Thursday, September 26, 2013

The kind of thing that keeps me awake at nights

As I've probably mentioned before, I'm a sucker for anything muppet-related, and surprisingly passionate about TV shows intended for small children. So it's good to see that Jim Henson's Pajanimals have finally made their way onto Nick Jr!

Pajanimals, the internet tells me, started out as a series of bedtime-themed songs performed by the four eponymous animals, and was then expanded into a series of 11-minute episodes in which they don't just sing a song but get advice on the pre-schooler hot issue of the week from a variety of helpful characters.

The Nick Jr version of the show, like a lot of their output, is dubbed into British English, replacing the original American voices. It's generally agreed among the people who decide these things, apparently, that under-fives shouldn't hear American voices, but it's okay for older children. This can have its pros and cons - characters often end up saying the kind of things that only Americans would say, in English accents, which is just weird and confusing. But on the other hand, the British voicing is often rather better - Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, for example, was improved immeasurably by the British dubbing. Pajanimals, on the other hand, is a bit more uneven - for one thing, the actors can't quite decide if the second 'a' is pronounced as in 'pajamas' or 'animals'. It's the same sound in America, you see. And anyway, when did we stop spelling it 'pyjamas' over here?

But what concerns me the most about the series as shown on Nick Jr is the order that the episodes are shown in. Two episodes are shown a night, which is a bad idea for a start, since each episode ends with our heroes going to sleep, thus a perfect moment for watching parents to send their offspring to bed - two 11-minute episodes in a half-hour programming block is the inflexible rule in America, but British channels are allowed to vary that a little bit even nowadays, so you'd think Nick Jr would just show one episode each bedtime. On another tangent, they're shown at 7pm (both episodes uninterrupted one after the other, followed by an amazingly long commercial break before the next programme starts at 7:30), which was my bedtime when I was Pajanimals-watching age. Have bedtimes got later now that there's such a thing as children's TV channels, or are parents videoing it (or the modern-day equivalent) for their toddlers to watch the next day?

In any case, I was talking about the order of broadcast. The first two episodes shown on Nick Jr were two extremely similar ones - both featuring Squacky as the central character, both involving him overcoming fears of abstract things (the dark in general, and then the possibility of monsters under his bed). It's not unheard-of for American TV shows to do this kind of thing deliberately (see Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood - or rather, don't, because it's rubbish), but I checked the internet to see if that really was the way it was originally broadcast, and Wikipedia says it wasn't.

Wikipedia, though, I hope is wrong, because the order of episodes it gives is almost certainly production order - it starts with all the episodes featuring Bedtime Bunny as the guest star who helps the Pajanimals with their latest problem, then all the episodes featuring Jerry Bear, and so forth. I'm sure a reputable production company like Sixteen South wouldn't show the episodes in that order!

So what I'm going to have to do is devise an authoritative viewing order for Pajanimals, once I've seen all the episodes! Incidentally, I'm not the only weirdo who thinks this way - the Wikipedia article has a wonderful footnote saying: "NOTE: It should be mentioned that the episodes of the full series are apparently broadcast out of chronological order in terms of the Pajanimals' experiences because in "Share Day" in the first season, Sweetpea Sue was nervous about Share Day at school. But in "Off to My School Adventure" in the second season, she and Apollo were about to attend school for the first time.". People care about these things!

Besides, it's fun to think about! Does "Under The Bed" come before or after "Tomorrow Is Brand New", for example? In the former, Squacky's favourite ball rolls under his bed and he can't get it out because he's scared of monsters; in the latter, he loses another ball (not the same one as in the other episode) under the bed, and insists that Apollo retrieve it for him. If "Tomorrow Is Brand New" comes second, it rather undermines the ending of "Under The Bed", in which Squacky eventually gets his own ball and learns that there aren't any monsters down there; but if they're in the other order, it makes Squacky pretty uncaring about Apollo's safety - in "Under The Bed", Apollo offers to get the ball back, but Squacky won't let him go anywhere near the under-bed monsters.

So stay tuned when the series has reached its end (are Nick Jr going to show both American series? I hope so, anyway) and I'll tell you all which order to watch them in! You should be taping them now, incidentally, since DVDs of these things usually have the American voices, and British people shouldn't be exposed to such things.