(Children’s TV Show)
Space, a hackneyed setting for children’s television. These are the voyages of the starship Gusto, it’s 22 episode mission to present a selection of music interspersed with general comedy “business” as a means of distracting children and possibly, hopefully, providing parents with a few precious fleeting moments of peace. In what must be the least prolific pirate radio station in space, three songs are played each week, a video, a live performance and an interpretation by the puppet-rat Jingles. Proceedings are managed by the fortuitously christened Captain DJ (played by Marcus Brigstoke, despite what Debbie and the end credits say), assisted by a crew including a robot parrot microphone and a sentient fungi living on the hull of the ship who provides travel and weather.
Despite the stratospherically high concept of a pirate radio station run by actual pirates in space, it maintains interest through that rarity in children’s TV, actually quite funny comedy. This is provided by the captain, a slightly pathetic specimen beaten down by his overbearing mother and his failed dreams of becoming a Blues musician. He’s a bit like Harold Steptoe. In space. With an oversized comedy moustache. Also the music is incredibly catchy, and I often find myself humming the theme to the Zorst Report to myself in my idle moments.
It’s not all good news. For pirates there’s little in the way of drunken debauchery (I think there was a bottle of cough syrup in one episode), and it’s always slightly embarrassing when an actual live human who made the effort to come into the studio is beaten in the best song contest by a bunch of muppets singing ‘Sexual Healing’ or an old Spice Girls video. Worst by far, however, is the usual Achilles Heel of children’s TV, children. In this case it is a couple of urchins called Honk and Tonk who mooch around the place overacting and generally irritating me.
And yet, for all this, Space Pirates has become something of a beacon of hope to me. As someone who is not afraid to use CBeebies as a momentary distraction on the unstoppable parasitic momentum of a one-year-old it stands as a shining example of quality amidst the black ocean of poorly animated blobs with cynically youthful trappings and jovially grating Scotsmen that threaten to corrode my very soul.