Review: The Sarah Jane Adventures 1×1

Sarah Jane Adventures

In the UK: Mondays, 5pm, BBC1

In the US: God knows

Blimey. Don’t know about you but it’s been a while since I tuned into Children’s BBC. Okay, technically I didn’t, because Bastard, my PVR, failed to record this and I had to borrow a copy, but all the same, I feel very odd, tuning into a programme that’s put out by the broom cupboard people of yore.

The action picks up where the pilot left off, back in sunny, not too offensive BBC-land. Luke the Asperger’s wannabe (oh yes, They’ll be watching, you know They will), with his poor social skills but top notch science powers, is ensconced in Sarah Jane’s house as a surrogate son. The female neighbour is still living with her nice dad and improbably brain dead mother.

Everything is pretty much as it was before, except the intrusion of the “a little bit too inner city for our liking” female sidekick from the pilot has been rebuffed by those fearsome BBC bosses and a less gabby male sidekick from Zone 6 of the tube map has been added to the roster of alien defeaters. He’s more generic, less screamy. He’s more parent-friendly. He’s just what the Beeb is looking for.

And so we canter through the plot. Blah blah blah school invaded again. Blah blah blah investigate. Blah blah blah aliens. I can see a pattern forming here.

All the same, who cares? It looks like the joy of The Sarah Jane Adventures is going to be the joy of old-school Doctor Who:

  1. Running up and down corridors, then hiding from aliens/guards
  2. Rubbish looking aliens constantly invading the British Isles with rubbish schemes
  3. Humorous character interaction

As a formula, it works and as the good old Teletubbies showed, there’s nothing kids like more than a bit of repetition.

For an episode called Revenge of the Slitheen (or Return: I really can’t be arsed to look it up), the cliffhanger reveal seemed a little drawn out. Yes, we know it’s them. Can we please get on with it? But again, just like a pantomime, the joy is in the kids knowing and waiting for everyone to catch up.

It’s behind you!

Actually, the Slitheen, fart gags, fat jokes and overacting intact from Doctor Who, seem far more bearable in their native territory (television for the under-10s) than facing off against Christopher “It’s grim up North – and you can tell that from my face. Do you see me smiling? Do you? Do you?” Eccleston on the mothership. So if this could be some kind of an overflow channel for all the sillier RTD ideas, that would be simply spiffy.

So all in all, a perfectly paced piece of kids’ TV, although maybe a little too safe at times. More Blue Peter than Magpie when it comes to “things parents approve of their kids watching”, it also provided a few nice moments for the inevitable older viewer tuning in (oh look, that would be me. And you), such as a reference to Manimal. You really can’t knock a show that mentions Manimal. It’s also fun to see kids getting a positive role model for journalistic behaviour (won’t they be disappointed when they find out what it actually involves)

If you can spare 25 minutes a week and have even a slight interest in old school Who, it’s fun to tune in and see Lis Sladen finally get rewarded with her own show. If you have kids who have graduated from The Night Garden, you can stick them in front of TSJA without much concern, I reckon.

Everyone else, seriously, it’s kids TV. Why are you watching it?

  • Mark H Wilkinson

    It strikes me that, with children’s drama’s training wheels being what they are, SJA gives the impression that the world is safer in the hands of three kids and a middle-aged spinster than it could ever be in those of a team of professionals comprising a date rapist, a depressed tea boy, an occasionally murderous immortal, a Cardiff PC, and a repressed computer nerd.
    Now that I read that back, of course it’s safer with the kiddies. You couldn’t trust the other bunch with a screwdriver.

  • TemplarJ

    What really amazed me was the liberal use of the word ‘fart’.
    It’s the first real sign that I am now a distant generation away from today’s kids. I was excluded from class and had to spend a day in ‘isolation’ (their word) in the nurse’s room, with the nurse present which did rather compromise the notion of isolation, because I said out loud to a teacher that a classmate had farted. Now it’s a CBBC standard verb. They’ll have TVs in their bedroom next.
    SJA? Seemed fine, but I was obviously not the target audience. Doubt I’ll make much effort to follow it, even if the next story did look rather juicy.

  • They mentioned “Manimal” as a TV show. Uhoh. Looks like I’ll have a Zonk to deal with.
    I’m looking forward to this series, being a big Sarah Jane fan. I know I’ll be able to see it via ~ahem~ magical means, but I hope it’ll be available to the kids over here in the States. We’ve already got ‘Doctor Who’ on Sci-Fi and BBC-A, and ‘Torchwood’ on BBC-A…. I wonder who would be a good channel for carying ‘Sarah Jane’?

  • It feels (and looks) a little like a comparatively slowly paced Nickelodeon show.

  • Of course, year 10 is when it all changes. And they’ve got to be ready.

  • I enjoyed it – still looked good, and there were some good lines (‘study hard, because I can guarantee that none of you will become pop stars’).
    And you’re right, the Slitheen have found their natural home in this show, and they worked. Especially liked mini-Slitheen. Good call, that.