Fashions come and go in children's television. It seems it was only yesterday that we were all learning the names of Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka, along with their respective character traits of Dead-Eyed Hippy Goon, Little Miss Attention Whore and Victim of a Crippling OCD Affliction. Before them, of course, came countless other bewildering personalities, culminating with the frankly baffling Teletubbies franchise. With matters moving so fast, it is little wonder that parents are occasionally confused, but all of that was before they had to make sense of the world of dismal drivel that is Waybuloo.
to anyone with more moral complexity than a paramecium, it will inevitably look like child exploitation
Waybuloo is a computer-generated/live action mash-up that features four animated plush toys - the piplings - and a consciously diverse group of children who, for some reason, are known as the cheebies. The piplings live in a magical world called Nara - which looks like an oriental garden halfway up the Brecon Beacons - while the cheebies live somewhere unspecified in the valley, but most probably a village called Fear. It would be hard to find out with any degree of precision as the children generally don't say much, their entire thespian output being confined to jumping up and down on the spot like trainee Big Brother contestants, haring around like a lynch-mob in a Zen garden, shouting 'over there' and lots and lots of pointing. After all the running around, a bit of hide and seek and some more pointing, pipling-directed sessions of 'yogo' break out, yogo being a simplified version of yoga that was, according to the plaff, specially developed for the programme. The children copy the yogo moves of the piplings, the whole aim of which seems to be that the piplings achieve happiness, bliss out and start levitating. This is, apparently, 'buloo' but to anyone with more moral complexity than a paramecium, it will inevitably look like child exploitation.
Just as happiness is 'buloo' and yoga-light is 'yogo', the show always seems ready to coin a new noun, making pointlessly distinctive and, one fears, trademark-able versions of perfectly ordinary words. Butterflies become Narabugs, hide and seek is Peeka and a good idea becomes a Thinkapow. For parents of children who are getting to grips with words still, this kind of nonsense is about as welcome as a pitchfork in the eye.
The stated aim of the show is to 'help the audience learn how to relate to friends and the world around them', clearly a noble intention but, in this case, one framed in terms of New Age piety. Leaving aside the sticky issue of whether or not Waybuloo touts enlightenment through Eastern mysticism - and I can safely leave that aside because it clearly does - the worse thing about buloo is not the casual proselytising of faith, but the utter sanctimony of it all.
In every episode the children are called to yogo by the chimes of a kind of magical crystal clock - a device that should set the alternative spirituality alarm bells clanging like a box of saucepans thrown down the stairs. The adenoidal chanting and upbeat bed of music that drive the programme through its simplistic storylines pauses every now and then for bottle, bamboo and other plinky-plonk percussion. All add to Waybuloo's general air of bright-eyed, insipid twaddle and limited educational worth.
Like a New Age' life coach who guffs and prattles on about holistic approaches while selling you all kinds of mauve and spangly tat, Waybuloo extolls the virtues of happiness and love as if they were something that children don't already have a natural affinity with. Meanwhile, the CG plushes turn out to be merely the avatars of their toy shop incarnations, themselves just an expression of an all-too familiar merchandising machine.
Like In the Night Garden, Teletubbies and countless other franchises, those new toys were in place in short order. It seems that it is not only new words that are being minted in Waybuloo.