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Postman Pat goes postal

Kids' classic gets high-octane makeover

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Listen carefully and you may detect a mutter of discontent grumbling through the blogosphere at the news, sprung last week, that Postman Pat has had a 21st Century makeover.

Out goes the loveable local postman, puttering unhurriedly through the Cumbrian countryside. In comes "high-octane", "energetic" Pat, who has been compared to James Bond by his makers and who ends each episode by declaring: "Mission accomplished."

High-octane? Or postman on speed? As befits Pat’s new status as head of the Special Delivery Service, he now has a number of hi-tech gadgets to help him through the day. These include a gyrocopter, a motorbike with sidecar (for Jess, obviously), a satnav and a mobile phone – which vibrates alarmingly in his pocket every time someone calls him. No doubt more gadgets will be forthcoming.

He has swapped the leafy lanes of Greendale for nearby urban Pencaster, and every aspect of his life from theme tune to the way he walks has been subtly speeded up. In the first episode of the new series, he can be seen leaping into the air to catch a falling Jess.

He is also going to be delivering far more odd-shaped items - live animals and inflatable strongholds among them. Cue a series of plots based around the difficulties of inserting this or that item into the traditional delivery channels.

According to Jane Smith, chief commercial and creative director of Entertainment Rights Ltd, the company behind Pat:

"He is more heroic. Previously, Pat was everybody’s friend, everybody’s local postman.

"He is now everybody’s local hero because he has so many more challenges in his job. He delivers everything and anything – animals, bouncy castles, live bats, a runaway cow – and he has a mission every episode.

"There is a lot more action; children are used to seeing a lot of fast-paced programmes now."

She may well be right. A three year-old comments "It was great," before adding: "Shut up. I can’t hear the telly."

Remakes are always an emotive topic, almost universally rejected by the generation brought up on the original and, after ten years or so, welcomed by the generation that only knows the made-over version. After all, it is only TV – and possibly some of the bloggers protest too much.

That said, there are some aspects of the changes that may have more to do with hard commercial reality than the welfare of the programme’s audience. Although it is shown on the BBC, Postman Pat is made and owned by an American Company, Entertainment Rights Ltd (ER).

ER recently sold the US rights for the series to American digital network, Qubo, which means that episodes will be shown on NBC, Telemundo and ION Media Networks. Could it be that a souped-up 21st century postman is more understandable to American kids than a loveable laid-back Cumbrian?

There is a slight nod in the direction of political correctness, with the introduction of wheelchair-bound Lizzie, the daughter of Pat’s new boss. Preparation, too, for the modern world of work, as Pat’s smartphone can be used to track his progress – and instead of knowing all the local shortcuts, Pat now seems to consult his satnav a great deal to work out where to go.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this is that ER also owns the rights to shows such as Little Red Tractor and Rupert Bear. We will know that the makeover trend has gone too far when Rupert swaps his black and yellow checks for tracksuit and hoody – and trades in his open-top car for a Hummer.

Bootnote

Compare the old and the new, with samples from both programmes here. ®

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