Questions about children’s TV that no-one ever asks

April 22, 2014

Questions about children's TV

Did you know the first full programme to be shown on BBC2, 50 years ago this week, was Playschool? It was actually an accident; a powercut meant the real first programme that went out the night before wasn’t seen by anyone.

I love that the first programme to be shown on the more ‘serious’ BBC channel ended up being a children’s one. Almost as much as I loved kids TV growing up (everyone did! It was the top topic among my friends. And after school, me and my brothers would crowd around to watch Andi Peters in the Broom Cupboard, with Ed the Duck and Wilson the Butler. Or was he with Andy Crane?) We all loved Cities of Gold, Dogtanian, Around the World with Willie Fog. And not the omnipresent Blue Peter.

Watching kid’s TV now with Eliza, it strikes me how very magical yet completely nonsensical it all is. And probably always was.

So in honour of Playschool, and 50 years of BBC2, here’s some questions that have recently occurred to me about her current children’s favourites. Why does no-one ever ask them?

1) Thomas and Friends. Why are there just so many accidents on the Fat Controller’s line?

2) And why are there so many trains on Sodor; such a small island with a tiny population?

3) What was the Fat Controller – Sir Topham Hat – actually knighted for?

4) And what power does he have over the engines, who all want to be ‘really useful’ and slavishly serve him at all costs (Alex’s opinion “he’s just their boss”)

5) How can the trains run by themselves, sometimes for days, with no fuel (see: Thomas and Misty Island. I have. Several times). Yet at other times they need a driver and constant refuelling?

6) And why do the train drivers seem to have no opinions on anything and never object to the numerous japes the engines get up to. Are they faceless clones? (Yes I know; plotlines)

7) Moving on to Bob the Builder – why don’t any of his projects ever go wildly over time-wise or end up costing the customer thousands more due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’? In an recent episode, he built a whole bridge in two days. The man’s some sort of megahero.

8) And where can I get his number for a quote for our kitchen?

9) In the Night Garden. Whaaaaat is all that about? The strange proportions, Macca Pacca’s sponge and OCD cleaning obsession, moving beds, objects that appear out of no-where? And is it worrying it only makes sense to pre-schoolers or end-of-day knackered parents who’ve only had about three hours of sleep? And, presumably, students.

10) How does the lush and very green Night Garden exist in a weather-less fantasy microclimate? There’s no rain. Upsy Daisy sleeps outside. Macca Pacca doesn’t have central heating in his little door-less cave. I know, I know, it’s a dream-induced fantasy land, but come on people – we’re British.

11) Everyone goes to sleep on command (apart from ‘Pickle Pickle’ aka ‘the weird blue one’). How? My child never does this.

12) And finally, moving on to the almighty pig. Why do some animals on Peppa have anthropomorphic characteristics, but others (ducks, birds and stick insects) don’t? Was it just chance as to who lucked out in that Darwinian lottery?

13) Madame Gazelle is one of the best characters, but why is there a 1-8 child-to-teacher ratio for a group of 2-3 year olds at the nursery? Do they not have government guidelines and Ofsted?

14) What’s the source of tension between Grandpa Pig and Grandpa Dog? And where are the rest of the grandmas?

15) And finally on Peppa, despite a dedicated channel and at least two others that basically show nothing else, why is it always adverts when you have a crying child and desperately need an episode?

What have I missed off? Answers on the back of a postcard, please. Or write in to TV Centre, including a self-addressed envelope, making sure you ask the permission of your mum and dad. Of course.


  • Kim Carberry

    April 22, 2014 at 10:58 am

    hahaha!!! Brilliant post!!

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Thanks! Glad you liked it! x

  • Polly

    April 22, 2014 at 11:55 am

    this made me giggle 🙂 great post!!

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Thanks! 🙂

  • Caroline

    April 22, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I have often wondered just exactly what is up with Sodor and the Fat Controller. We call the engines the “Really USELESS Crew”! And why is it that Henry needs special coal when it suits the story, but “it was fixed ages ago” when it doesn’t! And why so many signalmen and points, when trains can switch lines willy-nilly as they please! I could go on forever.

    But as for the accidents…. Well “Accidents happen, now and again when people or trains get smart….” (And I could shoot whoever wrote that song!)

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Yes the special coal! Aka the really convenient / weak plotline. Aaah you’ve just reminded me of the Misty Island special (which I’ve seen so many times as it was the only one we had on Sky+) Thomas goes off the raft and there’s the right tracks right there on the island. How is that possible! The songs are SO annoying too. Poor us 🙂 x

  • Shirley

    April 22, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    You are trying too hard to be a mature adult. This is the same as how Children could also eat ice cream and only ice cream at every meal. Before you know it they will be answering questions on University Challenge and no damage done (apparently)

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:35 am

      Haha, so true! x

  • Fiona

    April 22, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Hahahaa! In the night garden is SO weird, I don’t even think the makers could answer your questions. Y’know, because they’re probably way too high.

