Dear Dave

Tuesday 27 March 2007

Teletubbies save the world

Dear Dave,

I'm sorry to hear that the teletubbies are destroying your sanity. I remember when Fraser was young and I happily got to watch re-runs of ER all day mixed in with Working Lunch and an occasional documentary about Alexander the Great or quantum mechanics. Then he got a bit older and emergency chest surgery ceased to be suitable background noise for playtime. Not long after that, he realised that I had Dipsy and co. held captive within black rectangles of plastic and could make them perform at any time simply by feeding them to the video machine. Overnight I went from learning about the fundamental properties of matter to watching a teddy-bear tap-dance. On loop.

When we were children, television didn't start until nine in the morning, there were only three channels and kids' TV was restricted to lunchtime, teatime and Saturday mornings. This was obviously to the benefit of parents, giving them peace to get meals ready during the week and to pretend to be sleeping at the weekend. Now television never stops, there are dozens of channels and kids' TV is only ever moments away.

That's not to say that my children watch more television than I did as a child, it's just most of what I watched ranged from desperate, e.g. the testcard, to astonishingly inappropriate, e.g. an Open University lecture on human biology. The problem isn't too much TV, it's that control has been given to the child. By the power of CBeebies, there's no reason for them to put up with boring adult telly. By the power of rewind, there's no reason for them to stay glued to the set and not go disturbing 'sleeping' adults.

Deprived of both sex and TV, adults are bound to go slightly crazy. Add to this being constantly bombarded with The Fimbles, Tweenies and Fireman Sam, and hallucinations are almost a given. I've found myself imagining episodes of CSI: Balamory ("We made casts of the tyre impressions on Archie's head and I have to say it's not looking good for you, Penny."), Dr Who in Toy Town ("They've exterminated Big Ears!") and Jack Bauer the Builder ("Tell me where the hammer is, Spud. Tell me now and I won't have to hurt you..."). Then there's the episode of Come Outside where Auntie Mabel, the middle-aged spinster, does a musical number about sewage. (No, hang on, that really happened).

Maybe I should just throw the TV out the window like Super~Mum says...

No, actually that's a little drastic. TV gives kids some of their social identity. I know this because I spent a year in the States as a teenager. There were many occasions when I felt far away from home but the one that sticks in my head was sitting around in History class discussing shows we'd loved as kids. I'd never seen Sesame Street and never cared about Mickey Mouse. They'd never heard of Mr Benn. They were all able to share together and forget their differences. It was as if they were four again. I, however, was more different than before. There was a new cultural barrier between us.

On the flipside, it turned out that the cutest girl in class had spent a few of her younger years in Britain. We paired off and reminisced about the episode of Bagpuss with the chocolate biscuit machine. We bonded. Shared memories of kids' TV brought friendship and snogging. Kids' TV is good.

Thanks to this experience, I believe that the Teletubbies are in fact the best hope we have for world peace. I know you hate them now but Sam will soon find something else to be fixated on. You will move on to Tikkabilla. The Teletubbies, however, will continue to be shown all over the world. By adding localised film-clips they can infiltrate any nation. There are so many episodes that they will pad out daytime telly forever. No child will entirely escape. Eventually these children, our children, will grow up and be in charge.

I imagine a point in the future when the world is edging towards war and the General Assembly of the United Nations meets for one last attempt to avert disaster. No common ground can be found, however. Voices rise. Fingers move edgily towards buttons. Suddenly Nicole Kidman realises the only way to save the day. She races up to the control booth and switches on BBC7. CBeebies radio blares out over the public address system.

"Who spilled the tubby custard?" says a well-spoken, male voice and hundreds of interpreters babble out translations.

There is a pause. Then, as one, the ambassadors of the world respond in their native tongues but there is no need to translate. Creed and colour no longer matter. For once, each person understands their brothers and sisters around them with perfect clarity. United, the people of Earth cry out, "It was Po! Po spilled the tubby custard."

Then they give each other a big hug.

From that single moment of shared identity will come new hope. Everybody will have their turn to wear the skirt and there will be tubby toast for everyone...

Or maybe I'm being too much of an optimist. Feel free to fall back on Plan B:

A trap baited with tubby custard. Dipsy's hat and Laa-Laa's ball lie next to it.
There was the sound of an approaching scooter and Ed waited patiently for his next victim. The Teletubby infestation would soon be dealt with...

Yours in a woman's world,



Ben said...

Here's hoping for world peace. But if it doesn't look forthcoming, what better idea than to bring your kids up watching Pib and Pog?

"Why it's concentrated sulphuric acid! You are a scamp..."

DadsDinner said...

Ace! Itchy & Scratchy meets Morph.