If your baby is due any time soon, or maybe you’re reading this at 4am during the seemingly endless feeding of your newborn then you may well have read What to Expect When You’re Expecting (the less said about the corresponding film, the better, this Bewildered Dad video explains why). Whilst that tome will have managed to prepare you for your bundle of joy in many ways, it is missing a chapter about mentally steeling yourself for the onslaught on your senses that comes with the kids’ TV to which, in a few months, you will be subjected.
Our 14 month-old Elsa is at the stage now when the TV can provide a welcome distraction from a tiredness-based tantrum or, even better, having to push her round the house for the fourteenth time that day in her toy car. The relief does come at a price though, for every dewy-eyed nostalgia-fest that comes with taking a trip to Greendale to visit Postman Pat (who now has a kid and a helicopter), comes the tiresome preachiness of 64 Zoo Lane (a bit rich, considering the whole premise of a show relies on a small girl breaking into a zoo every night).
Here’s your indispensable guide to children’s television:
In the Night Garden (CBeebies)
Elsa has an Iggle Piggle doll and she seems to think that merely by squeezing it tightly and pointing at the TV she can make the character, labelled the “blue gimp of happiness” on this site by TV and radio presenter OJ Borg, appear on screen. To be fair, that show goes on for so long that she’s correct more often than not.
The verdict on In the Night Garden, in a nutshell – tiresome and repetitive for adults to watch, but transfixing for children; it should buy you enough time to make a brew.
Hey Duggie (CBeebies)
My new favourite show (well, that and Broadchurch – not the most obvious pairing), Duggee is a cartoon dog/scoutmaster whose charges are a selection of different animals. They solve problems and gain new badges. I realise that this sounds dull but it’s genuinely funny, clever and features the excellent Alexander Armstrong’s voiceover skills.
Katie Morag (CBeebies)
Live action show featuring the adventures of a young girl who lives with her family on a small island off the coast of Scotland. It’s worth watching for the stunning locations and if your child finds your borderline offensive impressions of Scottish accents funny. Elsa does.
Mr Maker (CBeebies)
Mr Maker is a man with too much energy. He is tiring to watch which I guess is a bonus if you’d like your little ‘un to nap any time soon. However, Mr Maker specialises in craft projects which can be completed in minutes, thus defeating the point of setting your child off on a craft project. You want them to be occupied for as long as possible, surely. Fail (as the kids say).
Justin’s House (CBeebies)
Justin is the don of CBeebies, he appears on pretty much every other show and kids LOVE watching him. Even though Elsa has very little understanding of what is going on in this high-camp extravaganza but she’ll sit mesmerized for ages. I think he knows some kind of voodoo or something – it’s the only answer.
Kate and Mim-Mim (CBeebies)
Hands down the worst thing I’ve ever seen on television – an irritating girl and a massive, dopey rabbit are involved in tedious ‘adventures’, featuring the worst British accents this side of Dick van Dyke. Why they couldn’t have actually used British voice actors is beyond me.
Other CBeebies Shows
Mums fancy Mr Bloom so dads should ensure they hide the remote before he comes on, Swashbuckle is a fun pirate-based gameshow featuring a presenter who has the most professional wave I’ve ever seen and Tree Fu Tom is about the adventures of a mystical, tree-dwelling young boy who talks like Alan Partridge – bizarre.
Little Princess (Milkshake! on Channel 5)
Utilising the vocal talents of Jane Horrocks, Julian Clary and Brian Blessed and some very funny scripts, this is actually a joy to sit through. There are some lessons to be learnt, but they are suitably buried beneath the jokes. You get the idea that Clary recorded all of his lines with one eyebrow permanently arched.
Peppa Pig (Milkshake! on Channel 5)
Kids are addicted to this, dads are annoyed by the portrayal of Mr. Pig as an oaf and no one is best pleased when children decide that they’d like to jump in muddy puddles like Peppa. Comically was recently sued by an Italian woman who thought that the makers had stolen her name as detailed in this Bewildered Dad news story.
Milkshake! Vs CBeebies
You will get to know the shows very well but you’ll also strike up an affinity with the presenters who link them and the BBC and Channel 5 couldn’t be further apart when it comes to presenting their offerings.
CBeebies is calm, relaxed and fun. Clothes, sets and props are bright primary colours and the links are well thought out, meticulously rehearsed and relevant to the upcoming show. You’ll see the same sketches repeated every few days but the presenters are charming and funny in equal measures whereas Channel 5’s hosts appear to have mainlined twelve cans of Red Bull before the cameras started rolling whilst being forced to present their pieces on hot coals with bare feet having had ants released into their underwear.
They fidget and twitch and jump about on screen, employing the kind of rictus grin that you save for when your Auntie Flo is watching you open her terrible Christmas gifts.
However, despite these warnings, your destiny is already written. You will be watching all of these shows at some point. You might reckon you can avoid the worst bits but we all thought that at one point – when it comes to having to watch Kate and Mim-Mim or facing a toddler meltdown, you’ve got to side with the lesser of two evils (which is Kate and Mim-Mim by a whisker). Enjoy!