Guest post by Maggie Gordon-Walker
I approached this with a certain amount of trepidation, having been a big fan of the regular version from way back and grown truly fond of the participants. I steer clear of Junior versions of Masterchef and Bake-Off because I don’t gasp in wonderment at a child doing something an adult does better – do you remember the six year old who sang ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ on BGT a few years back? Yes, she sang it extremely well, for a six year old. Nor do I get in an excited tizzy when they rope in slebs on Gogglebox who are nowhere near as entertaining as Sandy and Sandra’s blinging boom, Steph and Dom rolling around drunkenly or Giles ‘Alan Bennett-ing’ away while Mary suffers patiently.
Hats off to Channel 4 for this though. I don’t know if they filmed them at various points in the year or just served them a massive dose in one go, but it packed in about eight programmes and ten different groups of nippers, while still finding time to muse on the rituals of Christmas. Mia and Charlotte thought turkey might be served because there would have been one in the stable and Jesus had possibly been stuck in a tunnel behind a rock which was why he was celebrated. ‘What are you on about?’ asked one in true Liverpudlian incredulity. ‘I’ve not a clue,’ came the reply.
All human emotion was here, from wobble-lipped concern for the baby elephants separated from their mothers in Growing Up Wild to full blooded renditions, complete with actions, of Frozen’s ‘Let it Go.’ Well, the girls gave it welly, the boys did it ‘ironically.’ Bake-Off caused a certain amount of consternation for adorable five year old Molly. ‘I’m worrying about Ian,’ she warbled in lilting Welsh tones. ‘Shift yer bums.’ They all wanted Tamal’s Spider (man) Web cake to win but clapped sportingly at Nadiya’s victory. The victor’s ‘I have a dream’ style speech caused some confusion however, with Molly believing that Nadiya had been held captive and forced to bake against her will.
The children’s physicality is extremely entertaining. From the aghast faces at Countdown to Life – ‘I’m scared. I used to look like a deformed potato’- complete with massages to their cheeks to check that was not still the case, to Shuaib’s putting his foot behind his head at a dull moment for the sheer hell of it, their unselfconscious glee was impossible to resist. Will and his gaggle of mates, all gorgeous beyond belief and surely appearing as a boy band on X Factor in about three years time, proved they weren’t all immaculately styled coifs as they stuck their legs in the air to release farts.
If ever you wondered how children are different to a previous generation, here was the proof. Janir knew, ‘Some babies come from the shop’, the Queen’s wardrobe commanded little respect, being dismissed as looking like a blueberry, a flamingo and a jellyfish and classic The Snowman, which left some as cold as its titular hero. ‘I feel sorry for kids who had to watch this sort of animation.’ There was even a motivational speech for a downcast Miliband. ‘He shouldn’t give up. You should never give up on a dream.’
I had two favourites. Charlotte, occupying the role of sarcastic Scarlet Moffatt. ‘When there’s lightning, nothing ends well,’ as Jurassic Park piled on the momentum and tutting disbelievingly that Elsa would dramatically discard her expensive cloak in Frozen. The absolute best though is ten year old Jacob. The love child of Chris Evans and Richard Osman, this sage mini-wonder held forth on Cameron: ’He’s very lucky. He went to Eton. He had money. And power. So he got more money and more power.’ Suck on that, Paxo! On an embryo: ‘That’s not human. That’s ET.’ On the Queen: ‘She isn’t doing anything. She walks, she waves.’
All comedy geniuses need a sidekick and Wise to his Morecambe is the slightly irritating irrepressible Connor, who writhed and gurned throughout.
‘It’s only a political party,’ expostulated Connor watching Miliband. ‘It’s not your wife that’s died!’
‘Unless you’re married to Nick Clegg,’ Jacob intoned Eeyorishly.
I’m glad to see Gogglesprogs (yes, why didn’t they go with Sprogglebox…?) will be back for a series and hopefully prove it wasn’t a flash in the pan. Some participants are less watchable just as in the regular version (The Tappers have always left me cold and the gawping sisters don’t add much), but I’ll happily tune in to watch more, especially of Jacob. This lot have their fingers on the pulse. In the words of Shuaib and Janir, ‘It’s just life. When snowman’s melt.’