I love kids' shows. I'm not sure why, maybe their simplicity appeals to my child-like mind. The psychologist in me says I have a bad case of passive regression syndrome, a desire to recapture my childhood, but I don't know if it's as simple as that. After all, you're talking to the guy who had a collection of bright orange Blues Clues VHSes even before he thought about breeding. (It doesn't half get you weird looks when friends drop by and peruse your movie collection. "Hmm... Das Boot, Withnail and I, Eraserhead, Blues Clues, The Usual Suspects, Citizen Kane...") But having kids has done nothing but boost my love for kids TV that's made well. And by "kids TV", I'm not talking about slack-jawed morons blabbering on at each other in between cartoons, I'm talking about honest-to-god TV shows made for kids and, it seems, the stranger the better.
One of my most recent discoveries is a show called "Lazy Town". It's a half real-life human, half CGI, half puppet mix from - of all places - Iceland. Don't worry, all you non-subtitle reading philmisitines, it's made in English. Long story short, it follows a familiar TV plotline to get the ball rolling: Character A is new in town and feeling depressed that he/she had to leave home to live with relatives, Characters B and C. Soon, he/she befriends Character D who shows her around town and introduces her to Characters E through G, all of whom posess stereotypical personality types. It's easy TV, but at least your audience won't be confused as the ins and outs of the characters are explained vicariously.
So, as the helpfully explanatory theme song documents, "Stephanie (Character A) is new in town, and soon she and Ziggy (Character B) are friends..." and before long, she meets resident bad guy Robbie Rotten (boo hissss) and resident superhero Sporticus (yaaaay). Adventures, as one might expect, ensue with junk food-loving Robbie Rotten (booo hisss) trying to get one over on the people of Lazy Town, for reasons never adequately explored. Because he's rotten, one can assume. Or maybe a bad childhood. (Perhaps, my innner psychologist suggests, the lack of any openings on his striped trousers has given him a suppressed libido complex.) What sets this show apart from average fare like... well, any live action show on Nickelodeon these days, is that health and fitness are the focus. Thankfully not in an overtly preachy way, it's all done very subtly. And here's the rub: it actually seems to work. At almost three, Spikette is already unusual in that she's a big fan of eating fruit, but she'll eat twice as much if she thinks Sportacus sent her "sport candy". (I swear to god, that's what he calls it in the show.) I used to call it "nature's candy", but his explanation seems to work better.
The bright colours and fast pace will probably put some parents off, not to mention the thumping techno music soundtrack, a genre which seems to be inexorably linked with gay men in this country. I'm surprised there hasn't been an outbreak of outrage from the fundies claiming that the abundance of hot pink and dance music is "infecting our youth with gay". The show is the brainchild of Icelandic fitness guru Magnús Scheving who, in addition to starring in the show as Sporticus, seems to inhabit every second credit including writing, directing and designing the puppets. Honestly, check the credits, the dude does everything but the catering.
Despite some hideous stage school acting from the female lead, it's a catchy wee show. Dali-esuqe moustache aside, Sporticus himself is some pleasing eye candy (sport eye candy?) for the assembled mothers and, possibly, gay men attracted by the music.
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