June 16, 2006

Trains with faces! Whatever next?

Anyone else noticed the BBC's news kids cartoon called Underground Ernie based on the 'lives' of a group of London Underground trains with human faces and personalities?
Trains? With faces?
Hmm. Sounds familiar. Haven't cartoons about talking trains come a long way since the Rev Wilbert Awdry created Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends more than 50 years ago.*
I bet Thomas never had to deal with the grief and horror of disillusioned Jihadist youths packing ammonium nitrate onto Bertie the Bus's back bench and sending the whole lot to Paradise though. Immigration rules, afterall, were probably quite tight on the Island of Sodor - an altogether more pleasant paradise where locals sipped warm beer at the cricket grounds on long Summer evenings.
Awdry, however, was ahead of his time in at least one respect. The Sodor Railway Co had four black engines which is four more than Auntie Beeb's Underground Ernie. Granted, they weren't called Jamal or Tyrone, rather Donald, Douglas, Mavis and Diesel, but their presence puts to shame the broadcaster's professed policy of ensuring ethnic representation across it's range of programming.
So far the only non-Anglo-European characters are Osaka, who has a rising sun on his forehead and goes super-duper fast. Then there's Moscow who, you guessed it, hails from Russia. Presumably he is descended from post-war displaced Jewish trains as he has something strapped to his forehead which can only be described as a Star of David.
Given the conspicuous lack of ethnic minority trains, 16-year-old single-mum trains and right-wing BNP trains, the cast seem only to represent an idealised British middle-class as interpreted by coke-snorting media whores at the Beeb. Having said that, even though none of the trains are openly gay, I have my suspicions about Hammersmith and City.
I could wax lyrical for days about how socially representative (or not) the show really is but many important aspects, like attention to detail, are dazzling. The main characters, for example, are all filthy and covered in graffiti. Honestly. Just like Ken Livingsone's tube trains and ours, here in Glasgow.
Anyway, to save you the hassle and pain of actually watching the programme, I'll describe the cast for you.**
Here goes (the first three are the underground's human staff):
  • Ernie - Underground Supervisor. Used to be a policeman but got kicked off the force for downloading kiddie-porn on a work computer.
  • Millie - IT Expert. Pretty - in a Jessica Rabbit kind of way. Blatant attempt to spark little girls' interest in scientific subjects at school. More likely to spark little boys' interests under the duvet.
  • Mr Rails - Janitor. Village idiot. Only allowed to hang around because noone has the heart to tell him to fuck off.
  • Bakerloo - (pictured left) Flat-cap wearing Northern train who must have come down to London to find work after Thatcher crushed the miners.
  • Circle - Annoying middle-class college drop-out. Outwardly chirpy but probably quite depressed when home alone. One suspects she owns a cat.
  • Hammersmith and City - Both immaculate with trendy specs and fancy hair-dos. One in ten. You decide.
  • Jubilee - (pictured right) Broad grin and dilated pupils are clear indication of heavy recreational drug use.
  • Victoria - (pictured centre) Matriarchal figure now confined to a local authority old trains home. Was forced to sell the council siding she bought off Margaret Thatcher in the 80's to pay for her own care.
  • Brooklyn - Annoying American exchange train. Probably fancies Circle. Won't carry Arabs so it's just as well that in Ernie's London, there are none. "Hell, freedom ain't free folks."
  • Paris - Cheese-eating surrender monkey train. Nuff said.
  • Sydney - Blond Australian backpacker train. Claims to go 'non-stop to the beach'. Other trains wish she would shut the fuck up and go 'non-stop back to Australia', preferrably via Iraq.

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