It's been spoken of for a while, but finally the TV series that has stemmed from the books by Genevieve Webster and Michael de Souza (as a response to a lack of fun ethnic characters in kids' literature [Times, Jan 2011]) has landed... an' ting.
Warning: there's quite a high chance I'm going to sound like a total douchebag for much, if not all of this post. You have been warned, K?
That the series is voiced by black actors and the character created in part by a real life Rastafarian matters only a little. That just helps to legitamise it for anyone feeling nervous about the programme verging into Panjid-like stereotypery [see Bertha]. Rastamouse is funny, has a catchy sig tune and the kind of breezy stories I remember lapping up back when Postman Pat was a real courier, not a logistics middle-man with a fleet of vans and a helicopter (that's true by the way; check for yourself).
There's still an affection for Jamaican culture in the UK - with quite a lot of it in Birmingham, put down in my opinion to the numbers of great reggae and ska bands that emanated from the Midlands 20-odd years ago - which, bastardised though it is in mouse-form, adds the strangest level of credibility, and seems, in my opinion to make the show an instant leveller.
I think people of my generation are so surprised to see an "ethnic" character played with gusto, and for laughs, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that at no point are the characters or the culture the butt of the joke. The wouldn't have played 10 or 15 years ago, but I think it's that level of "is it OK to laugh at/with this?" that makes it a guilty pleasure for adults.
What I also like about the show is that it's not going to wash over kids too much, in that way that most, too-accessible telly does... the kind that's made by people who think you'll turn off or stop listening the second you hear a reference you don't recognise. Kids aren't going to catch every syllable, even with the patois turned down quite a few notches (if Dat by Pluto Shervington could be considered 11 on the patois scale, you're probably looking at a low 2 at best). Floating a few things over kids' heads is how you get them hooked; at least that's what I think. You learn new words and phrases through context, so a few noises they won't yet recognise won't, I hope, cause people to switch for the off button.
Bob the Builder, with his box of tools and gang of white, somehow middle-class friends promoted all that was mediocre about kids' telly, whereas I can't wait to see a Rastamouse track hit the no1 spot, 'cos it'll give me a smile. I don't listen to the radio much, so I probably won't even get the chance to hate it either. Bonus.
Plus, if there's even a chance that the @rastam0use Twitter account is genuine, I applaud everyone involved.