When Boris Johnson’s special adviser, Dominic Cummings, quoted PJ Masks as the solution to the ongoing woes of the HS2 rail-link and its spiralling costs, focus was drawn to kids TV. Could these shows really hold the keys to a brighter future?
But Cummings got it wrong. For, as many parents and toddlers will tell you, the best TV for kids is an animation called Hey Duggee featuring a dog (Duggee) and five characters called the Little Squirrels, who learn and have adventures, earning their activity badges.
Shown on CBeebies, this BAFTA-winner has won a big following among small people. Hey Duggee covers every subject from cake and caterpillars to yoga and making friends, taking young viewers on a fun journey of discovery. And although it has not, yet, had an episode called The High Speed Rail Link Badge, it can surely only be a matter of time.
Here are ten reasons why Hey Duggee is must-watch TV…
1: Humour In The Omelette Badge, Duggee’s chickens have stopped laying eggs. The reason: they are binge-watching a Spanish soap opera and eating junk food. My two-year-old just says “Funny” whenever watching the show – a bit like a brutal, mono- syllabic critic.
2: Genius voice artists Bringing to life the show’s characters takes a special voiceover artist and there are many to be found here – with Pointless host Alexander Armstrong voicing Duggee. One of the best is former Birds of a Feather star, Lesley Joseph. As Tag’s mum she is suitable saucy with Duggee. In the Big Day Out Badge: she eyes him seductively, purring: “Hey Duggee…. nice uniform”. Innuendo was never this much fun.
A shared nostalgia. That was what I was aiming for with Hey Duggee
3: Parents and kids watch together Grant Orchard, the show’s creator said he had designed the show as a shared experience. He told me: “When I started making Hey Duggee I’d just finished watching pre-school shows with my oldest boy. I was so grateful for the shows that distracted and entertained him. I loved them because he loved them. I wanted to create something that parents and kids would watch together and fondly remember when the kids were all grown up. A shared nostalgia. That was what I was aiming for with Hey Duggee.”
4: Inclusion There is a same sex couple in Mr Crab and his partner, Nigel (below). Happy the Crocodile lives with his mum, an elephant. There is no big fuss made about either.
5: Celebrating strong characters Most parents would recognise the overly-confident Betty who invents a Haldron washing machine in The Crazy Golf Badge. The perpetually energetic and noisy Roly who always seems to need the loo.
6: Amazing sidekicks In addition to the main characters, the show has a great rota of supporting characters. My favourite is Tino the artistic mouse. In one episode, he says: “Au revoir… that’s goodbye in French”. Quelle souris intelligente! Hennie the 100-foot bird and Enid the Cat also deserve a special mention.
While other shows, hammer home Ofsted-approved curriculum points, Hey Duggee takes a more subtle approach
7: Amazing visuals The show is a joy to watch with eye-catching graphics, bright colours, composition and typography. The look captivates bouncy kids and sleepy adults alike.
8: Learning through adventure While other shows, hammer home Ofsted-approved curriculum points, Hey Duggee takes a more subtle approach. Adolescence and learning about development is covered in the hilarious Tadpole Badge, while nature is celebrated in The Tree Badge.
9: Duggee’s special perspective In The History Badge, Roly asks: what is history? We are told history is ‘everything that happened before breakfast’. And it’s very hard to argue with that definition.
10: Songs The Stick Song (see video, above) was recently voted the Best Moment Ever in Hey Duggee. It’s a worthy winner: joyful, inventive, fun and impossible to stop watching. A bit like the show itself…