Saturday, 25 September 2010

Time to grow up

Being a parent isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Sure, it means that in seventeen years you'll be able to take advantage of a free taxi service (less petrol costs, natch). And at least there'll be someone to check you into the nursing home once you start leaving patches on the furniture.

In the meantime, there's an awful lot to endure - from sleepless nights and neon faeces to horrendous mood-swings and temper tantrums. However, the real reason most parents look like they're a bug's eyelash away from buying an automatic weapon and shooting up a shopping mall, is the kids' TV they have to endure. 

Inane, repetitive, and featuring more headache-inducing colour clashes than Katie Price's make-up bag, children's programming can turn even the most advanced academic brain into lukewarm oatmeal. So it's hardly surprising that Sesame Street has endured for over 40 years, since its canny producers are wise to the fact that their output is being watched by grown-ups too. 

The show deftly blends in adult concepts and intelligent humour with the low-tech animation and counting sequences, to make sure that the parents in its audience don't end the broadcast wondering if its possible to commit suicide with a Fisher Price building set. 

This week, the show even took on one of HBO's most challenging and controversial dramas in an extraordinary sketch called 'True Mud' - depicting a version of the vampire thriller where Merlotte's Bar gets visited by a stranger with an insatiable hunger for sludge. The sketch even features a fleeting appearance by the fuzzy version of cross-dressing gay chef Lafayette. You never got that on Playschool.  

The street was also visited by Katy Perry this week, who showed up to serenade Elmo with a new version of her single 'Hot and Cold', designed to introduce children to the concept of opposites. Interestingly, the song didn't need that much rejigging to be appropriate for the under-fives, suggesting that Katy might not be the world's most advanced lyricists. 

No-one seemed particularly concerned about the bizarre coupling of a squeaky-voiced, goggle-eyed muppet with one of Sesame Street's longest-running residents. In fact, most people's issue with the online clip was Katy's somewhat inappropriate strapless dress. The low-cut lime-green outfit was in danger of encouraging too many young viewers to count to two - which would be confusing if that day's episode happened to be sponsored by the number six. 

After a flurry of complaints about the footage, the show's producers issued a statement, which said "In light of the feedback we've received on the Katy Perry music video which was released on YouTube only, we have decided we will not air the segment on the television broadcast of Sesame Street, which is aimed at preschoolers." 

It's not all bad news though. Viewers who enjoy the curious fusion of childhood innocence and mature humour will soon have a new show to fixate on. PBS has announced a new concept called 'Next Avenue', aimed at baby boomers, rather than babies, which will teach them "how to handle their lives now that they've reached middle age, much the way the preschool TV show teaches kids their A-B-Cs."

I look forward to seeing how the show's innovative composers handle manage to create catchy songs about final-pay pensions, endowment mortgages and sexual harassment in the workplace. 

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