I’m conducting a comparative study of children’s TV programmes in the eighties and children’s TV programmes today. Impressive, non? Non. It’s a posh way of saying I’m trying to decide whether the children’s TV I watched was more or less utterly ridiculous than that which The Toddler now watches. In order to answer this all important question, I am comparing Muppet Babies with Sarah and Duck in five scientific* categories. Each of these categories has been meticulously formulated** to assess the relative levels of ridiculousness between these two shows. Once the outcomes of the five categories are combined, I will be in possession of clear, indisputable evidence conclusively proving*** which generation watched the more ridiculous TV Programmes.
(*Stupid. **Not at all. I made them up on a whim. ***Not even slightly.)
Category 1: Random Animals
Sarah’s best friend is a duck. Due to the complete absence of parents/guardians/responsible adults around to set her right (see below), she appears to believe this is normal.
Of course, at least half of the Muppet Babies were random animals and, frankly, who on earth knows what the rest of them were.
Still, ill-advised as it may be to put a baby bear and a baby pig in the same nursery, Sarah takes a duck to the library. And the doctors. We all know the saying. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it is not suitable company for a child at the doctors. Because it’s a duck.
Sarah and Duck is the most ridiculous programme in the random animals category.
Category 2: Random Animals Aside, What on Earth is Going on with the Characters?
Okay, so The Muppets, as babies or otherwise, have always been a little on the weird side.
However, let us just take a moment to consider a few of the characters featured in Sarah and Duck: a seven year old girl; a duck; a rainbow; a wool wrapped lady with a talking bag; a talking bag; a donkey; a cake; a flamingo; a girl with a plate; an umbrella that is scared of rain; and some shallots.
I think we can all agree no more needs to be said. Sarah and Duck is the clear winner here, too.
Category 3: Parents and Guardians
The whereabouts of the Muppet Babies’ parents was never addressed. However, the Muppet Babies were being cared for by Nanny. Nanny had her weaknesses. She was just a torso and a pair of legs. That seemed a little odd. Mary Poppins would certainly have frowned upon that sort of thing in the nannying world. But, in all fairness to that torso, it was there for those muppet kids. It was a torso and a pair of legs more than is supervising Sarah and that duck.
Yes, Sarah and Duck are wandering around town without a single parent or guardian in sight. To make matters worse, the one adult who appears at all is Scarf Lady. Hardly the epitome of a responsible adult. She’s called Scarf Lady; has a pet donkey; and her talking knitting bag helps her when she gets confused. Though evidently not when she got confused and thought a donkey was an appropriate pet.
Sarah and Duck is once again most ridiculous.
Category 4: Stupid Names
Sarah and Duck has Scarf Lady, Ribbon Sisters, Plate Girl, Scooter Boy. Yes, you don’t want to be called Plate when you have to go to school (not that anyone in this programme has any parents to send them to school) but, to be fair, these names are accurate descriptions. It therefore just doesn’t seem quite justified to call them stupid names. Stupid characters, perhaps. But with pertinent names.
Over to Muppet Babies: Fozzie, Rowlf, Gonzo, Animal, Beaker.
Muppet Babies takes this one.
(Interestingly, both programmes have a Scooter. Scooter is a cross-generational daft name.)
Category 5: Plot (or What Are They Doing?)
The Muppet Babies lived in a nursery and went on imaginary adventures, with songs, before returning to Nanny and reality. They played hide and seek, tried to cure fear of the dark, performed Snow White, and avoided the dentist. Actually, this is all relatively normal behaviour for young children (or young whatever they were).
Sarah and Duck also go on adventures. Not imaginary. Surreal, but not imaginary. They go to the zoo because Duck wants to be a penguin (of course he does). They photograph birds (yes, that’s a duck photographing birds). They learn to bobsleigh (Cool Runnings 2: The Child and The Duck). Their bus gets diverted and makes some underwater stops. They make soufflé (a seven year old and a duck, weirdest Come Dine with Me ever). Imaginative? Yes. Different? Yes. Ridiculous? Absolutely.
Obviously, Sarah and Duck wins in this category.
By four categories to one, children’s programmes of today are declared more ridiculous than those of the eighties. So, there you have it. Children of the eighties may have believed nannies didn’t have heads, and to this day think the word ‘beaker’ is hilarious, but at least we weren’t asking our parents for pet ducks. Or, indeed, ignoring the very existence of any such thing as a parent, and making a soufflé with a small aquatic bird of the anatidae family (i.e. a duck).
Tune in next week for the epic smack down that is Rentaghost v Mr Tumble.*
(*This is not happening. Do not buy foam fingers.)