The reset button
Remember the days when all television shows reset at the end? It was a rule that someone had to push the reset button to get everything exactly as it was. So the premise never changed. Characters never died (unless, of course, an actor left the show, in which case they’d vanish between seasons with a one-line explanation). Kirk, Spock and McCoy would always end up the same – laughing at Spock on the bridge of the Enterprise. Oh, that Mr. Spock…
It’s not like that now. In most shows aimed at adults, people grow. Their lives change. There is a continuing story. Without that reset button, it makes television much more interesting knowing that a major change may actually be a major change.
In most children’s television and possibly all preschool children’s shows, on the other hand, the reset button is alive and well.
Broadcasters like to be able to put on shows in any order. Children’s shows are so short and are often aired in fairly large blocks, you can get through a whole series in a week (Cartoonito wiped out a year and a half’s worth of Fluffy Gardens work in five days). If the episodes had to be aired in a specific order, it would make life very difficult for them. Certainly not impossible, but it would require extra thought in scheduling.
I wrote a story a little while back about a daddy tiger who leaves his office job and becomes a mechanic. A pleasant little story. Might make a nice book some day.
But it could never be a television episode.
A change that large in a main character’s life just couldn’t happen. Because what if the next episode aired was an earlier one where he still had his old job? Even if they all aired in order, what if they got through the series really quickly so the next episode a child happened to catch was an earlier one? It could really confuse.
This got me thinking.
Children’s lives move so fast. Their lives are not without major changes. One day, they’re crawling. The next, they’re running around or cycling a bike. One day, they’re playing blocks with mummy on the sitting room floor. The next, they’re in school with a whole bunch of other children. And change is a big deal for children. We knocked down a wall in the kitchen and didn’t hear the end of it for months from little Daisy.
More than that, I see change as a really good thing. Don’t like your situation? Do something and make a change. Do what you really want to do. Unhappy with the state of the world? Work to make a difference. If something is broken, we can fix it. The world we are born into is a world shaped by people. We don’t just have to accept it as is. We can change it. Make it better.
Progress requires change. Change can be a great thing.
And I thought, shouldn’t we be telling this to children? Is it a good thing that we are presenting them with a completely stagnant view of life, where nothing important ever changes? Nobody makes real leaps, discovers something that completely changes their life?
With the reset button in place, the characters we show to children are exactly where so many of us complain about being – stuck in a rut.
Maybe there is another way?