TV COLUMN: Michael Bond and Paddington, Big Brother, Naked Attraction, Loose Women

James Waller-Davies
James Waller-Davies

Columnist James Waller-Davies gives his view of some of the recent events on television.

Paddington the Bear creator, Michael Bond, died this week. Bond, along with Oliver Postgate (he of Bagpuss, the Clangers, Ivor the Engine, and more besides) and Roger Hargreaves (Mister Men), were the cornerstones of the kinder, gentler world of children’s television in the 1970s and early ‘80s.

The apparent simplicity of the television adaptation of Paddington belied some clever animation and production. On the surface, it was very basic stop-go animation against a hand-drawn, often in just black and white, background.

Paddington, himself, was the only 3D character and the only one in full colour, a visual metaphor for the exuberance, vitality and colour brought into the drab, staid, and socially uptight world of the Browns and suburban Britain.

Paddington was one of a string of children’s programmes which reflected an adult wish to escape the strictness of social conformity inherited from the 1950s and ‘60s.

Mr Benn, The Magic Roundabout, Rentaghost, Captain Pugwash, Jamie and the Magic Torch, all carried the same motif of social escapism and adventure – all made for children, but made my adults whose formative years were forged in the social confines of post-war Britain.

It’s difficult to compare the creative impulses of different times, but there was something quite unique about 1970s children’s programming and one wonders if today could produce anything with the same spirit as Bond’s Paddington.

The success of the 2014 Paddington movie was testament to the little bear from darkest Peru’s enduring appeal – cinemas must have been full of parents introducing their children to a character they had watched years before at the same age.

Michael Bond was a genius. And sometimes genius comes with the manners and softly spoken innocence of a small bear in blue duffle-coat and a penchant for marmalade sandwiches, but it’s genius nonetheless.

Alas the inheritors of the 1970s television experience have grown up to make an incessant stream of junk reality television, none more facile than the current incarnation of Big Brother (Channel 5).

Once at the vanguard of the reality format, Big Brother now appears as a grotesque version of the Stamford prison experiment, with participants alternating roles of guards or prisoners depending on the prevailing clique.

The ‘highlight’ of the week was heated argument and fight requiring security to intervene. The F-word bleeper was in overdrive, giving the impression the show was being broadcast via Morse code. Still, the incident made lots of red-top copy, so it must have been a success, no?

Just to lower the bar a little further, Naked Attraction (Channel 4) returned for a second outing. If you missed the first series, just think of Blind Date, but without the chat-up lines, the date, the small talk and the clothes. It’s the dating equivalent of shark fishing – just chuck the chow out and see what comes up.

For such a low week on television, Loose Women (ITV) did at least provide a mirthful moment of nominative determinism with a special ‘Loose’ Women feature on…incontinence.