Sunday, 17 November 2013

NWR Editorial: 50 'Greatest' Kids TV Shows



On November 8th 2013, channel five, a television station in the UK had aired their list of '50 Greatest Kids TV Shows'. Although there are shows that deserve the top spots such as Thunderbirds, Bagpuss and Blue Peter, but shows like Postman Pat, Sooty and even Thomas the Tank Engine were being overshadowed and they are of course in the same category, long running and successful UK kids shows (Sooty has been around for 65 years and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for 'Longest running kids show' in the UK, Postman Pat has been around for 32 years and Thomas has been around for nearly 30 years, on the television screens, nearly 70 years with the Railway Series books) and they've been snubbed down in lower positions:

Postman Pat: 49th 
Sooty: 42nd
Thomas: 34th 

Yet an overrated show like Peppa Pig received top spot at 6th position. In my opinion, if there are any parents here who have kids who love Peppa Pig please be advised that I'm having my own critical opinion here about the show, the show's writing is atrocious. It is filled with repetition, the voice actors are bland, minus Brain Blessed, and not much moral value in the show (there may as well be some but what is the moral about shopping?) Yet a show like Thomas the Tank Engine, in the classic series as they were focusing upon that in the show, has better morals that both kids and adults can learn from. There are many good morals that kids today can learn from the show:

The Sad Story of Henry:
- Respect your elders (such as the Fat Controller)
- Vanity comes last 

 Thomas and Gordon:
- Teasing doesn't make you useful/What comes around goes around

   Dirty Work:
- Jumping to conclusions before knowing the truth

- Helping someone in need

Oliver Owns Up:
- Pride comes last

These are the moral values that comes to mind and are perfect for children to learn from, despite that 'journalists' and 'experts' bash the first one through the overrated 'communist criticism' over the years. It seems that this 'list' of kids shows only care about marketability of a certain pig instead of long running classical shows and there are some shows, like Fireman Sam, that has been well over looked and so has Wallace and Gromit, they are regarded as something for kids. Fireman Sam should've been on the list for its excellent moral value on fire safety, even today's episodes in CGI have great moral value as well as the classical episodes from the 1980's. Wallace and Gromit have been praised by critics, fans and people alike over the years with its Agatha Christie style story lines too. The BBC's Timeshift programme praise Thomas to bring young children the interest of steam and railway heritage as well as model railways. 

Another thing I don't like from the list were the people who gave their own points and views on TTTE. Even though they have they're allowed to have their opinions, they seem to talk about, for example, why Britt Allcroft hired Ringo Starr. One person giving his point on Ringo talking slowly, which I have to disagree on that cause Ringo had good pacing around the 1st series, but he got better during the second season and one presenter talking about the Fat Controller, 'Are you allowed to say the Fat Controller anymore?' watch the recent series and you'll see, and the woman at the end could've, but to me obviously, been implying that kids aren't smart enough to know what trains (engines) do. When I was a kid I knew what an engine can do; seeing them carrying passengers and freight by going past me and seeing them on video or DVDs. They don't really give their points on the show's writing or moral value and is that what these lists are suppose to be about? But I give credit to milkshake for using the classic intro, if only they aired the classic episodes on their channel as well as ABC here in Australia, last time I saw a classic episode on television is 'Thomas and Percy's Christmas Adventure' in 2004 during Christmas.

In conclusion, this list is not the best and even though I'm a fan of Thomas, I do see brilliance from a children's show by its writing and teachings for children then something, like Peppa Pig, as a marketable show with its bland story lines and voice acting, I know that S13-16 of TTTE had its share of bad story lines from 2010-2012 that lost its touch, but the list show is more focused on what the classical series had done over the years between 1984-2003 and not the recent series and if those people think of the show like that, then they've missed out on some good ones.   

