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Sunday, June 18, 2017


I grew up with TV shows that were designed for very young children to watch, shows that taught us our ABCs and how to count to ten in addition to little life lessons and stuff.  But what we didn't have in those days were shows that were literally designed for babies (or, at most, pre-pre-schoolers), which is a niche that "Teletubbies" has been filling almost exclusively since 1997.

The show was enough to blow my adult mind in its original form, but now, with more advanced digital backgrounds, green-screen effects, and other visual enhancements, the new, improved Teletubby world is more cheerfully bizarre than ever, as seen in Sony's six-episode DVD release TELETUBBIES: BUBBLES (2017).

Teletubby Land is a peaceful place of verdant, rolling meadows, colorful flowers, and scampering bunny rabbits, where the sun is a giant baby head that observes all with a bemused laugh and four fat, fuzzy creatures with TV antennas on their heads and monitor screens in their tummies--namely, the Teletubbies--emerge from their underground "home dome" to play until the sun goes down. 

Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po, whom you can distinguish only by their color and shape of their antennae, think and speak on an almost pre-verbal level, using a few simple phrases ("Eh-oh!" means "Hello") but mainly repeating what the dulcet-voiced narrator says. 

Interestingly, the narrator gives them their cues--for example, he'll say "The Teletubbies ate some Tubby Toast" and the Teletubbies, upon hearing this, will hop around with joy and activate their giant Tubby Toast toaster.

At other times, they seem to be subjects in some strange laboratory experiment when a number of odd periscope-shaped devices emerge from the ground to observe them and issue instructions such as "It's sleepy-time" and "Wake up!"  But since there's no conflict or any individual concerns in this world, it's all just an excuse to celebrate and be happy for the eternally amenable Teletubbies. 

This results in a viewing experience that practically radiates calm and good vibes.  Plot is practically nonexistent, so what the show mainly does is to introduce toddlers to the most basic words, ideas, and images which are probably still new to them, and then to show the roly-poly characters having a little innocent and entirely harmless fun with it all.  It's like a visual tranquilizer. 

The titles of the six episodes (approx. 12 and a half minutes each) tell the whole story of each: "Bubbles", "Music Box", "Puddles", "Wake Up Time!", "Windy Day", and "Bumps!", the latter featuring a brief segment on bumper cars along with a little bumpy dancing by the Tubbies. 

When a nearby broadcast antenna is activated and its spinning wheel begins radiating multicolored stars (always an exciting part of their day), the Teletubbies writhe on the ground with pleasure until one of them receives a transmission via his tummy telly. 

This is our introduction to a short film with happy children demonstrating the episode's fun new thing (in "Puddles", we see two girls in galoshes splashing around in the rain; in "Bubbles", children are actually encased in large bubbles; the other shorts are equally self-explanatory) to which the Teletubbies invariably respond with "Again! Again!" for an abridged instant replay. 

Their subterranean home is a colorful playspace with a Tubby Custard machine that doubles as a train ride and a big smartphone that calls them with fun messages.  A new feature that still has me a bit freaked out is a miniature terrarium-like dollhouse containing tiny versions of themselves known as "Tiddly-Tubbies", which we see only when it's time for them to go to sleep. 

(I have no idea what's going on there, but it reinforces my feeling that this is all some strange experiment conducted by the mysterious periscope beings.)

Each episode ends with a cheerful goodbye and several group hugs ("The Teletubbies love each other", the narrator comfortingly assures us) before the furry brethren retire to their home dome for the evening and Big Baby-Head Sun slowly sets.  If Arnold Schwarzenegger were a Teletubby, his main catchphrase would definitely be "Big Hug." And unless you're a total cynic, the feeling should prove somewhat infectious.  

The pre-schoolers for whom TELETUBBIES: BUBBLES is intended won't care about any of that stuff, though.  I think these simple, repetitive, candy-coated little adventures will captivate them with their playful charm and tranquil, benevolent ambiance. And considering all that's going on in the world today, there's certainly no harm in a show that can make someone happy just thinking about bubbles for awhile.

Bonus Features:

·“Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” Song
·"Meet the Characters": Laa-Laa

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital Sound
English Subtitles
Approx. 75 min./Color

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