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:34 am

      They seriously must be. I reckon the makers of most children’s TV programme are, though.

  • Jess @ Along Came Cherry

    April 22, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    In The Night Garden is so odd! Our childless friends always used to sit in shock when they came round during the bedtime hour! x

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:34 am

      I can imagine! The first time we saw it I was so confused x

  • Circus Queen

    April 22, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    How is it that everyone in Peppa Pig has both eyes on the side of their heads then the turn and the eyes are both on the other side. Surely that means if they faced the screen head on they’d have four eyes?!

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Excellent point! x

  • Marissa Coltman (Little Rascal Reviews)

    April 22, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Haha! I love this post. I’m in agreement with all of these questions although, every unhelpfully, I’m unable to provide you with any answers. Hubby and I have also spent time wondering how Postman Pat still has a job seeing as he seems pretty useless and stuck in some sort of complete catastrophe on a daily basis! x

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:33 am

      Postman Pat sounds incredibly rubbish! Like most postmen, then (I bet he doesn’t knock when he has a parcel and leaves a delivery note for the office that’s miles away. Infuriating!) x

  • Globalmouse

    April 22, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    That’s so funny!! I have a lot of questions about Granny Murray on ‘Me Too’…I think someone should speak to ofsted about her as I’m sure she breaks lots of the rules… And also Miss Hoolie on Balamory spends a lot of the school day having tea with her friends…surely that’s not right?!

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:31 am

      Quick, call Ofsted! It’s all just so odd, isn’t it? But children love it! x

  • Eleanor (thebristolparent)

    April 23, 2014 at 8:03 am

    you really need to check out Baby Jake. I have so many questions. His parents are barely in their 30s, HOW DO THEY HAVE TEN KIDS AND A WINDMILL? How does one kid get away with JUST eating peas? And should a 7yr old drink Iced Tea? And that’s just the live action bit. The animation is the stuff of bad trips.

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:29 am

      TEN KIDS? Whaaat. We’ve never seen this, but sounds like the sort of freaky thing E would love. Why are all children’s programmes just so odd? x

  • fritha

    April 23, 2014 at 8:14 am

    in the night garden confuses me completely! I find the intro really freaky..he’s lost at sea, puts his little light on in the hope someone will find him and then goes to sleep? (I kind of read it that he dies? ) it’s so creepy and lonely!
    Then there is the actual show which I can’t find any redeeming feature but some parents I know say its funny?? I don’t get it! (I think this is me and not getting Miranda all over again) x

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:28 am

      It is really creepy! I know what you mean about him dying – it is a bit weird and mawkish isn’t it? E has only just started watching it and is entranced (I’m really against daytime TV but it’s at that time of the day when you’re just exhausted) x.

  • Bryony

    April 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Haha this has made me laugh so much! The Peppa Pig thing has confused me for a long time… the day that they all bring their pets in to nursery baffles me!

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:27 am

      Oh yes! Why do they never question it? It’s like us having pet humans (WEIRD!) x

  • Hurrah For Gin

    April 23, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    ha ha brilliant!
    I am often wondering many of the same questions – i always worry upsy daisy will get cold at night and would love Bob’s direct deal.
    But yet you are missing a huge section on Pat here 😉

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:26 am

      I have to get in on the Pat action! Sounds like he’s much worse than the rest of them combined 🙂 x

  • lori

    April 23, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Hahaha love this post, and yes what IS In the night Garden about. It’s just mind control for tots. Weird weird weird, give me button Moon or Trapdoor any day! x

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:26 am

      You’re so right! It’s subliminal control. Doesn’t make mine go to sleep, mind (I’d gladly welcome that).

  • Mary

    April 23, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Great post. I am so glad my 3yo seems to have permanently forsaken Peppa for the Octonauts. That pig is a bad influence!!

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:25 am

      We’ve not seen the Octonauts – will have to check it out! She does seem to love Ben and Holly a bit more than Peppa at the moment, which is good x.

  • Laura

    April 24, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Great post, this really made me smile! So many questions and no answers and why are there so many trains on Sodor?

    Laura x

    1. gillian

      April 24, 2014 at 11:24 am

      It’s such a mystery! There’s absolutely no need, is there? 🙂

  • Jenni

    April 24, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this and all the comments after made me laugh so hard. My husband gets very upset with the strange nature of childrens tv! I try not to think about it too much as the lack of logical answers would drive me insane if I thought about it.

  • Vickie

    May 4, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Love this! So true about the pets on Peppa and why are there so many trains on Sodor?!

    You’re missing the biggest question though: Why does Nonny from Bubble Guppies wear a snorkel? Surely as a mermaid (merman?) he can breathe under water?

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