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She's pinky and perky - introducing the perfectly portioned Peppa!
Member Name: yabbadabbadoo
Date: 20/10/09, updated on 08/02/11 (2089 review reads)
Advantages: Short sweet and full of fun (and notable educational benefits I'm sure)
Disadvantages: You may find your sky plus box filling up with episodes
Now that I've committed to really kickstart my freelance writing ambitions, I've been racking my brains to come up with a subject that I'm truly passionate about as my first review of this brave new era.
I wanted to write about something that really helped me stay inspired during these troubled times, that I could constantly turn to and rely on a daily basis, as I grappled with the pressures and responsibilities of modern living.
In the end it was easy. Genuinely in a class of its own, there is one programme deliciously served in 5 minute portions, that celebrates all that is great about family values in Britain today. Ladies and Gentleman may I present Miss Peppa Pig!
Whatever your reservations about the merits and educational benefits of pre-school cartoons to the general populace, one thing I can promise is an unforgettably catchy theme tune which will instantly connect with even the most world weary of watchers.
Mere words are woefully inadequate yet I feel I must try.
"Dink, ding ding dink dink , ding ding ding ding dink dink - Pe-e-ppa Pig..."
In the title sequence we are introduced by Peppa itself to her nuclear family - her little brother George, Mummy and Daddy Pig each with there own distinctive snort - mesmerizing.
The opening shot zooms in gradually setting the stage for the episode - more often than not it'll be Peppa's house, but it could also be her play group, the playground, or even the duck pond - the possibilities are endless.
The comforting and matter of fact voice of our narrator is usually the first to emerge, ready to guide us through the scenes. None of this "D-eeeeey sixty nine in the Big Brother ha wse" malarkey you understand, just plain, slow and clear. His ever present commentary, may seem a little excessive at first, but for me it adds that extra touch of understated comedy to the proceedings. "George's favourite Museum room is the Dinosaur house, Daddy Pig's favourite room is the Museum café"
Essentially it's about Peppa bursting around the place full of curiosity and enthusiasm, typically starting off at the brat-ish end of the behaviour spectrum, then learning her lesson. It's a kaleidoscopic collection of multi-coloured characters from across the spectrum of the animal kingdom, living their "ordinary" every day lives in blissful harmony.
The voices of Peppa and her school friends are individually performed by school age kids, which makes them all the more authentic and believable. Naturally just like the milky bar kid, replacements are required over time, and so the voice-over mantle for our leading lady has been passed on between the magnificently named trio Lily Snowden Fine, Cecily Bloom and Harley bird.
There seems to be one thing above all others that unites Peppa and the whole community in unbridled joy. The ultimate child-hood delight you could say - jumping up and down in muddy puddles.
~~~~Where to find the Oinktertainment~~~~~
Now into her third series Peppa's been a mainstay of Channel 5's Milkshake morning schedules, which are aimed specifically at the pre-school age group, since June 2004. (I believe you can also find her on Nick Junior if you have access to that non-terrestial channel)
Peppa's usual slot is around 8.15am on weekdays and slightly earlier at weekends, but there's sometimes 2 or even 3 episodes shown on the same day.
According to Wikipedia, 52 5 minute episodes were made for series 1 which ran to 2006, 53 for series 2 and 13 so far for series 3 - it's a labour of love I'm sure.
There are also 3 or 4 multi-episode DVDs available in all reasonably priced record stores...
~~~~Characters and Cast ~~~~
For me, the real magic of the programme is the believability and sheer likeability of all the characters. They stretch right across the age spectrum, from the Gazzaesque tears-on-tap antics of little George pig, to the maverick inventing superstar / old waterhog that is Grandpa pig.
Baby brother George pig isn't exactly blessed with a wide vocabulary, but his rare monosyllabic contributions are often scene stealing. When he cries, you definitely know about it - but he recovers just as quickly with a few gentle words of comfort.
It has to be said that our leading lady Peppa does tend to behave rather precociously on the whole. She likes to get her own way, she can be rude and demanding, but then she's a real sweetheart when she wants to be. She's what you would politely call a bit over excitable, but always eager to learn from her errors.
Mummy and Daddy pig are definitely at the chilled out end of the parenting spectrum, patiently allowing Peppa to find out things for herself and learn the hard way. Daddy is generally labouring under the misapprehension that he's an expert at everything he does, which generally leaves him with egg on his face.
Even when he gets a little grouchy he always takes things in good humour in the end. Mummy pig is definitely the organized one, always having to keep a watchful eye on Daddy as well as the kids, but even she succumbs to moments of personal fallability where she has to admit "I suppose it is a bit funny". As a family they love to laugh together and are always able to laugh at themselves.
