Over the last five years I’ve seen a lot of CBeebies. Probably more than any of our children have actually seen. Some of it was good, some bad, but the content that sticks with me, the stuff that annoys me, is how nauseatingly preachy children’s television has become.
I should add by children’s television I mean stuff like CBeebies, not the extended toy adverts on the commercial channels the lower orders let their brats watch. Cbeebies is awfully preachy, but even worse it often gets its preaching completely and utterly wrong.
Take Mike the Knight for example. This show is popular with my two boys. Mike is a trainee medieval knight and gets into all manner of scrapes with his sister Evie1 and pet dragons. The general idea is that Mike learns lessons through life and encourages children to be “more Knightly”. Except he doesn’t. Mike spends 99 percent of each episode behaving like a spoiled, bad-mannered little bell-end.
Oh sure towards the end of the episode he realises he’s not behaving well and says “time be a knight and do it right” and does so, but does that make up for the rest of the time? It’s not as if he ever remembers these lessons, every episode he’s back to being an annoying little cock with no thought for anyone but himself. So what your children get to watch much of the time is a lesson on how to be a complete tosser.
This is a common thread in a lot of stuff on Cbeebies – and some other channels – where characters learn how to behave by their mistakes. Yet often we see much more bad behaviour than good, and usually the spur to good behaviour isn’t how others are being affected, but by the characters behaviour adversely affecting themselves.
So despite being quite cloyingly preachy the lesson seems completely wasted. Preaching pervades CBeebies – there is no art programme that won’t spend yet more time each episode warning of the dangers of scissors, or a cooking programme that won’t waste time with a song about washing hands or tidying up2.
In general the attitude is that the viewers are idiots. They are not, they are children. But Cbeebies sticks to the formula of patronise and preach. There seems to be a belief that no subject can be introduced to children without an annoying puppet. So new shows like Rhyme Rocket3 and Andy’s Wild Adventures have to feature some furry puppet so the mindless idiots watching can comprehend.
Meanwhile better shows like Come Outside and Something Special completely ignore this kind of thing. They are educational and entertaining without being patronising. I’m amazed an old show like Come Outside is still on Cbeebies. But does show how popular it is and how well it reaches children. It also demonstrates very ably where kids’ TV gets things right and how poor many new shows are in comparison.
The worse of the preachy shows on Cbeebies is The Green Balloon club. This is the sort of patronising, vomit-inducing religious programs that used to be aimed at children when I was young, however the Christianity has been replaced by environmental concerns and natural history. The GBC is a collection of nauseating drama-school brats with no singing ability and very little charisma that can take interesting wildlife stories and make them too boring to comprehend. The quasi-religious songs about looking after our world are astonishingly poor aural emetics. I saw part of the show the other day that was showing some wildlife footage and had added some awful animation of the show’s dog to somehow make it more palatable for children. It was unfunny and poorly made. The wildlife footage had plenty of wonder of its own, cheers. My kids hate the Green Balloon Club, always have.
Can we please just treat the children with some intelligence? Children don’t need to hear about washing their hands all the time, nor do they need songs about it. Children don’t need to hear “grown up helper” some of them actually have mums and dads. Though “dad” is not a word you hear much on Cbeebies, we’ve been erased from history. Just stop with the preaching and please have a go at entertaining the children first, if you can do that, they can learn something to.
And please, stop filling the schedule with bell-ends like Mike the Knight.
1Who is a trainee witch. So it’s about time they set fire to her or at least dunked her in a river.
2Of course the real reason for such repetition in shows like I Can Cook is to pad out the time a bit, make more money for the production company without adding anything new. Just look how many repeated songs, sections, scenes etc. you can spot in your average Cbeebies show.
3By far the worst piece of crap inflicted on the channel ever.