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Serene discipline

December 22, 2008

You won’t often see me writing about children’s television, although the subject interests me. I’m put off by the way that kids’ TV has been a major area of focus for the boring nostalgia industry that is popular culture in this century-so-far: you know, guffawing about how trippy and “random” Bagpuss or the Clangers were. There was nothing “random” about how Bagpuss and the Clangers were created; these programmes were beautifully, lovingly crafted by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin’s Smallfilms company.


It’s this attention to the craftsmanship involved in these shows that I like so much about the clip below, in which Charlie Brooker celebrates Postgate, who died earlier this month. Brooker’s sincere tribute, from his Screenwipe programme, starts about four-and-a-half minutes into the video below (although it’s also well worth watching the first half of the video, devoted to a bizarre Christian Science puppet show).

I should also mention that I came into the world a bit too late to watch any of Postgate’s programmes the first time around. But watching these clips, I was moved by the serenity and warmth of them, the sense that these programmes are the beloved product of a media “cottage industry” — which is an atmosphere I also get, by the way, from the works of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, three hours of which is streaming here.

Speaking of radiophonics, I especially enjoy Brooker’s focus on the sheer gorgeousness of the sounds in the Smallfilms programmes; Bagpuss’s yawn deserves particular mention. I also appreciate the schoolmasterly manner in which the narrator gently scolds the misbehaving Clangers. This all seems so far away from the kids’ TV presenters who themselves come acrosss like screaming brats. Maybe it’s just a feeling that I myself need a kind of serene discipline from time to time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate Wakely-Mulroney permalink
    January 17, 2009 10:26 am

    I just caught this episode on iplayer–have you watched the whole show? There is a bit near the beginning where Brooker shows a clip of a man, “palling about” with muzzled bears and giving a monkey a cigar in “more innocent, animal-hating times.”

  2. January 17, 2009 8:51 pm

    Yes, I did indeed see that!

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