Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Death to Caillou

I recently wrote about how horrid Max and Ruby on Treehouse was. For different reasons, Caillou is almost as bad.

Like Max and Ruby, Caillou is Canadian, so my heart should be filled with pride. Unfortunately it's also annoying as hell. Caillou is a bald four-year-old kid with a whiny voice, part of a white-bread family that is sickeningly saccharine (interestingly, Caillou presents one of the only 'conventional families' on Treehouse). The individual characters on Caillou are pretty bad, but considered alone they wouldn't throw the programme so high on the annoying list.

What does that, instead, is the show's entire lack of regard for conventionaly storytelling. I can remember as a child being shown a graph that started from zero, slowly rose to a peak, and then came crashing down rapidly thereafter: the Nike swoosh turned upside-down. This, I was told, represented a plot graph. All good stories followed it.

The creator of Caillou, animated as the narrator in the occassional framing device that imagines a group of children excited to hear a story about Caillou, evidently knows nothing of this. For a Caillou story has no exposition, no climax, no denouement. It's merely a few random details in the life of a normal kid stitched together into a story. It might be: 'Caillou goes to the Laundromat'. And it might go something like this:
'One day, Caillou got his clothing dirty. So he went to his mother about it. "Oh no," said his mother, "your clothing is dirty. We'd better get that washed up." So his mother prepared some laundry and asked Caillou if he wanted to go to the laundromat. Caillou had never been to a laundromat before. So he was very happy. At the laundromat were many big machines. Caillou was amazed by them. "Mommy", he said, "what do these machines do?" His mother told him they made clothing clean. She started to fill a machine and asked Caillou if he wanted to help. He said yes. When his mother started the machine, it made a big noise and started turnig. Caillou was amazed. He watched the machine turn around and around again. That evening at dinner, Caillou told his father about his adventure at the laundromat. "Good for you", said his father.'

Seriously - what the hell is that? I wrote that, but all I'lve really done is shorten it from the prototype. I haven't altered the banality level at all. Caillou really is shockingly banal - nothing at all extraordinary ever happens, or even anything above 'run of the mill'. Some episodes seem to have a touch of moralising, which I guess means it's better than merely watching the neighbours through their living room window for half an hour at a time, but who can make it as far as the moral without falling asleep? One thing Caillou also is is shockinglyboring.

If the goal is to crush a childhood imagination by subjecting kids to a programme featuring a painful lack of imagination, then Caillou is a success.


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