It’s time once again for another in our Children’s Television Survival Guide. This time, we turn to Netflix and a gem of a show about a schizophrenic farmer and his livestock, called Shaun the Sheep. It’s yet another example of how a show can work both for kids, and for adults.
I’m sure the creators of Shaun the Sheep would like you to believe that their show is all about a bunch of sentient farm animals who spend their time having dance parties, playing soccer, and learning circus tricks. But I know what’s really happening on that farm: the farmer has gone round the bend. He is now only capable of mumbling–he never speaks actual words during any episode–and he frequently has glimpses of his sheep doing all these strange things, but when he does his double-take and comes back to his senses, the sheep are back to being ordinary sheep. Every episode, he has more breaks with reality. We are watching his descent into total madness, and it’s fascinating.
Of course, all the kids see is Shaun and his friends meeting aliens and dressing up as people to go order pizza in the village. They think it’s hilarious. They’re entertained, and we get to watch a brilliant study of a man’s struggle with mental illness.
The best thing about Shaun the Sheep is that it avoids the worst thing about a lot of children’s shows: horribly annoying characters’ voices. No whining like Caillou; no shouting like Dora. Just some bleating and some mumbling.
Another bonus about a show being available on Netflix is that if you’re playing it on a Playstation, it’ll just keep playing episode after episode. Which is handy on those days your kid is home sick and you’re working from home. (Are you being a Judgy McJudgersn and thinking I shouldn’t let my kid watch TV all day when he’s sick, or that I shouldn’t try to work from home when he’s sick because I should be smothering him with my love instead? If so, you really need to go back and review my deprogramming archives. Also, fuck you.)
Shaun the Sheep is produced by the folks who make Wallace and Gromit, and in fact Shaun made his screen debut in a Wallace and Gromit short. And in turn, the lamb from Shaun the Sheep, Timmy, has his own spin-off called Timmy Time. What I am saying is, the creators of this show really like sheep.