Is Kids TV Too Nice?

Being a mother to a two year old boy, I seem to spend my entire life a lot of time watching Cbeebies and the like. And I can't help but notice that kids TV seems to have gotten much tamer over the years.

Don't get me wrong, my son needs no encouragement to run wild so it's not like I expect to see violence, anarchy or poor behaviour being promoted when I plonk him in front of the telly for half an hour*. I'd be the first one to complain if Kat or Andy went all cray and dropped an F-bomb or lost any of their infectious cheer when introducing the next soul sapping episode of Mr Tumble. But when did kids TV get so nice? So unrealistically, over-the-top enthusiastic? Topsy, Tim and their insufferable parents, for example, seem to be joyful about everything. The day the roof caved in they whooped and hollered because it meant they got to 'camp out' in the living room and when they got nits you could be forgiven for thinking they'd won a trolley dash around Toys R Us. Another shining example of uncharacteristic happiness comes in the form of PC Plum who appears to neglect all of his law enforcing duties in favour of learning to DJ, shopping, dancing, bike riding or otherwise prancing around like a tit. It seems Dr Ranj's jolly songs about bogies and poo are about as dangerous as it gets. I suspect this is why I'm still sniggering everytime I hear 'take me up the North Mountain' - one brief moment of tenuous naughtiness amongst all of this Godawful cheer.

In my day (am I old enough to use that phrase yet?) kids telly was tough and downright terrifying at times. If it wasn't the chilling stare of the Demon Headmaster using hypnosis to control the Prime Minster's brain and take over the world (?!?!?) then it was the emotional turmoil of Knightmare where one wrong side-step to the left could result in the virtual death of a whole team of pre-pubescent dungeoneers. OK, so this was TV aimed at older children but even some of the stuff aimed at the littlies could be a bit alarming at times. Grotbags the witch and her quest to terroise the children inside Rod Hull's 'pink windmill' (no comment, not a single comment) was bad enough but it genuinely took a long time for me to get over the deaths of the hedgehogs from The Animals of Farthing Wood when they met their untimely end under the wheels of a HGV.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing that childrens entertainment is...well, child friendly. Just that it's a bit unrealistic. Policemen are not like PC Plum, no parent would see an opportunity for merriment in the financial catastrophe of a leaking roof and yet hedgehogs do get run over on motorways. This is life. Why try and teach kids otherwise? 

On a side note, I think the most disturbing example of pure terror from my own youth came from a book rather than a TV show. I always loved Enid Blyton - whether it was talking toys, fairy folk or middle-class, mystery solving minors. These days people argue that she was racist, sexist and allegedly a bit of a battleaxe but as a child you don't really concern yourself with such matters and anyway some of her work was published over 75 years ago when social attitudes were much different and kids really were called Dick and Fanny. Times change.

That said (and gloriously barmy as she was) she can't, in my opinion, be forgiven for the abomination that is Mr Pink-Whistle. For those who haven't stumbled upon this dubious do-gooder before, Mr Pink-Whistle is a middle aged, pot bellied, half brownie/half human. Because he doesn't belong in either the mortal or mystical world he is lonely and decides to spend his days stalking young children (often invisibly) in order to interfere in their childish business. He rights wrongs, grants wishes and dishes out punishments where he deems necessary. All well and good. All very ethical. Until he starts climbing drainpipes and loitering around invisibly in children's bedrooms, often unexpectedly appearing at their foot of their sickbed with a sinister pop to 'entertain' them or lecture them on their poor behaviour. For me, the prospect of a middle aged man lurking invisibly in my bedroom was pretty nightmare inducing as a child regardless of whether or not he came bearing gifts or to put on a magic show. 

And he wasn't just creepy, he was properly mean too. I remember one tale where he dished out some Pink-Whistle style retribution to an anti-social youth (whose crime was stealing dog collars) by de-robing him, beating him then stealing his the middle of the street! I KNOW, RIGHT?! Two wrongs don't make a right, Enid, and I honestly believe that Mr Pink-Whistle Interferes belongs next to the work of Stephen King rather than in the bedtime reading section. 

So I suppose we have to be grateful for at least some of the censorship in today's kids entertainment industry. Given the choice I'd choose that episode of Bing stepping in dog poo over pervy Pink-Whistle any day of the week. 

Do you think kids TV has changed for the better since your youth? Which TV shows did you love as a child and which ones really grind your gears these days?

*3 hours, Maybe longer if the iPad is dead.

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1 comment:

  1. OH MY GOD KNIGHTMARE!!!!! I used to effing love that show. They should bring it back. I do think kids TV can be a bit tame these days but I quite like most of the stuff Elsa watches. If she falls asleep or wanders off halfway through an episode of Doc McStuffins I just carry on watching it! I think I like how sweet and innocent the stuff she watches is! I mean some of it is a bit weird (In The Night Garden?! WTF is up with that?) but she's learning a lot from it and most of it is good stuff. There's no fighting or anything like that so it's all good :)