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

DVD Review: Merry Christmas Thomas/Big Bang Surprise



Written by
Sharon Miller
Max Allen 
Jessica Kedward & Kristy Peart
Geread Foster
Lizzie Ennever 

Merry Christmas Thomas! Episodes

MCT! Special Features
Down at the Station - Points
Guess Who? Puzzles

BBS Special Features
Guess Who? puzzles
Down at the Station - Engines

Directed by
Greg Tiernan

Release Date:

Distributed by
HIT Entertainment

My theory from last year was correct, in my 'Merry Winter Wish' DVD review, that they'll release this DVD this year. But with all four episodes from 'A Very Thomas Christmas', it's unlikely that the DVD may as well be a US only release like 'Schoolhouse Delivery'. Which means the UK is most likely to have 'Santa's Little Engine' released in time for Christmas in 2014. So since that it's now nearly a month until Christmas, let's see if this DVD is good enough for a Christmas present for the young Thomas fans of the UK.

With the episodes from 'Merry Christmas Thomas' the selection is in a mixed taste. I personally find 'The Christmas Tree Express' to the the worst of the S16 episodes due to its writing and character development, and considering at the time of its television run, the television stations in Australia and the UK had delayed the episode until the Christmas period. But the UK voice actors were good but with the way the script was written it was bland and bad and worth only one watch. 'Ho Ho Snowman' comes second, the whole idea of Henry being scared of a snowman that can 'talk' is just confusing. Charlie was right behind the trucks and Henry would know what he sounds like anyway! Of course there are two episodes from the 15th season, that were originally intended to be released for 'Merry Winter Wish' two years ago, to be honest I don't find these episodes enjoyable either considering that these two are from the worst written series in history of brand. But 'Percy the Snowman' had a nice hinder of S5 nostalgia but it didn't execute the episode well with its blandness and 'Tree Trouble', despite that I find the steam vs. diesel plot fun, it wasn't great episode as well. I kind of enjoyed 'Emily's Winter Party Special' but as Callum Walker (SI3DFilms) says on his views of the episode it is more of a 'fun comes first before work' storyline and it's certainly not a good moral for children of the target range. Plus it has the rehashed feeling of two episodes fused together from S9 or 10?, it's in the episode review but I do see as an OK episode, but the message is kind of wrong for kids when I look back at the episode. 'Salty's Surprise' is another episode that I liked, but not in the style of the classic episodes. I do have to say it was a rehashed plot of 'The Biggest Present of All' and Edward's role would've gone to someone like Percy or Thomas. 

Considering its writing at the time, before the changes in S17, it was nice to hear 'Christmas' again. I don't like to go through a religious or PC debate as I have no interest in the issue. Though it wasn't great hearing 'Happy Christmas Holidays', since I know they just omitted the word 'Winter'. But I'm glad that Andrew Brenner had cleared that up in the 'Santa's Little Engine' DVD that was released last month.

Now onto 'Big Bang Surprise'. There are episodes on that DVD that I don't like. 'Sodor Surprise Day' is weak and stupid. It is more of the Island's version of 'April Fools Day'. 'Thomas and the Sounds of Sodor' was OK but the music scene was just pointless since the people are only hearing the music for a few seconds. 'Happy Birthday Sir!' was a good episode and it shows Thomas has put his work first before fun, but the episode was too repetitive. 'Percy and the Monster of Brendam' is bad. Instead of being at Brendam docks, it's more like it's the 'Monster of Sodor' and I'm not mentioning the working title of the upcoming special 'Tale of The Brave' in 2014. If it were a S17 it would've worked for the Brendam branch line, since that Andrew Brenner and his writing team are focusing the Island with the Railway Series books. 'Percy and the Calliope' is the episode I liked the most, not just because of Hartshorne's rendition of the classic Thomas theme song, but because of it's moral about restoration and it's educational part about Calliope's and of course the vocabulary for the title. But the episode is still have some repetition and Percy did get air headed in the episode, such as putting coal and water in the Calliope and pushing it up the hill, considering that he pushed the whole thing along the main line! To make the Calliope work.

