Balamory: Seeking Santa Review
It has ended, has it not? And, looking back at the Balamory seasonal specials such as this one and their Panto DVD, it would appear as though they date from 2005 (this one) and 2004 (Panto And Other Stories). But then, like most children's television - Tikkabilla, Tellytubbies, Tweenies - Balamory exists in a world beyond seasons, the end of the series and the passing years, ending up on a dedicated children's channel where it will play long into the future. That, though, is only fair for a television show that is dearly loved by children, with a cast designed to appeal to the pre-schoolers, a location that's as brightly coloured as a cartoon and a structure gives even the most scattered of children something to hold on to.
Best of all is that it drives the far-right into an apoplectic rage, leaving them venting their anger on racist forums about the political correctness of the show, which extends beyond Josie Jump and Spencer and the family of Asian origin who often appear in the titles to a very ethnically diverse cast of children. Yet more proof of a BBC unable to rein in its left-wing bias they shout - actually, the racists tend to shout other things entirely but one has to offer them the benefits of what is made possible through education - but it's great fun to watch the good folk of Balamory go about their lives whilst they fume in their armchairs and Richard Littlejohn tells his readers that, "You couldn't make it up!" When the show innocently suggests that Archie might be gay, I would imagine that the offices of the Daily Mail turn that little bit more blue.
Filmed at Tobermory on the Isle of Mull - those houses, including the bright pink castle, existed before the BBC arrived - Balamory is a sweet little show that charts the goings on around Miss Hoolie's nursery school. Every day, she welcomes the children, tells us what the weather is like and has her lessons interrupted by a visitor - being one of PC Plum, Penny Pocket, Suzie Sweet, Josie Jump, Edie MacCredie, Spencer or Archie - who brings with them a problem. Leaving the nursery, they ask through song what colour of house they might visit and, their minds made up, go in search of a solution. Archie, the inventor of the community, is rather good at solving problems but PC Plum manfully steps in if he believes there to be a crime involved, Josie assists if it's looking physically exhausting and Edie volunteers if there's need of a bus. Twenty minutes after the opening song, the nursery closes, the children depart on the ferry and another day ends in Balamory with Miss Hoolie returning home to her pink house.
It's been running for years with that format and although four seasons were only ever produced, it feels as though CBeebies has never let a day pass without it being shown. Stories come and go - there's talk of an affair between Miss Hoolie and PC Plum - and there was even a wedding but the world of Balamory doesn't appear to concern itself with the real world and nor is it likely that its audience will ever make any such demands of it. This DVD, first released in November 2005, collects two episodes onto a single-layer disc. The first of these is Balamory Seeking Santa, in which, as they approach Christmas, Penny and Suzie leave Balamory and head north. To the North Pole in fact as they promise the children to make the impossible possible and bring back a sackful of Santa wishes for everyone in the town. But just in case, Miss Hoolie asks PC Plum if he wouldn't mind dressing up as Santa to bring some wishes for the children at the nursery. Plummie, as Edie often calls him, is delighted to have been asked and he, Penny and Suzie give the children a Christmas they'll never forget.
In the next episode - again, one that's been extended by ten minutes - everyone is getting themselves ready for the Balamory Ceilidh. Everyone, that is, except for Archie, who is not feeling his usual self. In fact, he's a little bit sad! A trip to see Miss Hoolie doesn't do very much for him but she does tell him that Josie Jump may be able to cheer him up. "Can you see all the different coloured houses..." Actually, Archie's too glum even to sing the song so the children tell him to visit Josie, who cheers him up with the story of the Snowflake Fairy, who can make the snow sparkle and turn frowns into smiles. And then, still feeling in need of cheering up, Archie visits Edie, who shows him a holiday video of her and Miss Hoolie in Iceland. Contrary to what one might expect of such a thing, it seems to do the trick and, his frown now a smile, Archie heads out into the snow for the Balamory Ceilidh.
Interlaced and showing it - check out shadows on the end credits, which renders them practically unreadable - this is a fairly average transfer, which keeps the content looking soft throughout. However, it's also worth saying that Balamory has always tended towards looking that way, leaving less of a jump, albeit one that's still very noticeable, between the live-action scenes and the rudimentary CG. As such, this presentation looks much like that of Balamory as it's shown on CBeebies rather than using the greater bandwidth of DVD to make it look very much better. Again, the DD2.0 audio track is fine but much like that as it's shown on CBeebies. Finally, there are English subtitles on both episodes.
The extras on this disc are, as you might expect, for very young children. The Game, such as it is, asks a child to dress PC Plum up as Santa using four items whilst the Sing-A-Long has Spencer, Miss Hoolie and the rest of the cast dreaming of a Balamory Christmas. However, the smile on Plummie's face as Miss Hoolie dangles some mistletoe above his head more than makes up for the actual song. Finally, there is something described as More Fun (2m32s) but which isn't anything more than a trailer for other CBeebies shows.