Diary of a Geek Dad: In the Paw Garden

Welcome to the latest installment of Diary of a Geek Dad! It has been awhile hasn’t it? I apologize for that, it seems that time really is the most precious commodity in the universe, and no one has quite enough, let alone a guy with a full time job and a family.

Quick catch up: My daughter is doing brilliantly! Almost 2 years old now, talking, playing and generally running me and her mum ragged. Everyday it feels like there is something new, some new word - even little sentences that crop up. I had a real live conversation with her regarding the whereabouts of her mummy. Mummy was on the sofa, six feet from her. My daughter is blonde, that's the excuse.

We are at the point now where TV is a thing for her. We tried to limit as much as we can but no, she wants “Paw Patrol on there”. Which, to be honest, I am not bothered about. We have limited her to just two shows, Paw Patrol and In the Night Garden and that was a good shout, a few more months and we might expand her repertoire, but two is enough.

These shows are designed for young children. Both are filled with bright colours, slow easy talking, silliness and music. The part I am rapidly discovering, the bit that no one tells you as a new parent, is just how messed up these shows can be. At some point, they are completely fucked. Now, this might just be my adult brain ascribing way too much, but I have serious questions about those shows.

Paw Patrol, a show about Ryder and his team of six puppies who go out in transforming vehicles to rescue members of the fictional Adventure Bay community, should and is right up my street. However, on a practical level, what the fuck is going on in Adventure Bay???

This starts with Ryder, who is ten years old. Ten. Living by himself in a technically advanced watchtower called ‘The Lookout’ on the edge of town with six talking puppies for company. I mean, who the hell leaves their ten year old to live by himself?

That said, it is clear he is a child genius, as the show would indicate that he is the sole creator of all the technology used by the Paw Patrol, from the transforming dog houses to the look out, to Ryder’s own (admittedly super cool) transforming ATV. So maybe he emancipated from his parents and moved to Adventure Bay? I dunno, but social services should probably be involved.

Not that social services would really be a thing in that town, especially because its major is...lets say under qualified to be kind. Mayor Goodway is, quite frankly, thick. There is an episode she calls the Paw Patrol to fix the heel of her shoe...twice.This person has been elected into office and can’t dig out some glue to fix her own shoes? I question not only her competence for the role but also the sanity of the people that elected her, they are probably Trump supporters.

Moreover, all of the town’s civil service needs are met by the patrol. Police? Yep that would Chase. Fire? Marshall. Construction? Rubble...even recycling is handled by Rocky the recycling pup. How can a town survive when all of these needs are met by just six puppies? I am genuinely surprised a natural disaster hasn’t turned Adventure Bay into a wasteland.

Having said all of this, Paw Patrol is a cool show with a cool theme song - something that is sorely lacking in today’s cartoons, I mean just look at the cartoons of the 80’s for some genuinely great theme tunes, very little these days even comes close to the those giddy heights. 

As a father to a little girl, however, I do wish it would promote equality a bit more. There is only one main female member of the patrol, Skye. She has a jet pack which is cool, but the other female characters tend to be damsels in distress and require the patrols help. To be fair, there are just as many male characters that do this, I just want the patrol itself to be equal. Even when they gain Everest the other female pup, she isn't in every episode and it still makes for a male orientated team.

So let's move on to In the Night Garden, possibly the single most fucked up show ever made. Forget those that are about cannibals, swinging or the supernatural shenanigans of a bunch of hyper sexy vampires, this is the one that will really mess with your head.

In the Night Garden is about Iggle Piggle, a blue ‘doll’ that actually kinda looks like a sperm and starts with him going to sleep in a little boat on his way to the titular garden. This first little bit is the basis for my theory as to what this show actually represents.

I posit that Iggle Piggle is actually a sailor lost at sea in a lifeboat, and he is the only survivor of whatever catastrophe befell the larger vessel. Low on food and fresh water, miles from land, he slips into a fever dream as his body starts to succumb to the ravages of thirst and starvation. This dream lands him in the night garden, a place familiar yet so so strange.

In this place he meets Upsy Daisy, a bubbly girl who gives him big hugs and lots of kisses. Pretty sure this represents his current/possibly ex girl, who just wants to hold hands and kiss...bit frustrating for him to say the least.

Not only that but there is Makka Pakka, a rock loving creature who lives in a cave and likes to clean faces. This obvious invasion of personal space leaves me to only one conclusion...Makka Pakka is his special needs cousin. I suspect he is on the autism spectrum, edging towards the severe end.

The triple threat of the Tombliboos are his sisters triplets, who run riot and spend most of their time not wearing clothes and talking gibberish to each other. Then there is the Pontipines and  the Wattingers, two families of tiny people consisting of two parents and eight kids. Mr and Mrs Pontipine are shit parents, by the way, but all I can assume is that these represent schools of small fish he can see as he gazes into the watery abyss. The rest of the residents of the garden are just random bright colour hallucinations, apart from the Pinky Ponk, which represents the desperately slow search for him by air, one that will probably fail and result in a press conference saying all hands were lost.

This is just my theory of course. The biggest problem In the Night Garden is one of production, with consistency in its own world rules needing to be desperately revamped. The primary means of transport in this world is the Ninky Nonk, a crazed land train introduced with the phrase “Oh NO! It’s the Ninky Nonk!”. This thing speeds about the garden with, frankly, wanton disregard for it’s occupants safety or that of those just going for a stroll.

t is dangerous to go by Ninky Nonk and the thing should be destroyed for the safety of all, but the more pressing concern is that I am supposed to believe that something that can safely stow all residents of the garden, from the relatively tall Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy to the teeny tiny Pontipines and everything in between, is the same size when crossing a bridge as Iggle Piggle is by himself.

This is compounded in one episode where Iggle Piggle goes out to give the Ninky Nonk a hug, and it towers over him. But as it is travelling around the garden you can clearly tell it is about the size of a large R/C car. All I ask is that if you are going to make out like this vehicle has room for all heights, obey those rules and make it come across as big.

In the Night Garden has, thankfully, been almost fully replaced by Paw Patrol in our house, which is probably a good thing as I am sure at some point a nightmare caused by that show will end up waking us up at 1am and staying up for three hours. At least Ryder and co are fun, bubbly and promote good things like recycling and helping others, and it always fun to hear my daughter shout “CHASE!” as he launches off the slide to get into his vehicle.

It is also entirely possible I over think things, who knows.