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Tracey Lee Smythe,
Play School is an Australian Gold Logie award-winning educational television show for children produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It is the longest-running children's show in Australia, and the second-longest-running children's show in the world. An estimated 80% of pre-school children under six watch the programme at least once a week.
This show is beautiful in its repetitive simplicity and its understanding of the importance of imagination. The ABC deserves credit for sticking with the same, proved formula for decades, while keeping the content up to date.
(Since I'm a musician, this review focuses on the sound and music. The visual and educational elements are also worthy of comment, but I'm not the guy for that.)
The live sound is clear and the dynamic range is uncompressed, so it doesn't always sound like people are shouting. (Some of this must also be due to the ABC's compressor/limiter settings on their transmitter audio feed, which is not pumped up, aurally excited, and hard limited like the commercial stations like to do.) As a result, viewers have to be quiet to hear the small sounds, like sticky tape being torn off or scissors cutting, and this encourages paying attention. The presenters don't talk all the time. Sometimes the only sound is the shuffle of feet or paper or whatever activity is in progress. The pace of speaking and the progression of activities in general is gentle and unhurried. There is a lot of repetition, but often subtle, so it doesn't seem repetitive.
The principal musical component is a simple, off-screen, improvised piano accompaniment, like from the silent movie days, but reassuring, not dramatic. Other music is the songs (always with actions) sung by the presenters, and the background music chosen for the "through the window" segment, which is usually either more improvised piano or some classical music. There are also canned bits of music like the one used for the "clock" or "through the window" segments, and their familiarity no doubt contributes to a feeling of comfort and helps children orient themselves.
All this makes Play School is a welcome antidote for the hyped up, overstimulating shows found on the commercial channels (and most of TV in general).
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