I’m a week or so away from relaunching my on-line tea sales efforts, and it will be hosted solely here on Tea Trade.
I’m also putting together three video commercials that I think will be funny and make a point. One for the US, one for the UK, one for Australia. More on those on Launch Day.
I’ve been wrestling with my tag line and whilst it’s not perfect yet, I’m working along the lines of “I am completely and utterly mad, and in a tea retailer, that’s a good thing.” I thought that was quite a unique selling proposition, as the 1980s marketing books say.
But a few hours in front of the television has made me wonder exactly how unique madness is.
Last night I turned onto ABC to watch a show I’m enjoying called Video Killed The Radio Star, a series of interviews with the people who were in on the first days of using video to make music clips, which was a pivotal moment in popular music, and features many of the greats of the early 80’s. This of course, means Britain, as in was still about 1975 in the US in 1983, at least as far as music was concerned, and Australia was listening to US-style Aussie bands and pinching British style Kiwi-bands. But I digress.
The government-owned ABC2 shares a channel with ABC4Kids. So up until 7pm, it’s ABC4Kids, then at 7pm we get ABC2 and Video Killed The Radio Star. Are you with me so far?
So, in turning it on at 6:54, I got to see the last six minutes of children’s programming.
As we know, most children’s TV is rubbish, that treats kids like morons. Obviously there’s been thousands of great ones (two whole generations of Australian kids mispronounce their ‘z’ thanks to Sesame Street, but otherwise, you’d have to say that’s got merit) and even more thousands of poor ones. The worst ones are always the ones where colourful characters who can only made some sort of chirping sound have inane adventures that combine the “moral guidance” of Thomas The Tank Engine with the mental might of a salamander and the intrinsic artistic ability of Jackson Pollock or one of my cats, whomever you think is worse (which is close run thing). They have all the sincerity of a Hall & Oates video.
I remember when our son Lucas was six, he caught three minutes of Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop, and turned to us and said “This is utterly uncalled-for”. I still laugh at that twenty years later.
So, I get five minutes of In The Night Garden. FIVE MINUTES??? Five minutes of inane British Children’s TV is a lot to handle. Incidentally, if you’re not aware, TV from the UK is divided into the best drama and comedy in the world, and the worst kids’ TV and reality TV.
But I’m in front of the damn thing now, plate on my lap, I’m not going anywhere.
We start with three creatures called Tombliboos. They seem to just wander around the set like misshapen pinball balls. At this point, they are about to go to bed, but the narrator, instead of heading off for cup of tea, insists that they are asking for a story. How he knows this is a mystery, because the only sound they make is like a latex glove with three mice in it being slid down a blackboard.
In the story – told by the narrator to the Tombliboos about the Tombliboos and accompanied by an animation – the Tombliboos – who are only distinguishable by the fact they wear different coloured but otherwise identical track suits with large spots on them – decide to go for a ride on some sort of public transport conveyance called -if memory serves -a ‘Ninky Nonk’.
We are led to believe that the ride itself was uneventful, but upon disembarking we discover they seem to have all swapped trousers!
Well, I imagine that has happened to all of us. You get on a bus, get off the other end and find you’ve accidentally swapped your suit pants for the jeggings of the 18-year-old lass next to you, resulting in her getting lost in the right leg and you passing out from lack of circulation.
But then – here’s the dramatic twist – they then alight another form of public transport – the ‘Pinky Ponk’ – and it happens again!
I didn’t see that coming.
By now I have two lines of thought. One, the obvious one, that these children’s characters are actually wild swingers when out of sight and the other is – am I sure being bonkers is actually unique?
Anyway, the show proceeds with every character being made to go to sleep. The last one, one “IcklePickle” appears to be hit with some sort of sleeping gas when he tries to avoid it.
Thankfully that’s over. I’m watching the credits and it appears the narrator is Derek Jacobi.
Derek Jacobi? Famed Shakespearean actor? Star of theatres across the the UK? The eponymous Brother Cadfael in the acclaimed TV series based on the books of Ellis Peters about the crime-solving monk? THAT Derek Jacobi?
It appears so. Why? It’s just more madness.
Next up we get a little one minute interlude called ‘Giggle and Hoot’, featuring a twenty-something in pyjamas with that condescending manner of young actors who truly believe that this gig will lead to a blockbuster movie role where they have a sex scene with Kate Blanchett and / or Russel Crowe, but in the meantime they are going to be so damn earnest that the kids will be rapt in their devotion to the matter at hand, which is “Going to Bed”.
Along with his sidekick, an animated owl, they have a little banter, say boo to each other in an attempt to add some drama, and then they launch into a song about how the sun has gone down, the stars are coming out, the owl has just gone onto guard duty, and all you little sods should be in bed.
Lets leave aside the fact that the only benefit of being guarded by an owl is if you believe you are being targeted by a mouse, and consider the facts.
The sun is going down? NO , IT”S NOT! The stars are coming out to play? THEY ARE NOT!! It’s seven o’clock in the middle of summer in Australia. There are two to three more hours of daylight! Kids are not that dumb.
Then we were up to Video Killed the Radio Star and the interviewees were Bob Geldof and director David Mallett. I hardly need mention the madness inherent in that interview. At one point Mallet calls Geldof a “scumbag” for spouting fibs. All good stuff. The clip for Never In A Million Years is particularly mad or “complete bollocks” as Geldof helpfully explains.
Wow, glad the madness is over, it’s onto Grand Designs on ABC1. In this case, it’s an old cottage, where the new owners are going to build a reproduction mill-house near it, then link it via a steel and glass structure that looks like it comes from the set of Star Wars (if I can mention Star Wars without George Lucas demanding a royalty, let’s say Star Trek to be safe). Further more, he going to do most of the work himself, finish it in half the time it would take professional builders and at a third the cost.
Oh dear, it’s more madness, The guy is so far off the planet he could be a second moon. And yes, it takes him three times the budget and about five years.
So I have now concluded that yes, madness is great, but there’s a lot of it about.
I can happily sell my tea on the basis of being a bit mad.
And then Balibo came on. The story of how the world did nothing when Indonesia decided to invade East Timor in 1975, slaughtering men, women and children, including the execution of six Australian journalists.
It’s clear now why being just a bit mad is a good thing.
So many people on this planet – many of those in positions of power – are completely mad.