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Modern Kids TV = Mostly shite.

It’s one of my earliest childhood memories, my mother sitting me in front of the telly to watch Playschool each weekday morning - her special way of rendering me silent for half an hour. Derek Griffiths would waffle on about going through the square window with Humpty and I’d be treated to a clip about something really exciting, like what milkmen did, or the inner-workings of a sewage plant. You may laugh - with only three channels back then (and two that aired bugger all during the day apart from a girl and a dismembered clown) choice was scant. Mother had two options - endure mardy ASBO toddler, or the quiet toddler that knew inside-out how your poo was processed. It was a no-brainer - she’d sit me in front of the One-Eyed Monster*, a beast of a television by today’s standards that was perched high up on a chest so little hands couldn’t reach it. Mother undoubtedly appreciated her regular quiet spell as much as I wondered whether Humpty and Hamble were an item.

When Playschool finished, the television would be switched off. There wasn’t anything else on, so I’d go and take part in wholesome activities - like sticking half-pence pieces in the washing-machine or expressing my inner Van Gogh on the bedroom walls. The TV would stay off until later on in the afternoon, where we’d then be shown programmes where elephants evacuated their bowels. Ah, happy days.

That’s not to say we didn’t have a choice. There were other gems in the schedule. I remember being particularly fond of Mr Benn, Trumpton, Bagpuss, Bod, Chigley, Blue Peter, Camberwick Green, Captain Pugwash, Ivor The Engine, The Muppets and many more. I could go on for ever**. It’s an incontestable fact that children’s television programs from the seventies were awesome. They were so awesome that they went on to give cause for the superlative awesome to be created in an Australian soap-opera fifteen years later, I kid you not. Ask anyone over the age of thirty and they’ll tell you that children’s television rocked, despite animation being ropey, budgets tiny, stories hallucinogenic and technology being confined to the BBC Stereophonic Workshop. But why do they say that?

Simply, the stories had imagination. Take away all the CGI-bollocks, uber-budgets and polished corporate shite from a kids program of today and you’re not left with much. Are you even left with much of a story? Sure, the stories of old could at times be fantastical, even occasionally drug-induced, but at least there was a story. If every modern show can simply computer render its visuals, it saves the child from needing an imagination. You could say I’m biased. It’s obvious I’m more likely to be nostalgic about the decade I was born in - but I just can’t see how today’s children will have the same nostalgia about current programming. In 2040, will they be nostalgically remembering Big Cook/Little Cook, Weybuloo or In The Night Garden? Nope. Because todays offerings are bland, insipid, moralistic rubbish - and don’t even get me started on why I think The Disney Channel should be banned.***

Everything has to have a moral nudge towards making our children into perfectly programmed citizens. Could you ever say the same about The Magic Roundabout or Jackanory? Hell, no. We always used to joke about Blue Peter’s insistence of having an adult help with scissors, but it’s all got a bit silly. One channel I’ve seen seems to be petrified of not ticking all the appropriate health and safety boxes, as well as the diversity, social inclusion and environmental ones too. I know society has changed in the last forty years, but blandness has reigned supreme. You can sit a child down in from of such programmes and hope they’ll turn out fine - good parenting’s going to be the only way that’ll happen.

Of course, the proliferation of channels hasn’t helped. You can make five hundred wanky programmes and repeat them ad-infinitum on seven gazillion channels, or make twenty-five less-wanky ones and air them on just three - chances are that of those twenty five, many will be better. Unfortunately as our consumption of media increases, chances are that the situation isn’t going to get any better. I’m glad to say that there’s still some good stuff out there that I’d like my son to watch, it just takes a lot more scratching around to find - Justin’s House vaguely reminds me of Crackerjack - if only they had a swarm of Cub Scouts in the audience.

In the meantime, I’ll put Bagpuss on the DVD player and thoroughly confuse him. I’m sure he’ll thank me later.

*Not that one, potty-brain.
** This is a lie. I couldn’t.
*** Largely, because it’s just plain shit.
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