It is the usual on many UK DVDs. Have a segment with Mr. Perkins and then the episode. When you look at the major differences on the DVDs in the UK (this one) and the US (Santa's Little Engine). The US one, from this year, are more better. After a segment with Mr. Perkins we have a transition of silhouette engines and signals and then on with the episode without the theme song and leaving the credits until the end, this may as well go out to the past DVD releases prior the S17 ones. But the Perkins segments are enjoyable and entertaining to watch and I do hope we see the new and improved Perkins segments like in the recent Thomas DVD that was released last month soon. 

Of course we have the 'Down at The Station' segments and they're nice to watch and to let kids learn about what goes on on a real railway. Of course with a segment like 'Engines', it teaches kids about the differences of steam and diesel engines, this segment is used in the 'Big Bang Surprise' DVD. The one on 'Merry Christmas Thomas' is about 'Points', it is simple to showcase about the different tracks on the steam railway. I believe it would've been better if the new writing team (Andrew Brenner) did these segments, there are more things along the steam railway then points. Such as the people who work on the railway (e.g - stationmasters, guards, workmen) but with the Mr. Perkins segments that are written now for use on PBS over in America and hopefully other networks around the northern hemisphere about the steam railway, such as this one, hopefully we see these on DVDs as extras maybe? 

Both DVDs have a mixed bag of episodes that aren't as great as the ones from S17, obviously. But it is great value of two DVDs for the price of one, despite the stories. Now that Michael Angelis had left the series and compare his narration to Mark Moraghan, I think HIT had done the right choice. When you compare MM's narration, as I stated in my 'Railway Mischeif' review, Angelis' narration sound so bland and boring and had lost all enthusiasm and it shows in S16. Moraghan has that fusion of Angelis, Starr and Morris together and had put some enthusiasm towards the series to make the target range entertained. However when it comes to recommending Thomas DVDs for Christmas, I recommend buying 'King of The Railway' as it has a good story and with the history of Sodor at the beginning, it makes the Island of Sodor feel so real at first. Or if you're opened up to Thomas DVDs or if you're from the US, 'Santa's Little Engine' and the upcoming DVD 'The Thomas Way' from the US will be another recommendation as well. 

Rating: 3.5/5

S17 Ep.16: Too Many Fire Engines


Written by
Andrew Brenner

Directed by
David Baas

Produced by
Kallan Kagan (Arc)
Ian McCue and Halim Jabbour (HIT) 

When a team of railway inspectors came to the Island of Sodor, they question the Fat Controller whether he needs two fire engines? This caused some concern for the fire fighting team, Flynn and Belle. When Belle beats Flynn to two fires in a row, Flynn feels useless and asked Belle to take his place on guard at the Ulfstead Castle Fireworks display and he sulked in the shed. But when another fire started on the same night, Flynn came to put it out. Proving to the Fat Controller that he does need two fire engines. 

- Flynn not afraid of the roads
- Flynn's voice
- Moral: Fire's are emergencies 

- Rocky knowing the emergency
- TFC's US voice sounds forceful and robotic 

With an episode like this, you can tell that Andrew Brenner had experience from his days writing for Fireman Sam, another of HIT's most popular brands. There is a great moral about fire's being emergencies and not episodes like Flynn being afraid of the roads or not knowing what a fire is. Since that Rupert Degas left the series, Flynn had been given a new voice and is voiced by Ben Small, who voices other characters like Thomas, Toby and, in the US, Stanley. His voices sounds much better then Degas' one in my opinion. But there are two cons I have for this episode one is that Rocky still knowing an emergency and not letting one of the workmen telling Flynn or Belle about it. It misses that human interaction with the engines and when you watch the US and UK version of the show, TFC's US voice sound forceful and robotic and that makes him off putting while the UK sounds a bit neutral. But the episode is good and enjoyable.  

Rating: 4/5