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May 2010

Sooty - The Big Surprise

featuring: Matthew Corbett, Sooty, Sweep, and Soo

100 minutes (U) 1968-92
Fremantle DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
review by James A. Stewart



SOOTY episodes on this DVD:

The Big Surprise
Hidden Talent
Sticky Situation
Little Cousin Scampi
Fanatical Fun

Sooty - The Big Surprise

Ah, remember the days when children's TV wasn't all about CGI and celebrity voices giving another world feeling to the innocent entertainment medium that was only really shown between 3.30 and 5pm weekdays? Nowadays there are dozens of channels showing 12+ hours of Mickey Mouse or the like. Back from those halcyon days of limited TV in the 1970s and 1980s came The Sooty Show which even had a family dynasty of sorts, presented as it was by the Corbetts.

In Sooty - The Big Surprise, Fremantle Home Entertainment has packaged together five shows from series and put them out in a low-budget DVD, no doubt hoping for a new generation of fans to emerge. The trouble is that today's market for a child's attention is cut-throat and there is not likely to be a stampede at the stores from five-year olds desperate to get their mitts on this release.

The other market Sooty appeals to is, of course, the grown-up with kids... I watched this DVD with my son who is coming up for three and he was bored before I was. In many ways there is an endearing charm to Sooty. We have the almost mute bear that only Matthew Corbett can hear, the squeaky dog who, helpfully, Matthew translates for, and the overly clever panda who is a match for Matthew's brain every day of the week.

Other endearing elements come from the fact that the production values in Sooty appear to be quite low by today's slick standards, there are mistakes galore, (at one point a button is undone on Matthew's shirt and you can see his naval) and this adds to feeling of chaos and haste that no doubt led to the mistakes but also some of the accidental mirth throughout.

The popularity of Sooty at the time is demonstrated by the appearance of Nicko McBrain in second episode, Hidden Talent, which is actually a quite enjoyable diversion, when viewed from the perspective of a child. There is excellent and real music being played, not some computer generated melody, and the chance to see a dog, a panda and a bear jam with a member of Iron Maiden is the kind of surreal sight which happens all too infrequently.

Sooty - The Big Surprise is a fun DVD with reminders of yesteryear aplenty, there is a comical innocence to the show. It wasn't the greatest offering of the era and time hasn't been too kind to the show, but the fact remains that in its pomp the little yellow bear with the magic wand was an institution and entertained millions of UK children. The humour is very British and at times cringe-worthy but what makes me smile more than anything after all this time is just how much Matthew seemed to be enjoying himself.



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