I don't mean to brag, but I watch a lot of Cbeebies
Before you have children your views on what's appropriate for them in many instances is wildly different from the reality of when they're there. I'm not talking about violence or content, though I'm sure when my kid is older than 17 months I will be; I'm talking about consumption.
See when I was thinking about having a wee one with my wife we were very pious about stuff like TV. Our little one will not watch much television, they'll mainly read and play. We don't want little X to grow up in front of the box.
In reality when you've got the tot in front of you and you've slept for 4 hours anything that can distract them will do. So when Cbeebies (the BBC toddler's channel) was introduced to our household its arrival was like manna from Heaven.
Initially your child may only be absorbed by the tube for ten minutes at a time, but god those 10 minutes are golden. You can actually drink something without small chubby fingers going in it, or a Fisher Price zoo animal being flung at your head. Time passes and your toddler becomes more and more engaged with what's on screen, and you start to notice their tastes. If you're lucky they like the better shows, if you're not they get addicted to Justin's House.
Justin Fletcher is a ubiquitous force on Cbeebies. Currently he has three shows on it, Justin's House, Something Special and Googlebox. Justin's House is a hyperactive pantomime where Justin and his live in robot servant Robot have various adventures in front of a live studio
audience of toddlers. They sing, dance, make funny noises and are regularly visited by guests from other Cbeebies programmes. Like Cbeebies itself Justin's House is ultra repetitive. Their songbook contains all of 3 songs, one of which is the theme tune to the show.
So if you're catching it regularly you'll have Wibble Wobble and Rock n Roll Song stuck in your head like a jolly brain tumour.
Of his repertoire Justin's House is the probably the worst, but in general Justin Fletcher (who was made an MBE in 2008) is alright. He uses macakaton (which I've just realised is useful when you want to understand what the hell your child is burbling at you) and regularly has children with disabilities in his programmes. Justin's House is just an example of the worst end of the kids TV spectrum, repetitive, dull and inane. Regularly watching this style of programming you realise how good it can really be.
I bring you fair reader to the cream of the crop, 3rd and Bird. Now before I begin I'll ask you to hang in there with me. I've had to endure hours of stuff aimed at children aged 0 to 5 for the past year and need you to realise that a bright spark amongst this is rare. The show is set on a tree where the titular neighbour is constructed.
It's made up of various kinds of birds and worms and they get into a variety of musical japes. The protagonists are Rudy (a colourful cockatoo), Samuel (a Lovebird) and his precocious and adorable little sister Muffin. Let's cut to the chase Muffin is the star of the show. She
has a peppy catchphrase (Spicy!), owns her own railway and theme park, and generally does what she wants. Each episode gives you various situations, one of the birds makes a mistake, and in the end they correct said mistake giving our pre-schoolers a lovely moral message; this is peppered with various genuinely clever songs.
You're probably reading this thinking I've lost the plot. Watch two episodes and make sure the second is called Talent Show. Just trust me. I honestly think my wife and I like it more than Zac does. On more than one occasion we've watched 3rd and Bird on the TIVO while Zac's asleep.
What the real joy of kids television is to me is the reaction my son has to it. The boy now stands (he likes to rest on the sofa to watch) mouth open enjoying almost a whole episode of something while I frantically each breakfast before he notices and steals my scrambled
eggs. The real gem is when something comes on he loves. If Waybaloo (floating Manga style animal babies doing Yoga) or In the Night Garden (Sir Derek Jacobi narrates a bed time themed magical forest) is on he lights up turns to us and frantically points. Zac also likes to let
us know that it's on and will sometimes dance along. I love these moments, and without the square LED nanny I'd not have them.
So if I could go back and talk to my pre Daddy self after I've told me to get as much sleep as humanly possible, I'd say "chill out, you don't know what you're missing."
Follow Matt Zitron on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mattzitron