In the Shite Garden

by Jack Gardner

When I read that the Americans had used noise to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay I instantly knew which music they had chosen

When I read that the Americans had used noise to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay I instantly knew which music they had chosen. Forget Herb Alpert, Sachmo, It’s a Wonderful World, or the singing of that the fat bloke off Go Compare. No they knew where to strike. It must have been the music from the children’s cartoon series, ‘Topcat.’ Discounting the lyrics the music is a screaming, cacophony of discordant notes, worthy of Stravinsky on Ketamine. Well, we knew back in our day Nifties what children wanted didn’t we, anything from America? Mouschwitz, as American cartoons have come to be known. Topcat or the Flintstones, from which most children concluded that Stone Aged tribes spoke with a Brooklyn accent. So much so that when, years later, they saw Goodfellas, they subconsciously concluded that a theme of the film was that mafia brutality was comparable with the struggle for life in prehistoric times.

Jump to the present. The most popular children’s programme on television today is, In the Night Garden. It has bland characters and plots that could be attributable to Harold Pinter. The programme is made by the same people who brought us Teletubbies. The characters are called things like Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka. Bet the meeting where they made up those names had them rolling on the floor. The characters are people dressed up as if they were animated creatures in a set that looks as if it’s drawn. Life imitating cartoons or producing what looks like computer generated images more expensively than if they were computer generated. There’s a voiceover to explain the bleeding obvious by Claudius without the stutter. Well, now they have a stage show that is travelling the country in a specially made tent in which even Gaddafi would have been proud to be cluster bombed. It looks like half a Michelin Man lying on his back.

There are two shows in which all the main characters appear in their costumes. The plots are as follows. One, Igglepiggle loses his blanket and all his friends help him find it. Two, Makka Pakka washes everyone’s faces, until his sponge gets stuck in Upsy Daisy’s megaphone. Yes, you read that right. Each show last for less than an hour and tickets cost £12.50 in the cheap seats and £20.50 in the front rows. For an additional £20 your child can meet a character after the show. Plus there is unashamed merchandising everywhere. So top whack, mum dad and two kids, if such a thing still exists, meeting Makka Pakka after the show £122 plus £28 for stuff and you have a total of £150 for just over an hours entertainment. But as the parents comments confirm, ‘it’s the look on their faces that makes it all worth it.’ It’s the look on the creators’ faces, a company called, Ragdoll, that I think would be the one worth seeing.

Far from accepting Ragdoll’s rather patronising explanation for what they are trying to do, ‘…Ragdoll’s response to these anxious times we live in today and directly references a pivotal moment in a child’s experience – bedtime.’ What? A pivotal moment in a child’s experience, bedtime! Isn’t the pivotal moment watching your programme on the tele? But hey, what’s a pivotal moment between friends?

What they’ve actually built on from Teletubbies is that young children can be engaged by very little indeed, particularly if it’s pretty and expensively made. And what is ‘anxious times,’ all about? It’s just junior Eastenders really. Parents collude as it’s anodyne and pointless so no harm done. Put a child in front of the screen and time will pass with neither good nor harm being done. It’s a winner. At last the tots have got their own utterly pointless programme that is unmissable.

At least Topcat was a spiv on the make. Unlike Igglepiggle, a cross eyed, blue teddy who is often in need of reassurance and comfort.

Role model?

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