I feel very underqualified to write this column. Not that I haven’t watched any TV this week, I’ve watched a lot. In fact, I’m way above average. According to Barb, the people who work out the ratings, the average person in the UK watched over 24 hours of telly a week, last month. I’ve watched 100, easy. The problem is it was all Channel 5’s Peppa Pig.
If you’re guessing I’ve got young kids, you’d be right. Harrison, aged two-and-a-half, was a bit poorly last week, so we gave him a week off nursery. As any real parent knows, that meant a week in front of the TV, both for Harrison and for his loving parents. And the only TV he ever wants to watch is Peppa Pig.
Peppa is the closest thing to voodoo ever to grace the airwaves. Harrison, who’s never shown the slightest bit of interest in anything other than electric sockets, is putty in its hands. I’ve never paid it much mind, but as the hours drifted into days I became more and more hooked. On the surface, it appears to be very simple. Peppa is a young girl pig who loves splashing in puddles, and she lives in a house on a hill with her younger pig brother George, who likes dinosaurs. Peppa’s father, Daddy Pig, is an architect, but a bit useless, and Peppa’s mother, Mummy Pig, works from home on her laptop and generally tries to keep a lid on Daddy Pig.
The stories aren’t crammed with incident. Peppa and George might buy a balloon, say, or go for a walk in a wood. In fact, I think I watched a whole episode where Peppa and George go to look at Granny and Grandpa Pig’s garden. It’s hard to say, because Harrison wasn’t sleeping well at night and midweek he pulled a Peppa Pig all-nighter, and I might well have hallucinated it.
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Anyway, the point is, don’t be fooled. Like the Mona Lisa, Peppa Pig only appears to be simple. The characterisation is deep, better than anything you’ll see in Downton or Broadchurch, but it’s not handed to you on a plate, you’ve got to work for it. The stories hold real power, like Aesop’s Fables, or the writings of the Dalai Lama. If you’ve half-glanced at the odd show, and can’t see what I’m on about, then watch again. It’s only when you’ve clocked a good few episodes that you start to grasp the majesty of the thing. Peppa Pig isn’t a kids’ TV show, it’s a masterpiece.
In fact, forget everything else. Like William Blake’s grain of sand, there’s an infinity of great telly in Peppa Pig. So I missed the final of Britain’s Got Talent, but guess what? There was just as much jeopardy and thwarted ambition in Peppa Pig’s Talent Day, where Peppa’s teacher, Madame Gazelle, encourages the kids to showcase their gifts. There was even a humongous cliffhanger when you wondered if Peppa would come up with the goods, just like you got with Lettice Rowbotham and her violin on BGT.
Granted, Made in Chelsea passed me by, but I had Peppa Pig’s Best Friend for comfort. That’s the one where Peppa and George go to play with Peppa’s best friend Suzy Sheep, and George gets a bit jealous of Suzy and Peppa’s friendship. And instead of my weekly fix of Breaking Bad, I got stuck into Peppa Pig’s Methamphetamine Adventure, in which Daddy Pig cooks up crystal meth in a camper van and sells it to Daddy Dog. All right, I might have made that one up.
Ben Miller stars in Death in Paradise, Alibi, Monday at 9pm.