Jim Jam And Sunny...Time To Play! Review
As the father of three young children, I'm well used to hearing tunes that set your teeth on edge. Or to put it more kindly, are so damned catchy that for the next day or seven you'll be humming, singing and tapping it out on the steering wheel. Over the years, I thought I'd been steeled against anything children's television could throw at me. The songs from the Tweenies, Me Too and In The Night Garden, even the last seventy years of Disney, are as nothing to me now...until Jim-Jam And Sunny and the theme song. "It's a new day today...with Jim-Jam and Sunny!" Hearing (and seeing) it is like having your eyelids peeled back and a large syringe of glucose injected through the eye and directly into the forebrain. It is possibly the brightest sight in the entire universe and almost impossible not to stare at. It's no wonder that children become addicted to this.
Jim-Jam and Sunny are a brother and sister who spend the ten minutes or so of each episode playing make-believe with their friends at home. These are their toys come to life and include Gigi (a horse), Slim (giraffe), Bot (robot), Mouth (er...not sure) and the oddly-named Nobby, who's a teddy. Over six episodes, they play dressing-up, turn their sofa into a car, live in the land of the Red Queen and Prince, scare themselves silly over a tiger in the wash basket and find that squares aren't that cool when trying to ride a bike. And dance. A lot! Although their 'wiggle your bums' shows this series having come from CITV and not the BBC. I don't think you hear the word bums on the BBC.
Produced by the people behind the Tweenies, this has a very similar tone, with songs, puzzles, stories and playing. It's written and produced for the same audience, that of pre-schoolers, with this expecting more interaction with its viewers. Parents will be happy to pause the puzzles and let young children work out the (very simple) odd one out games while they'll hope their children cope with songs that, by offering little repetition and by not being that well-known, require much rewatching to get to know. Except for that theme song, of course.
Some episodes are better than others. I liked Tiger best of all, with Jim-Jam, Sunny and all the toys being terrified by an orange-and-black rugby shirt in the wash basket and thinking it a tiger but my younger children, from their reaction, were more keen on Dressing Up, which ends with a bunch of children dressed (and face-painted) like fish and pretending to swim in make-believe water. Or at least the more adventurous ones do, some make do with just holding up a cardboard fish that's been covered in tinfoil. Square is a low note on which to end the series with Jim-Jam being spooked by Sunny changing his Frisbee, bicycle wheels and hula-hoop from circles into squares while Gigi, Mouth, Slim, Bot and Nobby appear out of nowhere. It would have to be a particularly sensitive child who'd be as worried as Jim-Jam about things but it's an odd episode nonetheless.
Jim-Jam And Sunny may not be a premier children's show - it's not one that, in an In The Night Garden style, crosses over to an audience of gently dozing adults - but it's certainly capable of keeping an audience of children amused, entertained and, at a push, educated. As well as looking and sounding like the Tweenies, it will also appeal to those who, were they a few years older, would be entertained by the goings-on in the nursery that was a daytime home to Bella, Milo, Fizz and Jake (and Doodles).
The days of shabby transfers of children's television shows would appear to be behind us. The BBC have done a sterling job with all of their releases and this shows that ITV and Entertainment Rights are at least a match. The picture is sharp, bright and the colours are rich and impressive. The title sequence, in particular, is like looking deep into a rainbow with so much colour and sparkle as to almost blind very young children. Two- to three-year-olds will be less troubled by Jim-Jam And Sunny although they probably shouldn't be exposed to the entire set in one sitting. The DD2.0 audio track is purely functional but sounds fine nonetheless. The dialogue is clear, the songs fairly leap out of the speakers and it sounds as good on a little portable as it does a dedicated system.
This DVD makes much of two Play All features on this DVD, one that includes all of the songs while the other jumps to all of the puzzles on the disc. One lot is almost impossibly catchy while the other, although nothing that will trouble a four-year-old, is fairly entertaining. It helps if a parent is quick on the pause button to allow children to work out an answer - the show doesn't permit them a suitable amount of time - so to give them some sense of accomplishment at guessing the odd one out. There is also a set of screens to introduce an audience to the characters as well as a set of Trailers for other Entertainment Rights releases, including Postman Pat, The Little Red Tractor and, something that will have very young girls staring awestruck at the screen, Barbie In Mermaidia.