To Cbeebies or not to Cbeebies, that is the question...
I spent years of my life working as a kids TV Presenter for Cbeebies, working closely with Justin, aka Mr Tumble. I loved my job there and Justin was one of my best mates for years.
What I loved at Cbeebies was entertaining the children, which is always rewarding, performing and the fun I had with the other presenters. I didn't always love the fact that I felt like we were expected to behave as innocently as children ourselves. I didn't love the fear the producers rained down on us there and I often felt held back and that I never quite fitted in to the middle class club, with my working class roots.
One example of not fitting in makes me laugh every time I think of it. Although it did not amuse the powers that be at the channel...
It was the first ever Cbeebies Live! Arena tour and Justin and I were co-hosting it. For the brochure of the show, BBC Worldwide wanted to do a question and answer with Justin and myself. The questions were simple ones like, 'What's your favourite colour?' 'Where did you go to school?' 'Do you have a pet?' Pretty simple stuff and not much I could 'fuck up', or so you'd think. However, one of the questions was, 'What's your favourite song?' and that's where I made my first Cbeebies, Cbooboo.
These questions were all sent to us via email and being me, I had answered them as honestly as I could. So, for my favourite song, without even thinking about my target audience, thicko, that I am, answered, 'Anarchy In The UK' (very fitting for the climate at the moment, since the Brexit Vote - but not so fitting for the BBC under fives). That was my truthful answer and I sent it off. I didn't think a thing about it either until I looked in the programme/brochure and I noticed they had missed out my 'favourite song' answer. It was only when I looked at Justin's answers, that I realised why....
Justin's answer to the, 'What's your favourite song' question, was very cleverly, 'The Grand Old Duke Of York!'
Hahahahaha, I laughed and laughed and laughed at what a moron I was. I also laughed at the fact they hadn't emailed me and said, "Erm SJ, what the fuck? This is a kids show, choose an appropriate song you idiot". They had just left it out. I laughed alone though as even though I pointed out how ridiculous I'd been, no one else found it funny and I felt a bit like a pariah that they were afraid was just a time bomb, about to go off and I guess that's exactly what I did, so they were quite right to, those middle class, clever, BBC bastards.
As with every job I've done I gave my heart and soul to Cbeebies, I would quite literally have done anything for them. Just like most things in my life though, I got it all wrong and my naive need for transparency and for living my life with freedom got me the sack. I only have myself to blame I know that but the children loved me and I was passionate about giving them joy and I stupidly thought that would be enough. Now I know you have to behave as well. Something I am trying to get a handle on. I guess I'm still in my own terrible two's stage.
So, the big question lots of people have asked me and I have asked myself is, will Phoenix be watching Cbeebies? Answer to myself on a postcard - I really don't know - but honestly, I think I'm too bitter! How awful of me, that he will miss out because I have lemon lips!
I know it's a wonderful channel, with some fabulous presenters. Recently I've been writing a book, about my time there and most of it was wonderful but some of it makes me sad. Of course, nostalgia is a pernicious, disabling emotion. It makes you remember things quite differently and it chastises you for allowing time to pass and for the change that brings. Nostalgia doesn't care that time and change are out of your control, it's mission is to bring you fleeting joy as you remember the past, a little too rosily but then swiping you with hurt as you realise it's all gone and nostalgia even blames you for that. Even though we know, change is inevitable and it's really OK that things end because it means it makes way for new things, nostalgia still stabs us in the heart sometimes. Remembering funny moments is a good thing but nostalgia is just cruel. I don't believe it to be a friend. It's a demon. It erodes the present by making you think things were better before. Like it's afraid you'll discover one day, that 'now' is where's it's always at! Enjoy the present , because it is just that - a lovely gift wrapped 'present'.
I do have regrets about Cbeebies that aid my bitterness. I regret losing my wonderful friendship with Justin. The day my picture went in the paper with the headline, 'Cboobies' I never heard from my lovely friend again. I understand why though. He had a very important, brilliant brand to protect. For the sake of children's joy everywhere, I'm glad he chose them over me. Justin loves the kids and he is passionate about entertaining them and that's why I do love him. I actually feel quite emotional writing this and I think it's the first time I've truly admitted to myself that, I miss my old mucker. I'm hoping to get married to my lovely Ayden this year and part of me will be sad that Justin won't be there. He was such a huge and happy part of my life. It's weird to think I will probably never see him again. Which does make my heart hurt quite a lot really.
So I think if Phoenix were to sit down and watch Justin on Cbeebies, I would probably cry and I don't really think your children should necessarily see you cry. Haha, especially as they sit down to enjoy their favourite show on TV. I think they need to know you are strong and in control, so that they can be free spirits. I'm sad that Phoenix will miss out on the delights of Mr Tumble though and it's a shame that he won't ever meet him, especially as we were best mates during my time at Cbeebies and I think they would love each other.
It's funny to think I worked their for so long but that my own child won't get any of the perks of going in to the studio, a perk that so many children got while I was a presenter there. I question whether that really matters though? Is it just 'nostalgia' overshadowing the joy of now again.
Great channel and service that Cbeebies is - and it is great. Maybe it and a few of the other kids channels are a little too safe for any rock and roll, sweet child of mine. I don't really want him to watch any kids TV that is measured and worried about government funding or winning awards. I want him to watch kids TV that will make him belly laugh because of the anarchy, that has been made mainly with his enjoyment in mind and that is less concerned about ticking boxes or viewer complaints. I want to let him watch TV with old fashioned baddies, like when I was a kid and not watered down versions. I like TV that encourages him to laugh at naughty things, inspires him to be awesome (rather than the same) and shows him that life is one big fun fest if you let it be. CBeebies is an excellent channel with brilliant programmes, that I am proud to have worked on and been part of - but in this day and age of the internet and on demand TV, for Phoenix I can create my own channel based on my own opinions about what I think children enjoy.
At the moment the TV shows he does love are; The Muppets (old school version that I used to watch). He LOVES Kermit and squeals with delight every time he comes on. He also dances along to the opening titles and has done that little dance since he was about 5 months old. He also loves, 'Wilo The Wisp' (old school Kenneth Williams version). This is not exactly politically correct but oh my goodness it's comedy genius sometimes. Thinking about it, maybe it's mummy that likes that show more than Phoenix. Finally, and it's a brilliant, brilliant show and I'm sure the naughtiness it exudes, will mean I am called in to school more times than most other parents (who do let their children watch Cbeebies). It is the genius Netflix show, King Julien. It's a spin off from Madagascar and stars the hilarious, Sasha Baron Cohen and my old lovely Captain Hook from panto times, Henry Winkler. This show is an inspiration and even brings out the naughtiness in me, which as I'm sure you've all gathered is really quite difficult ;)
So, that's where I'm at with kids TV and nostalgia. Nostalgia can do one, its sucks the life out of you..... And kids TV for Phoenix, will just have to be a little slice of Anarchy, from my favourite song. Rather than my lips of lemon.