We won’t see the real benefits of the Scottish-set children’s TV show 'Balamory' for many years. Twenty, maybe twenty-five. Yet there are immediate positives to be gleaned from this live action CBeebies extravaganza currently enrapturing preschool children. Happy kids are staring mindlessly at the television, giving tired parents a chance to eat spoonfuls of coffee, swallow a handful of caffeine tablets, or maybe even down a couple of pounds of energy-giving sugar. Some may even find time to have a quick wash in the kitchen sink before their hypnotised offspring start demanding some undivided attention once more. There are also the educational benefits, like gaining a better understanding of colour through this fictional island community. Nowadays children can spot a red house, a pink house, or a yellow house. They can recount the story of what happened a few seconds before. Children can even sing songs so catchy they could be re-classified as diseases (and particularly virulent ones at that). Other short-term positives from this long-running, compelling show will see youngsters sent off to school with the knowledge to off-set what they’re missing out on in over-crowded primary classrooms, staffed by bitter and over-worked teachers desperately trying to hit unrealistic targets that have absolutely nothing to do with useful education. You know, the kind of education that might help a pupil get a job in the future, rather than simply sitting around in their twenties, wondering what to do with a low-range degree in the humanities. The short-term impact of this mould-breaking programme which depicts all walks of life in ‘Balamory’ might just be to make life better. The long-term, however, will definitely change the freaking world as we know it. Because what we have here, generously presented in bright and breezy twenty-minute segments, is the blueprint for a future generation’s utopia. Perfection. An ideal world. Balamoryism, if you will. It’ll knock all the usual “isms” into a cocked hat - Darwinism, Feminism, even other Organisms can get lost.
The legendary Miss Hoolie takes a leading role in this wondrous society. A caring figure, she guides and
cajoles the Balamory residents through their daily lives. At the heart of the community, she provides care
and education for every child, she's a moral compass, pointing off in all directions but always maintaining
equality. She also promotes the wearing of neutral, non-offensive green - a fine and carbon-neutral way to
dress for work! Hoolie’s calm tone of voice is the envy of guidance counsellors everywhere as she moves
from home to work, then back again once her job is done. A veritable professional, presenting a work ethic
that watching kids instinctively want to copy, we are aware Hooie will never be tarnished by skiving or general
lollygagging. While British citizens spend more and more work days hiding under the duvet, sipping endless
cups of tea while muttering lame excuses into their Motorolas (“I’ve got a cold”, “the blood won’t stop coming!”,
“this depression is crippling and it’s your company’s fault” etc, etc.), Balamoryism has arrived unheralded, reversing this slacker-arse trend at a stroke!
Another example is the character of Josie Jump. She may well be hyperactive and quite possibly ADHD-diagnosed, but at least Josie’s managed to find her niche within the make believe society of Balamory. If she’s this enthusiastic and bouncy now, one can only ponder with dread and nausea what Jump was like as a child. But the lifestyle cult of Balamoryism has managed to harness this indefatigable energy. Josie runs and skips madly around the island, doing endless jobs for other worthwhile members of society who are, sadly, less able-bodied due to old age or scurvy. Without this outlet, goodness knows what would have happened to the lovely Miss Jump. Would she have found herself sucked into the soul-destroying yet invigorating world of energetic porn? I’ve seen it happen, so many times. Or worse, might she have adopted the sadistic lifestyle of the personal trainer?
Then there’s Archie The Inventor. One word for you - Asperger’s. Archie’s a man who doesn’t communicate well
with other human beings. He prefers to spend his days and nights indulging in all manner of tinkerings instead. An
eccentric nutjob, Archie marches to the beat of his own unique technological tune. One that is likely to involve
beeping. Yet Balamory is a place where it’s okay to be different; you can wear a kilt even if you’re about as
Scottish as Birmingham city centre. An Englishman wearing a kilt in Scotland, especially an Englishman with no
verifiable trace of Scots blood, wouldn’t be too popular. Not so in the promised land of Balamory. Here simple
heritage cannot get in the way of harmonious living. Could the pink castle in which Archie resides be giving out a
subtle message regarding his sexuality? The connotations of this colour may scream ‘GAY!’, or at least highly
effeminate, but this is a matter of no concern to Balamorians. Once above the age of consent, sexuality is as
irrelevant to them as race, colour or creed. It’s not who you do, but how nicely and discreetly you do them.
Would that my hometown were like that.
Balamory resident Spencer also reveals how this society embraces maverick creativity and encourages all kinds of artistic expression. Artists in contemporary society are reviled for being work-shy scum who do nothing except bitch that their talent isn’t appreciated, then make millions selling conceptual art to idiots. In the world at large these people are hounded from their homes, or at least mocked remorselessly by publicans. But in Balamory artists are given their chance. Spencer emerges, not as some bitter modern-day commentator, casting miserable and damning views on canvas after canvas. Instead he paints with enthusiasm, providing for the needs of his community. Be it a nice watercolour for the post office counter or a mural of children playing on a wall somewhere, you wouldn’t catch Spencer trying to palm off a tent embroidered with the names of his sexual partners as art. Partly because he’s obviously a virgin, but mainly since he’s too busy painting a nice landscape, or creating some stick animals to show the kids at the nursery. And not half a cow in formaldehyde
Meanwhile Suzie Sweet holds joint ownership of the village shop with her friend, Penny Pocket. It’s plainly obvious
to everyone that, even as Susie tries to present herself as a figure of sense and authority, it’s Penny who is in
charge. Penny, with her kindly wisdom and caring attitude, prevents her colleague - a victim of incipient senility -
from getting into all kinds of doddery trouble. As older children tuning in will no doubt be aware, Suzie is in the
early stages of Alzheimer’s. Only Penny can provide the care that keeps her functioning, and fend off a terrible
public decline. Penny’s wheelchair becomes irrelevant, the absurd social stigma of disability cast aside as she
proves herself the able one. Hurrah! Hitler can shove those old-hat ideas of physical inferiority up his cold, dead
Finally, PC Plum isn’t your normal policeman. He doesn’t exhibit a single right-wing tendency. He isn’t racist, he isn’t homophobic, he’s never taken a bribe. In fact, Plum actually solves the cases he takes on with a 100% success rate. Admittedly, we’re not talking about murders, sexual assault, kidnapping, extortion, or flaming terrorists driving too-wide jeeps through the entranceway of Balamory airport here. Mostly the incidents that send PC Plum out on the beat involve lost hats, hats belonging to toys taken from small children. But a crime is a crime, and statistics don’t lie. The PC is in charge without abusing his power. Plum never takes kickbacks or colludes with city hall to suppress news of corruption at the highest levels. Instead he sets an example for a possible new era in policing, one where nobody falls down the stairs, or dies in custody from injuries sustained
Balamoryism then. A world where colours are bright and people live, work and play in harmony. A perfect society. Does it appeal to you? If not it’ll certainly appeal to your children, who are about to grow up wanting to make this utopian vision come true. As for me, I’m off to get my kilt.