Where You Can Stuff Your Pandas

There are plenty of new shows on BBC’s pre-school channel Cbeebies that are worthy of praise. Show Me Show Me for example is clearly designed by people who love to entertain children and it’s no wonder our three little ones love it. Mr Bloom’s Nursery is another recent arrival that seeks to entertain, with only gentle nudges of education. The children learn, but without being talked down to.

However the channel features some really poor shows that lay on the education – preaching even – so thick there seems no room to actually entertain the audience. Chief among these is Same Smile – a box ticking programme of such banality and evangelical self importance that it’s bound to get some producer fast-tracked for greatness at the Beeb.

Same Smile aims to teach children that although we are all different we all have the same smile. You know, racially harmony, cultural diversity and all that. Except unless you bring your kids up in a KKK household they’ll have realised this already. You don’t have to tell a four year old that people are different, that some families go to different kinds of church/temples, or that people live in different houses.

But Same Smile and its three shitty little pandas are used every episode to teach kids the absolute bleeding obvious. The format is simple, the annoying smug presenter visits a school and patronises the children for a while. Then three children are chosen to take a panda each and show them their home, culture, crack den – whatever. And supposedly by doing this we all learn to sing in perfect harmony or something.

It’s a load of old festering bollocks is what it is.

This programme is so dull and worthy with no attempt to either (a) entertain, or (b) talk to children as if they have a brain – that our children tend to wander off not long after the show starts. Someone has clearly decided that preaching some obvious (to almost all young children I expect) lesson about being different is vastly more important than keeping them entertained. Maybe it ticks a box on a quota somewhere at Broadcasting House that means the corporation doesn’t have to clutter up BBC1 with intelligent programming, instead offloading it on small children.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not remotely against our children learning good lessons about life, other cultures etc. But really, Same Smile is so worthy it would even make Bono vomit (as long as he wasn’t too busy avoiding paying his taxes). In contrast there’s a show on CBeebies called Something Special,. Primarily aimed at children with physical and mental disabilities it sees talented and genuinely caring presenter Justin Fletcher entertain children with the help of his clown-like alter-ego Mr Tumble. Our children love the show and anecdotal evidence suggests that it is hugely popular with many families.

But is Something Special preachy? Not for one second. Mr Tumble entertains the children whether they have special needs or not. There’s probably a much more subtle yet easily absorbed message here about the universality of childhood joy and laughter whatever your situation. It’s light years ahead of Same Smile.

Unfortunately Something Special is in a minority, with preachy none-entertaining programme gaining traction on Cbeebies. Mighty Mites encourages children to play, as thought they don’t seem capable of working out how to do that already. To make matters worse it’s presented by Sarah Jane Honeywell channeling the voice Satan would use if he was a doctor’s receptionist with a helium addiction.

Then there’s The Green Balloon Club – the religious wing of the Animal Liberation Front. This turd of a programme is a cross between Why Don’t You (in that it’s poorly presented by amateurish kids with regulation regional accents), The Really Wild Show (no bad thing) and the sort of Sunday morning religious kids shows broadcast in the 1980s. Seriously, the songs and monologues about nature and animals in this show come across as hymns and sermons more than anything else I’ve seen in children’s’ programming. It really is nauseating stuff. On the bright side they got rid of the grinning Pink Windmill squatting drama school eldest presenter after the first series, so it’s only now as annoying as chopping off both of your legs with an axe, rather than all your limbs. Bill Oddie can often be seen slumming it on this show, looking like any minute he might kill himself using the annoying green puppet called Jelly.

Look, I do want my children to use their TV time to learn something. That’s why they watch CBeebies rather than some channel full of Ben10 and other ADHD crap designed for low aspiration families. But I’d like them to be entertained too, in fact I’d like them to entertained and educated in that order. Programming that treats them like idiots and patronises them holds no interest and they won’t watch it. Cbeebies needs to take the lesson of Something Special onboard to see how entertaining children is the best way of educating them. And if they’ve any sense they’ll get Nurse Gladys Emmanuel out of retirement for a new series of Come Outside.

But please, ditch the shitty little Pandas, their preachy pimp and the awful Green Balloon Club.