‘Children’s TV’ for all

Over the weekend, I was moved to ask “have you been watching the latest series of Horrible Histories” a couple of times, while away with a group of friends. As I mentioned several Friday Fun’s ago, I’ve only recently been introduced to its joys, but have subsequently become quite the fan. Every single person I asked replied with: “No! Liz, you do realise that’s a children’s programme?” and proceeded to mock me. I leapt to its defence, but no one seemed convinced.

Yes, HH is on CBBC. Yes, it’s aimed at children under 10. But no, it’s not just for children! Even the Guardian says it’s not.

For a start, as I mentioned previously, it’s song parodies only make real sense to grown-ups with an eclectic taste in music. Perhaps kids would have appreciate Joan of Arc’s Jessie J inspired number, but surely yesterday’s end of series (end of final series, in fact) ‘We are the World’ parody would have been lost on anyone under the age of 30?? My cup overflowed with joy while watching last week’s Kylie Minogue themed song about the colonisation of Australia – not just because it was excellent, but because it was an awesome collision of two significant elements of my life: my first album (Kylie, 1988) and my MA in Imperial & Commonwealth History (one half of which was Australian history). Gen-i-us.

Secondly, it’s not dumbed down ridiculousness. I have two history degrees and constantly learn new things. I don’t feel patronised, instead I’m informed with new fascinating facts to share with friends. [Friends, be grateful.]

Thirdly, it’s funny – and not just in a childish way. Yes, there are plentiful jokes and a facts about farts and bodily fluids, but I have laughed out loud multiple times at some of their more refined humour. (Though I have to confess that I find the ‘stupid deaths’ segment slightly scary, but that’s owing to my issues with full-face face painting. I’m special.) Adults will be particularly amused by the parodying of ‘grown up’ TV shows – Don’t Tell the Spartan Bride; The Only Way is Hertfordshire; Gross Designs; Come Dine With Me; and anything involving Professor Brian Cox…

Fourthly, since when did we discount good quality stuff just because it was marketed at children? Hello, Harry Potter anyone?

If you’re still not convinced, catch up on iPlayer, or explore the cornucopia of clips on YouTube. If you’re really looking for something to settle down to, watch the Horrible Histories Prom (and make a date in your diary for this year’s prom) Or, you can buy the preceding 4 series on DVD.

It has to be said that the popularity of HH has to partly thanks to the iPlayer. Without that, there’s no way hoards of adults would have discovered a show broadcast at 4.30pm on a weekday. But with iPlayer, no one knows what you’re watching, and no one can judge you…

…which is also how I’ve ended up becoming a massive fan of The Dumping Ground (and by affiliation, Tracy Beaker Returns). I’m not a Tracy Beaker fan – I was too old to read the book when it came out and I’ve always found her quite an irritating character. But earlier this year I somehow stumbled upon The Dumping Ground, which is a spin-off from the final Tracy related series. I was sucked into a phenomenal drama with excellent storylines and pretty decent child acting. How many shows do you know that can sensitively deal with a storyline involving a child with aspergers being adopted by a lesbian couple? Or child abuse? Or death? All in a format that’s accessible for tweenagers? I realise I’m very much not it’s target audience, but honestly, it’s an impressive feat! I highly recommend seeking it out.