It's stupidly early on Sunday morning. I'm up and getting ready for work. The rest of the world is keeping the Sabbath holy. Of course, children seem to be immune to religion, and so the TV stations cater to the kids before gearing up for the adults - morning: religion and afternoon: relaxing sport.
I am becoming addicted to this puppet show. And then I see in the credits that Beyond Productions is associated.
But hang on, I think, Beyond is an Australian company. Apart from The Wiggles and Playschool, Australia doesn't produce anything for children under 8... And certainly nothing I could stomach stupidly early on a Sunday morning.
So then it's research time.
The puppet show is set in a school for monsters - all the favourites are there (as students): Vladamir "Vlad" Bloode, Medusilla Venimski, Duncan Stein, Webster Swampson, Abercrombie, Cleo Patra, and Claudia Howell. The teacher and proprietor of the school, Miss Morbidda is very strict on them; she only ever appears as a menacing shadow over the classroom. There is also Ratso Risotto (and apart from occasionally being a convenient plot device, I can't quite work out why he's there, but, ok). The school caretaker is Quasi - his name might not be familiar, but his face sure rings a bell. There's a moosehead mounted on the wall, who sometimes provides advice to any who loiters below him. Avoiding any staleness, there are often visitors to the school,
barely more realistic than the visitors on Gilligan's Island.
The puppets are not remotely scary, and yet I always get nervous when looking at Medusilla. The show can be appreciated on several levels. I do not have access to the target audience (4 - 8 year olds), so I do not know how well it goes down with them. However, 52 episodes were produced in 2000/2001, and it is still being broadcast three years later.
Each of the puppets are brightly coloured, the stories are fairly simple although sometimes bizarre and have that happy, Brady-Bunch ending within 12.5 minutes. Which is good because I cannot concentrate much longer than that at the best of times, let alone on a Sunday morning.
Despite the simplicity of plot and characters, there is something special about the show. Take, for instance, Abercrombie. He's a zombie, who does almost nothing but watch TV, he has that green slimey-mold stuff that decaying undead have. And yet there is a delicate side to his nature that makes him so endearing that you just wish the whole show would be on him, which would just be watching him sit on a sofa. Fortunately, the producers have more sense than to give you what you think you want.
December Films makes the shows and Beyond International distributes them. The show can be seen anywhere else but on Channel 7 in Australia. It has been translated into French and Spanish to be shown in France and South America. There are plans to air in Germany (as at the date of this writeup).
Dumb Bunnies follows it in the TV programme, and I thank God that I must leave for work at that moment. And then I realise, Australia hasn't done to badly in the children's TV stakes.
http://www.lilhorrors.com/ (Last visited: 26 Jan 2004)
http://www.beyond.com.au/television/catalogue/kids_n_family/3.html (Last visited: 25 Jan 2004)
http://www.decemberfilms.com.au/monster.html (Last visited: 25 Jan 2004)