Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cool for Cats

I've often thought I'd like to write for a children's series or cartoon so I try to pay attention to what's on CBBCwhen I can - not easy as I'm not always home during the day, but I try. So I read this Guardian article with interest. Jess, the black and white cat belonging to Postman Pat, is to get his own spin-off show! The new series will be called Guess with Jess and is aimed at pre-school children.

My initial excitement at this was soon replaced with dismay as I read further. Three things unsettled me: 1) the new show will be computer-generated, 2) Jess will TALK!!! And 3) production hasn't even begun yet and a deal has already been struck with Fisher Price toys, so when the series does air, it will "be accompanied by a host of toys and other merchandise". Interesting that the show has been developed due to "public demand" - Postman Pat was first aired 25 years ago so the people who remember it fondly, like myself, are now adults (well, in theory anyway) and possibly even have kids themselves. If they are the ones who have expressed interest, they are surely going to be disappointed with the new, all-improved CGI'd Jess. Of course, cable channels like Nickleodeon show old episodes of classic kids programmes, so I'm sure there are a few new generation fans of Postman Pat out there. But again, if that's the case, why not just bring back Postman Pat as it was? Who wasn't dissappointed by the new Muppet Show, or the fact that the Pink Panther talks now?

As for the marketing deal, I find it a little disturbing that this has been decided before the new show has even begun production. Of course, marketing has always targeted kids with various degrees of subtlety - the trend for supermarkets to put brightly coloured confectionery right by the tills where kids can easily grab them, for example. And I have distinct memories of the merchandising tie-ins connected with my favourite childhood shows - I got a Roland Rat bathset one Christmas, and at one stage I'm sure I had a Zig and Zag duvet set. Still, announcing the merchandising deal in the same press release as the show seems pretty cynical to me.

I admit that have a slightly rose-tinted memory of childhood TV, sitting on my Granda's knee (back in the days when that sort of thing wasn't met with suspicion) watching things like Button Moon and Bagpuss. The charm of these shows was their simplicity, and nowadays kids TV shows seem to be so sophisticated. Still, I did recently stumble across a lovely animated series on CBBC called Binka. I was home during the day and depressed, naturally I turned to kids TV to uplift my spirits and uplift my spirits Binka did! Binka is a big fat cat who spends his days eating, sleeping and occasionally pretending to catch mice. As a cat lover, I really liked the fact that it captured the character of cats so well - there's a bit in one episode where Binka finds a bed to sleep on, and kneads the duvet with his paws before he settles down, like I've seen cats do so often! It's aimed at young kids (not overgrown ones like me, sadly) and Binka doesn't talk or do anything particularly human, apart from maybe trying to impress Suki the girl-cat. It's very endearingly narrated by Stephen Tomkinson and I'd recommend anyone with kids, or adults in touch with their inner child, to look out for it. More information about Binka here. Not sure what time it is on, or even if it is still showing. Hopefully there will be another series, or it will get an airing on CBeebies or something. Interestingly enough, I haven't encountered any Binka soft toys, duvet sets or bath sets!

Despite my despair at the CGI Jess, I still look forward to the imminent resurrection of Jackanory - please BBC, don't mess it up!

More classic kids TV here.

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