I feel like I’m ahead of the curve on this one—I haven’t seen much of anyone talking about it, and both its Wikipedia and IMDb pages are very brief. But Irene absolutely adores it, despite what any number of adults seem to believe she’ll think based on her age. She calls it “Baby” and is perfectly content to watch as much of it as I’ll let her, when she’s in the mood. I’ve seen a review of it suggesting it’s more her brother’s speed, for reasons we’ll get to, but he’s not as interested as she is. It is pretty well at a two-year-old level, in my opinion.
Bheem is probably about one. He lives with his mother in a small Indian village. Regulars on the show include his mother, her friend or possibly sister, that woman’s son (slightly older than Bheem but probably not more than about three or four), the teenage babysitter, another local woman, and her twin sons. There are also assorted animals, both wild and domesticated. There are thieves, soldiers, entertainers, shopkeepers, and so forth. Bheem is an active, energetic boy full of curiosity and compassion. He is also enormously strong.
This is, I believe, because he is roughly based on the Sanskrit equivalent of Hercules. I am not hugely familiar with Indian folklore, I must admit, nor am I familiar at all with Sanskrit epics. But this is sort of the Inidian equivalent of having a whole show revolving around the first few minutes of Disney’s “Pecos Bill,” where he’s just living with the coyotes. Only with his mom, I guess. Like a cross between that and the beginning of “Paul Bunyan.” Bheem is never deliberately naughty, but he has the intellectual ability of, well, a one-year-old and greater strength than even the strongman demonstrating in one episode.
Its being nonverbal is in no small part so it doesn’t have to overcome any language barrier, of course. Bheem himself is of an age where he wouldn’t be talking yet, at least likely not more than a few words, but the others, including the grown-ups, don’t talk, either. There are speechlike noises, and that’s it. Then again, I’m not sure we need much in the way of dialogue, since our protagonist is a baby.
Which is, to be blunt, why this doesn’t really appeal to Simon. He’s six. A baby crawling around and getting in the way and so forth just doesn’t do anything for him. Simon will watch it if it’s on, but it’s never his choice to do so, whereas Irene asks for “baby” sometimes before she’s asked what she wants to watch. Bheem is cute enough, and I suppose Simon’s learned some about India from it, but it just doesn’t appeal to him.
What I find most interesting is that I have absolutely no idea when it’s set. There are no motor vehicles, no machines, nothing along those lines. There are horses, carts, guards with spears, and so forth. On the other hand, when Bheem gets washed, it’s under a tap, so there’s obviously plumbing. Bheem and his mother live in a house that is clearly one big room, but the doctor has a modern stethoscope and is going to give the children a shot when they’re sick. There’s royalty running around the place, and all the stores are open stalls in a marketplace. I don’t think they have electricity. Certainly there is no TV or radio.
As shows my kids like go, it’s not bad; certainly, it’s inoffensive enough, at least to me. I’ll honestly sometimes encourage Irene to choose it because it’s easy for me to ignore, which is not the case with everything Simon and Irene watch, goodness knows. Still, at least it’s showing them something of other cultures, even if it’s in an indeterminate time that has nothing to do with modern India, particularly.