Before I ask my parent panel to give us their opinions on some of the more serious or pressing issues affecting parents, I wanted to give them another chance to air their thoughts on some more children’s TV.
I offered them a few shows to choose from – the Tweenies in particular inspired a VERY strong response from most of the panel (parts of which I’m not even sure I could publish!!) but we eventually settled on one of my kids’ favourites – Cbeebies show ‘The Octonauts’. I’ve actually posted my thoughts on the undersea adventurers on a number of ocassions (“I love The Octonauts, but…“, “The Ultimate Octonauts Quiz” and “There’s No Place for Goodies and Baddies in our House” to name but three) – so I’ll spare you more raving from me. But I was pleased to find out my panel were slightly more even on the subject, some positive like me, some a little more critical.
Gemma Bailey says…
This one falls firmly into the category of harmless, educational fun. Hell, I learn something every time I watch it. There is some nautical relevance among the central characters – a polar bear, a penguin – though the inclusion of a cat, a dog and particularly a turnip is strange. The plots are fairly inconsequential, and I generally forget the pretext a few minutes into the show, but by that stage I’m too busy thinking, “oh, is THAT how Orca whales navigate? And is there REALLY a fish that does THAT?” to worry about it.
Caper after caper lead our heroes to uncover genuinely interesting facts about a surprisingly wide range of water dwelling creatures which are explained in a colourful, clear and engaging way to enthralled parents. Children. I mean children. More of this please.
Phill James says…
Given I’m someone who nicknamed my baby “squid kid” I was always going to favour a show that features a character called “Professor Inkling Octopus.” The Octonauts is a pleasing mixture of ocean escapades and aquatic trivia which pushes all the right buttons. It rarely resorts to “good vs evil” stereotyping and has a range of characters that are both likeable and strangely believable.
If there is a misstep it comes in the animation itself. The show is smooth enough, if reliant mostly on the soulless computer graphics now favoured by much of children’s television, but the characters themselves are shamelessly cutesy. They look like they’ve been designed with an eye firmly on the marketing department and wouldn’t be out of place on a Japanese schoolgirl’s keyring. The real question though, has to be the decision to clothe the Octonauts in what is essentially Chippendale garb. I spend most episodes wondering if Peso Penguin is suddenly going to break into song and start gyrating upon the coral.
Still, the show remains highly watchable, features a scientific Otter and the educational value of the creature report… CREATURE REPORT… wins additional brownie points to boot. So much so that I’m prepared to forgive the completely frightening “vegimals.” I mean seriously, a turnip that specialises in Kelp baking? That’s just plain weird.
Emma Tjolle says…
Having 2 daughters I’m totally aware of the lack of decent female characters on children’s TV. With this in mind, I had pretty high hopes for Octonauts when I read that one of the main characters was a female called Tweak who was an engineer… an engineer, not a pink fluffy princess. Yes! Finally Cbeebies actually allowing little girls to see there are more options out there than being a Princess, or a bossy nightmare or a Mummy, or a dancer… you get the gist. However, of course this is not the case with Tweak.
Yes, she’s an engineer but she’s very much a bit part. Tweak and Dashi (the other female character) never get to go adventuring with the boys, they never get to do anything brave, or anything remotely exciting. Despite what the BBC says, they are not main characters but very much in supporting roles. They’re always stuck back at base, not really doing very much. In all honesty the BBC might as well have not bothered making the role of Tweak an engineer, they should have just left her in one of their usual “girl suitable” roles, it would have been more honest.
This is a pretty short, lazy review from me that I haven’t given much time or thought but it does express how I feel. This of course is nothing to do with my hangover from hell. It’s a nod to the Cbeebies approach to female characters in the Octonauts (and the majority of their other programmes)… content light, lazy, poorly constructed and smacks of really can’t be bothered.
Jon Furno says…
Firstly, I really like the Octonauts. The shows have decent plots – A bit of peril for the characters and good ideas and animation. But it’s the main characters I have a problem with… or rather one in particular. Captain barnacles is the don. A super-strong polar bear who takes no sh!t from anyone… so why the hell does he put up with the liability that is Kwaazi. That fraudulent pirate cat infuriates me. He has no need for the bloody eyepatch and his stupidity gets everyone into trouble wasting their time rescuing him.
Whilst I understand you need to have a character like that in most ensembles, is there any real need to make him a fraudulent pirate? What does that teach the kids? Just pretend to be whatever you want and eventually people will accept you. Unlikely… it would be much more realistic if barnacles just ate him. Then at least they could use the un-wasted budget to save more sea creatures!
Morgan Lloyd-Malcolm says…
Sadly Octonauts doesn’t feature in our viewing day. If it ever comes on my son demands ‘MARMAR’ (Mister Maker) so iPlayer is activated. I guess maybe there’s too much talking and not enough singing. He tends to prefer his cartoons to involve songs, if not then they can go take a jump. If the programmes have real humans then as long as there’s lots of fast action and sound effects he’s happy to forgo the songs. What can I say? He’s a discerning chap.
To be fair to Octonauts their Creature Reports gets his attention, down to their songy nature – so perhaps I should write in and recommend they do an ‘Octonauts: The Musical’. Then I’ll give you an all singing all dancing review.
2 thoughts on “Fatherhood²: The Panel Reviews… The Octonauts”
I love the Octonauts! I wouldn’t call the animation soulless at all. I think that most of the visuals are really quite beautiful and a great use of computer animation. Compare a random frame of Octonauts with one from ‘Chuggington’, ‘Everything’s Rosie’, ‘Bob the Builder’, or even, god forbid, ‘Almost Naked Animals’ (cringes); and it’s a breath of fresh air.
I’m also very partial to the story content. Unisex without being bland – its one program that they can watch that does not play into baddies, goodies, martial arts, superheros, and all the things boys usually crave beyond all others. the telling thing is that they still watch it, and for that I am grateful.
One last thing – the fact that (although they may be anthropomorphised animals/vegetables) the stories do have a basis in reality is great – I like that fact that the answer to “Mummy, are there really people who go out and study under the sea and rescue animals” is, by and large, true is very gratifying. Try that with even similar programs such as Tree Fu Tom