3rd & Bird: Bird's The Word! Review
In one of their most recent acquisitions, CBeebies have popped 3rd & Bird into their schedules, a colourful and brightly animated tale of Samuel Lovebird, who lives at the juncion of the title. Alongside his friends Rudy, Elliot and Quinn and little sister Muffin (and with some parental influence from Mr Beakman and Mrs Billingsley), Samuel plays within the branches of the tree, sings songs and explores his surroundings. And come the evening, these song birds put on a show and entertain one another with their singing, their whistling, their dancing and their singing.
Did I mention that they sing? They do a lot of singing. Indeed, there's always some singing in children's television shows, so to draw attention to it means that there must be very much more than the average CBeebies. A lot more. As an example, the second show in the set sees Rudy and Samuel rehearsing a play in which they sing about growing a potato. Unfortunately, a strong wind blows away their props - a potato, a watering can and a hat - leaving Muffin, who was assistant director, taking to the stage as not one prop but all three. These lovebirds then perform their song all over again, this time in the company of little Muffin. A Chorus for Us sees the three birds arguing over which one of their songs should be performed in Mrs Billingsley's stage show that evening.
Elsewhere, Samuel, Rudy and Muffin argue as young children do, often as regards how Samuel and Rudy, being that little bit older, want to do things that Muffin cannot. Although this might seem rather critical of a character in a children's television show, Muffin is rather a hopeless bird. In the first episode, Muffin wants to fly but is too scared to try and so everyone, who have a good deal more patience than might be expected, has to help out. Thereafter, Muffin gets around by sitting on Samuel's back, which is more generous an act than older brothers are usually willing to extend themselves to.
This good nature extends to Quinn, who, given the musical nature of 3rd & Bird, rather misses a trick by never getting around to performing The Mighty Quinn. Quinn proves himself very handy with a toolkit and comes to the rescue not once but twice in this set of episodes, firstly by fixing a train track for the little birds' trainset and, later, using some levers and pulleys to haul a large brand off the 3rd & Bird stage, which seems very advanced indeed for a bird. But it's Elliot that this viewer is most concerned about. The birds are invited to Elliot's tea party, in which Muffin is expecting to meet another bird. But Elliot is ...a worm? Muffin looks a little worried by Elliot's lack of feathers, beak or wings but Samuel reminds Muffin that you can never have enough friends. I was rather more concernedj that Muffin may see Elliot as less a friend and more as food, particularly if he should get a little bit fatter and more tasty.
3rd & Bird looks beautiful. It's bright, is rich in colour and uses a mix of painted backgrounds and model photography. The birds seem to have been designed out of still images of feathers, which are then animated to add character. This doesn't have the effect of making them look any more realistic but does add to the amount of detail in the show. It's a shame to say that it's not particularly entertaining. As an adult, it's possible to point out the positives in 3rd & Bird but having watched it with my own children, the older two (six and nine) described it as boring while even the four-year-old looked less than entertained by it. Four episodes were all that tolerated before they threatened to mutiny over their bedtime viewing.
3rd & Bird might work well enough as a single episode on CBeebies but does less well when watched as a batch of stories on DVD. Or at least in this house it didn't. Showing on CBeebies in the Bedtime Hour after In The Night Garden, 3rd & Bird might be a little more successful but as good as it looks, it just doesn't have the charm of some of CBeebies more successful shows, such as Little Robots, Lazytown or Charlie and Lola. And frankly no amount of parental coercion could convince these three children otherwise.
3rd & Bird looks wonderful and while there isn't exactly very much on the disc, it's still presented very well on DVD. An anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen picture, 3rd & Bird doesn't suffer at all from noise or from blocking. The picture is sharp and colourful and while there may not be very much to look at in the backgrounds, there is a lot of detail within the foreground, particularly in the feathers on each character. Everything about the DD2.0 audio track is well handled, not least that it sounds clean and without any obvious problems. Once again, the BBC are to be congratulated for included English subtitles on each episode included in this set.
The only bonus features on this disc are glimpses of the various characters in the show, entitled Friends, as well giving each one a song to sing. Quinn, having been given the chance to sing the Dylan song that bears his names, raps instead while Elliot, who ought to sing Please Don't Eat Me! does nothing of the sort. He's frankly asking to be nibbled on. Next is the sight of Muffin dancing (14s) while A Kiss for Samuel (27s) is another very short look at the characters.