Why CBBC is my desert island channel

Imagine if your television developed a weird fault. Whatever channel you tuned to next would be the only one it would ever receive again. Which one would you choose?

I’d find the temptation to stick with one of the more mainstream channels, such as BBC1 or ITV1, hard to resist. I might try and select a channel with a bit of culture in it – BBC2 would serve well in that regard (and would satisfy my QI cravings) or BBC4 (ditto, Only Connect).

But honestly, I think the channel with the widest range of enjoyable programmes at the moment is CBBC, the Corporation’s channel for children. It regularly produces output that is lively, engaging, challenging and fun.

A case in point is a series which finished this week. Wolfblood is a new take on the werewolf genre created by Debbie Moon. Young Maddy is a 14-year-old girl from a reclusive family ‘pack’ of wolfbloods (the series rejects the term ‘werewolf’). Her parents lock themselves away every full moon rather than risk roaming in the woods – partly to ensure the safety of the locals, but mostly to ensure that their family secret is not discovered.

In contrast, Maddy (Aimee Kelly) – who at the start of the series is not quite old enough to experience her ‘time of the month’ – is constantly tempted to share the burden of her secret with her friends, especially when the new foster kid at school, Rhydian (Bobby Lockwood), also turns out to be a wolfblood. And when he discovers that he has a family who live wild rather than Maddy’s domesticated parents, further conflicts arise.

Every drama thrives on friction, and there is plenty here. Intrinsic to the school setting are the usual kids-versus-teachers, geeks-versus-fashionistas setups. But the best conflicts for us as viewers are those that build up between friends and family. Maddy’s best friend Shannon (Louisa Connolly-Burnham) has been convinced for years that there are werewolves on the local moors. Maddy’s need to keep her family secret while also wanting Shannon to know that her theories are correct forms one of the biggest drivers to the whole series. And the more serious side to Shannon’s obsession isn’t shied away from – in one episode, she reveals that her parents are sending her to counselling because of her determined belief in supernatural beasts. In a couple of lines, we see that the series has at its heart a heroine who, by keeping a secret she knows she must not divulge, is risking her best friend’s mental health.

Wolfblood finished its first 13-part series on Monday, and CBBC celebrated by repeating the first 12 episodes back-to-back in the run up to the final episode’s premiere. It’s still on iPlayer for the next couple of days: download it now and savour it at leisure. There are a couple of dodgy moments (I recommend watching the being-a-wolfblood-makes-you-an-awesome-streetdancer episode through your fingers), but a second series has received a well-deserved commission.

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Ten Things About Who: The Angels Take Manhattan

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

And so it’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for. Oh, no, wait, that was another Doctor Who moment. Anyway, here are my weekly ten points about the last of this current batch of Doctor Who episodes.

1. Blink twice

Conceptually, this episode felt far more of a sequel to Blink than The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone did. It’s the third in a trilogy that, in essence, returns to the roots of the first: scary statues that send their victims back in time, rather than snapping their necks and speaking through them (cf. “Bob” in Time of Angels).

Which reminded me of this speech from Scream 3:

Because true trilogies are all about going back to the beginning and discovering something that wasn’t true from the get go. Godfather, Jedi, all revealed something that we thought was true that wasn’t true.

So if it is a trilogy you are dealing with, here are some super trilogy rules: 1. You got a killer who’s going to be super human. Stabbing him won’t work. Shooting him won’t work. Basically in the third one you gotta cryogenically freeze his head, decapitate him, or blow him up. 2. Anyone including the main character can die. This means you Syd. I’m sorry. It’s the final chapter. It could be fucking ‘Reservoir Dogs’ by the time this thing is through. Number 3. The past will come back to bite you in the ass. Whatever you think you know about the past, forget it.

2. Again, with the opening narration

Of the five episodes in this run, four have featured a voiceover either before or just after the opening credits (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship being an exception). It’s almost like it was planned. I suspect it’s more because it’s a convenient way to get some exposition out of the way – something that these “epic” stories just don’t have time for when crammed into a 45-minute running time.

I don’t mind it too much here, as it’s both a pastiche of the detective movie genre, and also a sign that the Doctor is reading aloud.

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