My absolute favourite couple are Mummy pig's parents Grandpa and Granny Pig. The wisdom of their years and their sense of fun shines through and Peppa and George always seem to have their best adventures round at their house. Plus Grandpa Pig's inventing skills are priceless - he's souped up a lawn mower, knocked up a play castle in under 5 minutes, and some how managed to fit a full scale road train in his shed - that is some talent. They clearly adore entertaining the grandkids round at their place, and are more than happy to muck in with the playing and babysitting duties.
There are also a multitude of other animal families featured in different episodes, and not just your stereotypical 2 point 4 children set ups. Whereas mummy pig's parents are still going strong Daddy Pig's parents never appear - although he does have a sister and a niece Chloe who's that bit older than Peppa. Danny Dog lives with his Mum and Granddad who also runs the local garage. Emily elephant's Dad is the dentist, Zoe Zebra's Dad is the postman and a very handy chap, Mr Bull doesn't have any kids but does the bins, Daddy pig shares an office with Candy Cat's Mum and Mr Rabbit, wise old Madame Gazelle runs the school.
But there's one character who manages to pop up just about everywhere, in just about any kind of job you could imagine. One minute she's scrapping cars at the local recycling yard, the next she's handing out ice-skates at the local rink. Ms Rabbit as she's known (unmarried indeed) must surely be brought under the watchful eye of the appropriate benefit checking authorities. Hot air balloon rides, museum till operator, chief of the Mummy's fire service, school bus driver - is there nothing she won't turn her hand to?!
Believe it or not it's quite hard to single out individual episodes as there are so many charming little stories in the Peppa collection. There are always plenty of recurring themes, such as the different birthday treats for each of Peppa's family, exotic school trips to the mountains or even camping, or just the kids playing together either in the playground, cycling or round each others houses. It's all ordinary, every day stuff which is all the more endearing.
If I had to narrow it down to a favourite five it would have to be
1)"The Fire engine" For sheer comedy value, the Daddy pig's football team barbecue and Mummy fire rescue service episode - and it's the latest!
2)"Swimming" - For family fun, you can't beat the trip to the swimming pool, plus Daddy pig comes out on top for once.
3)"Grandpa Pig's Boat" - Grandpa pig's fall out on the river boats with Granddad dog is another cracker, as the kids have to sort things out
4)"Sports day" School sports day is probably the pick of the school episodes
5)"Daddy puts up a picture" - Daddy pigs blundering overconfidence is best represented by the picture hanging episode
As well as the main theme song itself, there are one or two classic tunes that have made a lasting impression on my psyche.
In Grandpa pig's attic, they unearth an old 45 featuring Mummy pigs favourite childhood record sang in an awfully posh voice
"The birds go woof and the dogs go tweet - woof tweet woof tweet woof woof woof" "The sheep go moo and the cows go baa , Moo baa, woof tweet woof woof woof"
But surely the ultimate is the Bing Bong song sang by the wonderful school mistress Madame Gazelle., when she gets out that guitar on school trips.
"Whooooah, I'm riding along, singing a song with a Bing and a Bong and a Boo, Bing bong boo, bing bong bing, bing bong, bingly bongly boo"
~~~~My little one's verdict~~~~
As enthralled as I am with the programme, I'm thinking now that perhaps I should give a few column inches to record the opinions of the intended target audience!
Luckily for me he loves it! Ever since his cousin Sophie who's a year older than him first introduced him to "Pepsa" as he affectionately refers to it while we were on holiday last year. He's been a dedicated follower ever since, as well as the sky plussed episodes we've filled in the gaps in his collection with a couple of DVDs.
Just like his Daddy, he definitely has a few favourite characters, and I think he can recognise a few of Daddy pig's traits in me. Learning to share with your friends, learning to wait your turn, to say your please and thankyou's, learning about bouncy castles - you can't go wrong. It's everyday ordinary fun, and he loves to chat about what he's watching and tell us what's going to happen next.
Peppa's gentle humour always tickles him, no matter how many times he's seen a particular episode, he really gets involved with what's happening.
~~~~Why it works for me~~~~
Granted, it's predictable, it's repetitive and it's not exactly brimming with overt educational value. So how come I rate it so highly?
Well in truth, I just love the fact that unlike so many other kids programmes particularly those over on the CBeebies side of the TV pond, it never seems to take itself too seriously.
Also, the way that they display so many recognisably human traits (despite them each retaining a few unique animal behaviours) in such familiar and ordinary surroundings, really makes the viewer empathise with what they are watching.
At 5 minutes at time, it's so easy to fit in a couple of sky plussed episodes just before tea or first thing in the morning, you know what you are getting and that is really comforting.
Whatever the stresses and strains of that so called real world out there, through good days and bad, Peppa, her family and friends are always there for you.
Taking a few minutes time out each day to have a chuckle and take pleasure in the simplest things - does it get better than that?
Now where did I put that medication ....
Summary: Peee-pa Pig, dink danky dink donk, dinky danky dink dank Pe-ppa Pig!