BING: OVER ANALYSIS / SERIES OVERVIEW – PLUS OTHER STUFF
Like many of you out there – apart from you really middle class, home school types – I spend a lot of my time watching kid’s TV, often in the company of my own children. “Our” viewing mainly consists of Cbeebies, with the odd foray into CBBC… And no, that’s not out of some puritan ‘keep my kids away from cultural pollution’ nonsense – I just don’t like being repeatedly asked to buy the thing that was just on the last advert.
Looking up from your phone to grunt “no” all the time can be a right nuisance.
If you’ve got kids of a similar age to mine – 4 and 7 – then you’ll have put in a fair old shift of watching, what can best be described as, “a load of annoying shit”.
Not ALL of it, by any means. ‘Hey Duggee’ is genuinely amusing and well made, as is very single thing ever made by Aardman. But for every one of those, there’s hours and hours of fucking Chuggington – which Thomas & Friends MUST have launched legal action against at some stage. Or there’s Bing… I’ll get back to Bing in a minute.
Worse still is the live action stuff, like the infuriating ‘Grandpa in my pocket’ – which I hate more than both extreme right wing Fascism AND ultra hippy dippy political correctness – or ‘Topsy and Tim’, or that crap with Aladdin in it. And no, not liking that last one isn’t racist. I’ve checked.
LACK OF DEVELOPMENT & BACK STORY IN CHILDREN’S TELEVISON
As adults, the frustrating thing about a lot of kid’s programmes is the lack of any back story, or a ‘pilot’ episode to set everything up and explain the world. Us big buggers like information about where we are and how the characters got there… Kid’s TV just dumps you in the middle. Pick the change out of that, you bastard.
‘Paw Patrol’ (which is basically Dog Thunderbirds, and isn’t on Cbeebies, but just let me run with this) wastes no time in explaining exactly where the money comes from to build all the vehicles and suchwhat. At least on Thunderbirds you had the explanation that Jeff Tracey was a fucking billionaire. What’s that stupid kid with the bent American name funding his talking dog rescue operation with, eh? Cocaine?
For years – until I gained a healthy sense of perspective – the absence of logic and real world physics on ‘In the Night Garden’ got right on my nerves. How come the Plinky Plonk and the Ninky Nonk can suddenly change scale from being tiny models to something large enough for the characters to fit inside… Or do the characters shrink??
However, ‘Night Garden’ gets away with it, because:
- It’s aimed at very, very small children, and
- The whole thing is mental anyway.
TELETUBBIES AND RAGDOLL STUFF
In fact, anything made by Ragdoll – the people behind Twirlywoos, Night Garden, Teletubbies and, of course, Pob – is akin to watching some challenging work of Experimental Cinema (say the French New Wave. Or Dogma 95. That one).
Their work seems to demand interpretation and over analysis – for instance:
Teletubbies is set several thousand years after a nuclear apocalypse, with Lala, Po and the others being lab grown mutants, dispatched the surface to conduct experiments – and feed the rabbits – by the bunker dwelling, UV light intolerant human monster men below. They’re the ones talking to them through those drain pipes. The NooNoo is a service robot, tasked with basic maintenance (but clearly capable of dispatching any Telebubby that starts getting big ideas)… The Tubby Custard is laced with mood enhancing drugs / hallucinogens… Hence the gut televisions and floating teddy bears on merry-go-rounds.
As such, Night Garden gets a free pass on artistic grounds.
Not so the stuff aimed at slightly bigger kids. Not so with the likes of Bing.
‘Bing’ – produced by Acamar Films, and based on the books by Ted Dewan – is the ongoing tale of a kind of anthropomorphic rabbit creature, with roughly the same range of skills and life experience of a 3 or 4 year old human. Young Bing lives in a nice modern house in a nice modern, vaguely 50’s art deco town. Set, “Round the corner, not far from here,” Bing goes places, does things and generally learns lessons in life alongside a host of other anthropomorphic animal children – pigs, pandas, dogs… ocelots. You name it.
But there are no adults to be seen. No parents.
Instead, each Animal Child Hybrid is assigned a sort of a minder. In Bing’s case, this is a small, animated, stuffed sack toy by the name of ‘Flop’.
Flop has the mind, voice, and mild manners of some kind of idealised, fictional Grandpa. Not a million miles away from the Werthers Original man, only without the spectre of child abuse.
Flop also has an inexhaustible well of patience for Bing’s bullshit. Not once in the entire 78 episode run of the show – no matter how much he’s provoked – does Flop ever lose his temper. For example, in episode 2 – ‘Bye Bye’ – despite being told on a number of occasions to be careful with the balloon he’s playing with, Bing inevitably manages to pop the bastard. At no point does Flop lose his rag and shout: “FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! I TOLD YOU TO WATCH OUT WITH THAT BALOON!! GO TO YOUR ROOM – NOW!!!”
No, instead Flop calmly gets out his “bye bye box”, and conducts a kind of funeral for the spent balloon.
Yeah, I know.
What’s more, the other kid bear monsters all have their own version of Flop. Each and every one of them looks like an upside down exclamation mark, altered slightly to appear like a different beast. Bing’s Elephant Girl chimera friend Sula has a blue version of Flop, by the name of Ama. She’s a sock Elephant with the voice and mannerisms of a sage old Afro-Caribbean woman. Ama also never loses her rag. Not once.
And that’s it for the grown ups. Every adult in the show – be they a shop assistant, a murderer or a bus driver – is one of these upside down exclamation sock puppet men. In fact, now that I think of it, the logo of the show even features an upside down exclamation where the lower case “i” should be. Witness below:
What does this mean? Is the show literally attempting to invert anger? Or rage? OR LOVE???
Each episode fills its humble 7 minute and 25 second running time with the exact same structure.
- Bing encounters or experiences something for the first time
- Flop explains the rules, then issues a mild warning
- Bing gets carried away and fucks up, leading to anything from a burst balloon to a dead frog, or a pool full of piss
- Flop turns up, offers reassurance, and either sets things right or – in the worst case scenario – disposes of any evidence
- CODA – Bing and Flop recap the story – outside of the setting, and through the fourth wall – and discuss the lessons learned that episode. Finally, Flop declares that the subject matter of the episode we’ve just watched is now considered “a Bing thing.”
OVER ANALYSIS – PET THEORY
My own take on Bing is once again, a matter of Future War.
Bing and his fellow creatures are clearly designed and bred to fight. They might be juvenile now, but in a few years – or months, due to accelerated growth hormones, no doubt – you’ll have massive great human war elephants, or bears. Or a big fuck off Bunny in red dungarees.
What we see in the show is merely Phase 1: The introduction to the rules of society (which must still exist, probably under an armored dome on some moon somewhere – Europa, probably). As the AnimalMen grow larger and more robust, their sock puppet robot trainers gradually shed their skins for ablative robot armor and progress with Phases 2, 3 and 4 of the training, i.e. Weapons handling, psychic combat… Driving cars. No, tanks. LAZER tanks.
And so on. It’s there on screen if you care to interpret it correctly.
So there you have it. Food for thought.
I’ll try and drum out more of these TV opinion pieces as I feel they might be more popular than me telling tales about my kids.