My children have reached the surprisingly grown up ages of 9 and 7 (apparently achieved by stealth when I had my back turned to get a new pack of baby wipes) and this has led to many changes in our household.
Many of those changes are welcome. The day I was able to leave my house without a fully packed change bag in tow was a day of celebration and – despite having failed to improve the standard of tidiness in our home – clearing our downstairs living areas of all large plastic toys was also a revelation.
However, as well as dispensing with toddler paraphernalia, my growing children have also altered their TV preferences in a direction that is largely unsatisfactory. Stopping briefly in the living room last week, I managed to catch a 10 minute excerpt from the ‘Power Puff Girls’ – a current favourite. Whilst my two girls sat in goggle-eyed silence, apparently mesmerised by the bizarre story-line (as far as I could make out, evil alien broccoli had hypnotised the adult population and the power puff girls were needed to save the day – standard fare really), I found myself pining for the Nick Jr. years – that brief window between CBeebies and tween channels when I could sit with my children and watch cartoons that were made to entertain us all.
You know the ones I mean – that fabulous genre of programmes whose story-line and script are ostensibly aimed at kids, but have unmistakable jokes, asides and even innuendos aimed squarely at the parents. I LOVED those shows: the Backyardigans; Ben and Holly; Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! and even the ubiquitous Peppa Pig, with the ever present wryly humourous narration. I actively enjoyed watching all of these and, indeed, made it my mission to engineer our TV viewing to consist solely of Nick Jr. cartoons, leaving behind the frankly infuriating jolly chatter of Granny Murray and her ilk.
Amongst the many fabulous cartoons I discovered; fell in love with; and now yearn for, there is one that stand above all others and which I urge you to seek out if you have yet to become familiar with its delightful brilliance and that is ‘The Wonder Pets’. The basic premise of a duck, a turtle and a guinea pig living in a school and rushing to the aid of animals in trouble is pretty fabulous to start with, but add in a ridiculously catchy theme song and humour in every episode and you’re on to a winner.
But even in a fabulous series, there must always been one standout perfect episode and for the Wonder Pets their pinnacle of brilliance came in the episode ‘The Wonder Pets Save The Beetles.’ when the super team are called to rescue four Liverpudlian ‘beetles’ trapped in their yellow submarine. Who writes this stuff?! I take my hat off to them! They know the secret of good children’s TV is to entertain the parents who are beginning to feel like they may never escape the ever present grin of Mr Tumble/Justin/only man on TV and are considering resorting to slipping something a little stronger into their afternoon cuppa.
If I can pass on any advice to those of you still in the CBeebies world, it is to seek out these fabulous cartoons and luxuriate in their witty brilliance because it’s a very small window of opportunity. Sooner than you think, you too will be watching ‘Horseland’ and wondering what happened to those halcyon days when a Guinea Pig saving a Beetle whilst singing a song called ‘Kelp!’ brought sunshine to your day.