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Thursday, 12 September 2013

I am rather an expert on that....

Much in the way I never now watch any film rated more than 12 at the
cinema, and indeed actively seek out Pixar productions to watch (‘Up’
and ‘Finding Nemo’ are incredible films), my TV watching home has
regressed markedly over the last few years.

Now part of that is due to the fact that I enjoy reading, writing and
squinting at tiny Warhammer models whilst controlling my tremor with
gin. Another part is my wife’s predilection for soaps and housing
programmes (Property Porn as it is often referred to). And a
significant other part is that I got gloomed out by what was on offer.
After the Wire finished, Game of Thrones killed all the characters
off, and BSG re-runs disappeared I found that all me and the wife were
watching was gloom-vision. Specifically it was variants on forensic
murder programmes (CSI: Llandudno an so on) and now a range of
psychological thriller stuff (Hannibal, Criminal Minds, and now I hear
there’s a Psycho re-boot) that makes me want to go suck exhaust
through a hose-pipe. We escaped into fluff-cop shows like NCIS: LA and
Hawaii 5-0 with their pretty people and feel good banter, but now even
they’ve finished (both with a dollop of drama=torture=misery). So
what’s left to enjoy?

Well, kids TV as it turns out. As child #3 enjoys the new found
freedom of bed vs. cot (read open prison vs. maximum security) and our
new puppy Cockerpoo whimpers the house down from 0500h each morning, I
find myself OD-ing on Nick Jr’s Peppa Pig. Now I’ve been a PP fan for
a long while, in fact since it first aired on Terrestial TV on Ch5’s
Milkshake when Charlie was a toddler. But only in the last year can I
say that I’ve watched almost every episode to the degree that I have
my favourite scenes and can talk about character development.

 It’s so bloody good. Not only is the animation perfect—a combination
of simple childish line-style, with tiny intelligent touches—but the
characters and stories are a mirror of family life with kids. Rather,
family life with kids how it should be. Someone called it the
Simpson’s for under-5s, but I think that does it a disservice as the
acidic cynicism that pervades the Simpsons (and I do like that show)
is absent, and the patriarch of the Pig family, Daddy Pig, is no idle
selfish Homer. No, my friends, Daddy Pig is the model of fatherhood...
patient, yet not perfect, family-friendly, yet flawed.

He’s marvellous! They revolve entire episodes around mocking his big
round belly, which he takes almost graciously. He considers himself
‘rather an expert’ at many things, yet in practice his DIY is crap,
and he can’t speak fluent French. He strives at School sports day’s
Dad’s events, but his only great achievement is jumping in muddy
puddles which he approaches with a Taoist demeanour. He always loses
his glasses (as do I), enjoys a hearty meal, would give his last bit
of cake to the ducks, and runs very fast when chased by wasps... all
for charity. And he plays the drums and the accordion.

I could really go on about the other great characters in the show—the
workaholic Ms Rabbit; the guitar hero nursery teacher; Polly the
parrot; Mr Bull and his love of fine china; Grandpa Rabbit, voiced by
Brian Blessed; the useless Dr Hamster and her tortoise. But that’d be
a little tragic for a 41 year old to harp on about all the things he
genuinely enjoys in a show for toddlers. Yet, it’s so well observed!
Peppa can be really gobby, cheeky, mean to George Pig, but lovely and
curious and happy like all children. The toddlers in PP shower
fountains of tears at the drop of a hat—the episode where the ‘older’
kids run the toddler party is pure brilliance—it brings to mind taking
Charlie and Evelyn to some of the parties Henry has been invited to.
There’s Mr Potato and his strange Spanish accent, with his fruit
awareness day, and a theme park. And the trip to the museum to see the
space exhibit, with its tacky gift shop and £5 per ‘fun-photo’ is so
accurate it’s scary.

Ultimately that’s the essence of good kids TV and film these days.
Suitably fun stories with enough ‘in jokes’ to keep Mum and Dad
chuckling—hence why ‘Despicable Me’ rocks big-style, and I’d rather
watch ‘Up’ than another Tarrantino variant.

Embrace your inner immaturity! I am ‘rather an expert’ on that.

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