Thursday, 28 January 2010

Tracy Beaker Returns

(written 9/1/2010)

Sitting in the cinema, I tap my feet along to the music in the trailers. Another cereal advert. I don't mind trailers, I just never seem to pay much attention to them. On this particular day I was more interested in the 3D glasses hanging off my face as I waited to indulge in the festivities of 'A Christmas Carol'. Though when I heard a voice booming through the speakers, I snapped to attention. Is that...? No, it can't be! It is! Dani Harmer giving us the lowdown on her return to Tracy Beaker. Well, I never! It seemed that everybody in the cinema shared a sense of delight with this news. And personally, I could not wait!

As a child, Dani Harmer was very much a huge part of my life. 'Tracy Beaker' is one of the single greatest shows of all time; so brilliantly acted and wonderfully scripted. Of course I was devastated when it finally ended after its four year stint, but the show ended on such a high. I did wonder if bringing the show back was going to be a good idea - it ran the risk of ruining the magic that is Tracy Beaker. Only time would tell. And how slowly that time passed...

Finally that day came on the 9th January 2010 when I would once again be acquainted with a childhood love. But was I going to be filled with the same warm and fuzzy feeling as I was in the years previous? To answer bluntly: yes. But it's not all that simple.

We start off in the Dumping Ground and the children are watching TV. Seems normal? But then we notice Tracy Beaker is on the television, advertising her self-published book - all about her life in the Dumping Ground. It's quite a rosy start, but it was soon to change.

Following on we see Tracy arrested for 'stealing' Cam's credit card to self publish her books. Although the charges are soon dropped, I do feel that this negative opening is not something that should be on children's television. Yes, it highlights morality, but it's not really the style of the show. Nonetheless everything looks up from there. It goes as follows: Tracy bumps into Mike. Tracy visits the Dumping Ground. Tracy gets job at Dumping Ground. Tracy causes chaos.

And that is the one thing that made this so incredibly nostalgic. Had they made Tracy change her ways completely into a goody-two-shoes character, the show would simply not be believable. Yes she has matured slightly, but she is still feisty, she still has her attitude, and yes she still has her temper too! Now twenty years old I worried Tracy might not exactly fit in, but Dani has not actually changed a great deal since the her last series so it does work well.

The opening show was 50 minutes long, which is 20 minutes longer than what the rest of the thirteen episodes are going to be. I feel that having an extended pilot can only be a good thing, as it gave me plenty of time to fully absorb the new atmosphere, the unfamiliar characters. First of all I was surprised to notice just how different the Dumping Ground was. Since this series was filmed in Newcastle, a new location was going to be needed. I was quite shocked at how different they made it look though. It looks very cluttered and slightly 'mature', not at all the colourful attraction I was expecting.

As far as the characters go, I am quite torn between opinion. I like how they have created characters similar to those in past series'. We have Gus, who reminds me of a slightly older version of Peter Ingham (Series 1). Carmen resembles Alice (Series 5) in many ways too. Though I do find the children are all too similar in age; either very young or nearing half-way house age. There is also a lot of children too, some of which are not listed on the official website (www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/tracybeaker/ - check it out!).

As far as careworkers go, I was not really that impressed with Gina! She is simply too strict for my liking! However, it is a completely different story with Mike! I have adored Mike right from Series 1, and was thrilled to find out he would be returning for this. Connor Byrne is such an amazing actor, this simply would not be the same without him. I would have liked Elaine The Pain and Jenny to have been in this too, so my fingers are crossed that they get a mention further down the line! Also, the lovely Lisa Coleman has brought Cam back for us, which is wonderful. It's great to know that after all these years she and Tracy are still so close.

One thing that I felt was a bit of a let-down is the credits. Series 1-5 had the most spectacular credits with a wonderfully catchy and emotional theme song. We still have the occasional flashes into Tracy's mind where we see a cartoon image appear on screen, but I found it to be less frequent. Maybe I'm splitting hairs here, but I do feel that they could have used an altered version of the old theme tune.

All in all it was a pretty delightful episode! Although I do not feel the characters are as strong as last time, there is still a good mix of personalities in there to help keep plots strong. I have a good feeling about the other episodes to follow, and I can only hope that I am not disappointed! Several times through out I was drawn to tears, and already filled with nostalgia, the little moments seemed more magical. To be completely honest I do not think this show is something that children are going to fall in love with if they are not already fans of Tracy Beaker, but for us big kids who are in need of that trip down memory lane, this is a great way to recapture your childhood, for the Beaker's back!

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