I may be slightly older than the target audience for this particular show, but when it comes to Tracy Beaker (or indeed anything and anyone created by Jacqueline Wilson), it seems that I’ll never grow up. And with gems like this being produced for children, why should big kids like me miss out?
Tracy Beaker Returns is a spin-off of the BBC series The Story of Tracy Beaker, which in turn is based on the phenomenally successful books by Jacqueline Wilson. It follows spunky ex-care kid Tracy Beaker (Dani Harmer), now working in the same care home where she grew up. Although only Harmer and Connor Byrne (who plays care worker Mike Milligan) remain from the original series, it still retains its spirit as well as its setting, in The Dumping Ground.
It is mostly a rather romanticised view of care which is presented in the series, with the children playing happily together and getting up to mischief, but the show also touches upon some of the more serious issues of life in care, packaging these messages in a format appropriate for children. Some of the problems which they have to deal with will resonate with children in all situations too, such as the latest episode, Eggs, in which the children have to prove that they can be responsible.
The script is excellent, as is the acting, with incredible performances from the young cast. Each child has their own distinct personality, from Harry (Philip Graham Scott), who spends most of his time talking to his toy giraffe Jeff, to Elektra (Jessica Revell), a feisty teen who gets herself into much more grown-up scrapes. I am sure that almost anyone watching the programme will find one child who they can relate to, one who they would want to have as their friend, and one who they love to hate. This, for me, is the mark of good characterisation.
So don’t dismiss Tracy Beaker Returns as being “just for children”. It’s funny, inspiring, heart-warming (and, at times, heart-breaking) and if you’re missing out on it just because you think you’re too old, then shame on you!