children truly knows no bounds…
In the Night Garden
This must be what it’s like to wake from a coma after the Apocalypse. The human race is gone and left in its place are barely intelligible mutants: Makka Pakka, which sounds like a racist slur from the 1950s; Upsy Daisy, the last surviving female, it seems, perhaps the reasoning behind the crudely obvious name; Igglepiggle, a lumbering blue narcoleptic with countless security issues who, when overwhelmed, simply falls over; Tombiloos, which appears to be sickening conjoined triplets not considered individual enough to warrant separate names; and the Ninky Nonk, a genuinely harrowing haunted runaway train that careens through hedges and even up and down trees with scant regard for life or the laws of physics.
I don’t know how long this has been on television, but I expect to see Igglepiggle dragging Charlton Heston in chains into the garden eventually to bring a sense of closure to a show that’s more Angel Dust nightmare than Night Garden.
As it wasn’t bad enough having the government telling us how to raise our kids constantly, now it’s the Icelandic too, a people famous for eating puffins, destroying the world economy and failing to control their volcanoes. A blend of real actors and puppet grotesques, the whole premise of the programme is to encourage your children to put down their video games and go outside to play. Yeah, outside, where the kiddy touchers and ash clouds are. Thanks, Iceland.
The clown in blue is called Sporticus, which sounds like a particularly sodomy keen Roman, while the girl in pink is the central character and is actually played by a 21 year old. So any otherwise disturbing thoughts that she may instil in the men watching are actually fine. But just keep an eye on yourself anyway, yeah?
Tellingly, every episode ends with the pair of them singing the Bing Bang song. Yes, Sporticus, ‘bing bang’.
Grandpa in my Pocket
For fuck’s sake. He’s been warned and that was his last chance. We have to get him moved to the Deathly Hallows Retirement Home immediately.
So incensed was I by all this frightening, psychedelic discharge being forced into the unprotected eyes of not only my child but, by extension, other people’s too that my wife suggested I do something about it and make my own programmes for children. At least I think that was what she said. To be honest I couldn’t really hear her over my TV-targeted ranting. As a result, I’ve already got a couple of ideas in pre-production, one a cartoon series that uses motorsport as a metaphor to explain racial disharmony in the Coalition’s Broken Britain – the Wacky Racists – while the other is a one off documentary style essential life-lesson played out by battered vintage wooden marionettes and written to introduce the themes of entropy, survival and death in a child-friendly way, entitled ‘Why We’re Having Flopsy For Tea’. I’ve a meeting with Channel 5’s head of That What Kids Like Department next week.
Ah, apparently what my wife actually suggested was I turn it off, calm down and try playing with Lucas instead. It’s like she’s from a bygone time!