Thursday, August 18, 2011

Subtitles unavailable

Without getting into the pros and cons of kids watching TV, lets just say that I belong in the 'whatever gets you through the day' camp.

Some days are easy. I'm in a groove, I'm relaxed, and I'm on fire - in terms of entertaining the Faery and Miss Pie. Stimulating their little brains, and all that. Other days... well, the TV is my saviour.

When the Faery was a toddler in Australia, we figured out which shows were okay for her to watch.

By 'okay', I mean the visuals, voices, or songs didn't leave me wanting to bash my head, repeatedly, against a wall, and start downing glasses of wine at 10am. Shows such as Hi-5 had that effect, so that one was definitely avoided. If you're not from Australia, I dare you to click on the link. The off-key singing and costumes will make you want to vomit... not really selling it, am I? I also try to minimise exposure to Dora The Explorer, for my own sanity.

Shows that we liked (or weren't horrendously offended by) over the years were:

- Play School 
- The Wiggles
- Bindi: The Jungle Girl
- Sesame Street
- Go Gabba Gabba
- Curious George
- Pingu
- Thomas & Friends
- Maisy
- Pocoyo
- In The Night Garden (seriously, what substances had been imbibed by the creators?)
- Peppa Pig
- Shaun The Sheep
- Fifi & The Flowertots
- Charlie and Lola

(Photo source)
Okay, so some of these still left me wanting to bash my head, but not as violently.

A large portion of the shows are British, because that's just how it seems to be in Australia - more British children's shows than Australian or American. As annoying as some of these shows were (hello, Fifi) I didn't mind having them on in the background because their accents were so lovely - especially the ones with regional voices. I always have time for a Scouse or Yorkshire accent.

Moving to the US, I realised we wouldn't have access to quite a few of the Faery's favourites any more. I was fine with that because as long as Sesame Street and Curious George were around, I knew I'd have a babysitter for at least an hour or so a day when needed.

I learned very quickly that Barney & Friends brought out the worst in me. He was banished.

For a while, our cable package included the Nick Jr channel, and a whole lot of old favourites from back home were available to us again. Joy! However, that joy turned to disappointment when I noticed that many of the British shows had been dubbed with American accents.

It's nothing personal about American accents, but I can't help wonder why this was done. Some head honcho of some company, somewhere, decided that American children may not understand British accents, perhaps? If so, give me a break - that's underestimating the intelligence of kids. Or maybe it was done for their parents' benefit? Who knows.

Shows such as Peppa Pig - where the voices are mostly from the south of England - have been left alone. However, Thomas & Friends, Fifi & The Flowertots, Maisy, and Bob The Builder (with voices from the north of England) have all received the dubbing treatment. It's a little sad, really. They had the best accents.

We no longer have Nick Jr. We only have one of the PBS channels that airs Sesame Street, Curious George, and a handful of other small children's shows. Before we stopped getting Nick Jr, I recorded a stockpile of some of their better shows on the DVR... but thank god for Netflix and it being able to stream Yo Gabba Gabba to us. That show has saved many a day.

And as I type? Miss Pie is ensconced in a Maisy DVD that I'd forgotten about, and have only just dug out.

Thank you Netflix, and thank you DVDs.


  1. The dubbing is insanity, isn't it? Just painful. Americans are often accused of being insular - this kind of thing doesn't help their case.

    Agree with all of your picks except The Wiggles and Bindi. Maybe I have a secret issue with cultural cringe?

  2. Ha! Oh, no doubt they make me cringe too. But daggy as The Wiggles are, I think they do a great job of simple, catchy songs for little kids. Maybe I've been brainwashed over the years...

  3. The TV is my friend. I love the TV. I would miss the TV if it got a better offer and moved on. And the only thing Foxtel is good for is that kiddy channel (particularly in long cold winters like the one we've just had).

    It wasn't until MIL sent William some Thomas DVDs with the American accents on them that I was clued in to that little peculiarity. Couldn't understand it. Why? Providing jobs for American actors or just appalling stupidity on the part of the people who produce the things? I agree with you ... the kids are smart enough to work it out.

  4. I really would love to know the reasoning behind the dubbing - I'm curious. It just seems like such a strange thing to do. Can you imagine if Australian voices were dubbed on all the imported kids shows we have?

    I've always hated dubbing, in any form. Once or twice, I've accidentally rented DVDs of foreign films with dubbing instead of subtitles... and could not finish watching them. Does my head in!