You can't beat playing and being silly with your 2-and-a-half-year-old. That said, sometimes you stick on the telly for a bit (for longer or shorter depending on your energy and/or sanity levels).
After countless such instances, you begin to make internal reviews of the shows you and your kid consume. I'm beginning to fancy myself as a bit of a kiddie's Barry Norman, or perhaps even Jonathan Ross (minus the 'kiddie' bit because that's a tautology). Here's my (semi)grown-up take on what we watch on CBeebies.
The Adventures of Abney and Teal
The pot-smoker's choice. That floating character with a cup of tea balanced on horizontal surface of his fat belly is the perfect depiction of 'chilled out'. I don't know how or where he produces that fog-horn sound, but I like it. And the dog that plays on the accordion just tops the whole thing off. Love it!
Andy's Prehistoric Adventures
Groovy theme tune! Andy, in spite of his weird face, is a cool cucumber and gets really into his time-travelling dino escapades. The opening shots of the museum (Natural History in London?) are a bit over-the-top though: huge sweeping views across the hall as you fly over a towering dinosaur skeleton...you feel like you're about to settle in for an epic 3-hour Spielberg!
Firstly, it's patently obvious that Jake's parents don't use and/or don't believe in condoms - have you seen how many kids live with them in that f***ing windmill?! Anyway, I'm already a bit irritated by the overacting intonation of the kid who narrates, so it's not a good start.
Then, once Baby Jake enters the magical world, my cortisol levels really begin to rise. I have to bulletpoint my reasons why.
- The jerky animation style of Jake's movements (I think it's based on playing around with photographs of him) is really grating.
- That rabbit's laugh is possibly the most irritating (and un-rabbit like?*) noise ever produced by a human vocal tract.
- HAMSTERNAUTS? And not just one - which I could handle at a stretch - but five of the bastards, moving in perfect North-Korean-style unison? I'm sorry...
- The regular sing-song, which we're supposed to know the words to (according to the faceless-yet-somehow-smackable narrator), but you can't tell what the hell the words are, because of the background cacophony and mumbling singing style. Something like 'acky-acky-oggie, noo-noo-nee...' (I can't even be arsed trying to type out the rest).
- The seriously questionable Beyonce-esque arse-shaking by dancing Baby Jake. Baby-booty? That's just wrong.
What the hell is Flop?
Whatever he is, he has the most infinite patience with that extremely needy kit Bing.
Not a bad cartoon, with a catchy theme tune. Can't get over his shrill Australian accent and his annoying upturned nose, though.
Pretty decent show that must have just landed on the right side of 'copyright infringement' for Thomas the Tank Engine. The human characters in it always sway around like they're pissed.
Do You Know?
Actually, Maddie, I bloody didn't! Learning how a sponge-cake forms at a microscopic level, and how bin-lorries and zips work - it's as much educational for me as it is for my younger co-viewer!
We don't really watch it but love the theme tune! Especially the final chord lick with a diminished in there somewhere, similar to the end of Lady Madonna.
The Furchester Hotel
Blatantly American with British voices added. The regular song 'A Furchester never gives up, never gives up, never gives up' always sticks in my head for the rest of the day at work.
My wife keeps calling it 'Colchester Hotel' - I rather prefer that amusingly dull, mundane alternative title!
Another groovy theme tune - I always picture Heather Small from M People singing this one. Love the 3-2-1 facts about real-world sites given by the omniscient-yet-cooler-than-cool Ubercorn. What a guy!
I'm always mesmerised by the animation style of this one. As geeky as I am about this, I love how the tentacles are created for Betty the Octopus, one of the 'Squirrel's. It looks as if there are five tentacles, which is how a circle of eight could appear from side-on, when you think about it. Geniuses are at work, here.
You've also got Alexander Armstrong narrating, which can't be bad.
In The Night Garden
If Abney and Teal are for pot-smokers, this one's for the Class-A gang. I'm talking Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Pinky-ponk? Iggle Piggle? Makka Pakka? (He's the Mother Superior, I reckon.) I can only assume this series has been made in loving memory of Keith Moon, and the commercial appeal to infants and young toddlers is a fortunate coincidence.
Kate and Mim-Mim
Another clearly hyper-sentimental American export with voices redone in British (I mean, since when do the English accents say "No sweat", "Sure thing" and "Way to go"? They could have a least tweaked the script!) At least the BBC even bother to change the voices, unlike over on CITV.
We like to call this one 'Kate and Minging'.
Christ, since when did Beatrix Potter stories take on such a hard-core edge? I'm talking about the high-octane opening sequence. It's like the start of Trainspotting when Rigby is running and running and running. And the pumping music with the singer shouting "COME ON!" is bordering on The Prodigy. Beatrix Potter? More like Beatrix Pothead.
Another example of writers/producers trying to hype up kids shows, almost spilling over into CITV E-numbers territory. You'd never have thought back in his humble beginnings that Postman Pat would now be flying around in helicopters and leaping Bond-style through the Greendale air. It must be something to do with the privatisation of the Royal Mail, with its need to be 'distinctive'! Bloody Pat and his cat, they're only in it for the money these days - tut tut!
Raa Raa the Noisy Lion
Is that really Lorraine Kelly narrating? This one has another catchy tune with a few nice jazzy fills in it. The only other thing I've taken from it is amusement at Raa Raa's jungle car having watermelons for wheels. The only thing my son seems to really take from it is the prompt to shout "RAAAA!!!" like a lion.
Sarah and Duck
Another surprise here - the bloke narrating this chillout antithesis to everything hyper / American / no-Panda-Pop-after-3pm is this guy from The Thick of It!
Yet another zen theme tune - gotta love CBeebies. Haven't a fucking clue what Twirlywoos are, but if you imagine an alert hoopoe with its crest up...
...which then, after an unfortunate altercation with a cat, has had its bill ragged off...
...and then, after finding a job as an adminstrator, develops an 'admin arse' from 10 years of permanently sedentary work...
...you're approaching a Twirlywoo:
I also admire the story-writers' regular use of prepositions as educational episode titles ('Through', 'Up' and 'Underneath' being my personal favourites).
So that's my take on the current state of CBeebies. I hope you found it a mildly amusing distraction while your kid(s) has either:
- been asleep (it's evening and you're getting your breath back);
- put some crumpets in the washing machine and managed to turn it on;
- brought to your attention a mysterious dollop of poo on the carpet with no apparent ex-owner;
- spilled milk on the table and promptly spread it across as large an area as possible;
- emerged from another room wearing your partner's / your knickers on his / her head;
- said "What's that?" 1.45 x10^78 times;
- quietly performed a critical review of that new political drama you've been watching, concluding that it's puerile trash - serves you right for slagging off Boj!