If you wanna have fun, it doesn’t matter at all…

Happiness week @ Shoe Central continues with a theme of universal love, hope and brotherhood…

…well, OK, not exactly. We haven’t reached the ‘bang the tambourine at airports’ stage of happiness yet, and frankly, we hope we never will. We have fond memories of encountering George Carlin in a book of advice to young people: "Question everything. Question – and resist!"

Of course, we also recall a painfully apt line from the Barenaked Ladies: "I’m so sane/it’s driving me crazy…"

Somewhere in-between lies our enduring fascination with children’s media.

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So, can I drop the royal ‘we’ now? Oh, I already have? Great.

Ahem. Not to worry, I’ve already rambled on at some general length on this subject… no, not the third person majestic plural, children’s TV. And faithful readers will recall that the outlook at that point was pretty grim.

Well, guess what: this post is about the tiny little ray of sunshine that’s burst through since then. Big & Small. Airing on TreehouseTV, here in its native Canada. (Although I am linking to the CBBC version because it includes much more introductory goodness). Various points on the schedule. Fifteen minutes a pop. 100% pure, unadulterated happiness. Go on, try a clip. See if you’re not grinning like an idiot within seconds.

OK…so the Canadian version doesn’t have Lenny Henry’s voice. Everything else – the charm, the wit, the riotous imagination – is blissfully intact. Big is still a gentle giant who invents good luck machines and dreams of counting the stars. Small still has a pet sock named Fang and dreams of being the Best Camper Guy Ever and…looks like a cross between a bunny and a goldfish.

As it turns out, he and Big are actually Grogs. This recent discovery clicked everything into place for me, because it means they’re from the same creature shop that has been making me very happy indeed since ‘way back when their ancestors used to show up between YTV programs in the early ’90’s.
These are good people to have in your corner when you’re stuck babysitting on a rainy afternoon. They have the same understanding Henson & co. (the original generation at least) did – that using felt critters means that you can actually get away with a whole lot of good stuff. Because nobody would ever dream of questioning the motives of cute fuzzy puppets, would they now?

No, really. Despite decades of warning, you can still get away with a surprising lot. You can, for instance, create a realistically hyper, egomaniac little kid, pair him off with a realistically capable but imperfect guardian, give them a common fascination with all the world has to offer…and somehow sneak it onto the international kidvid slate without a single parental complaint (that I can find, anyhow). It is the last best hope for resistance against the perfection of the average: the human personality, in all its chaotic glory.

As it happens, that’s also the foundation of the finest comedy humanity has to offer, so it’s no huge surprise that the average Big & Small episode is a mini-screwball masterpiece. Pocoyo does something similar with childish attitudes, but it’s hampered more by its peculiarly British sense of mission. B&S on the other hand are purely North American, over-the-top parodies of the spoiled brat and ineffectual parent archetypes that’ve been pervading our ether since Dr. Spock.

In recognising them, you laugh at them; in laughing at them, you learn from them; in learning from them, you understand them…and hey presto, expanded horizons. I have never, ever understood why more kids’ series haven’t picked up on this very simple formula. Probably saves a metric buttload in Child Development consultants. Not to mention songwriters.

Right, enough gushing, more sleep. It’s impossible anyway to really convey the funnie of this series in print; the fun comes from watching the expressions and voices and reactions. So…go watch it, OK? Seriously.

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