The cast and creators behind CBBC’s runaway success, Horrible Histories, hit our screens again last November with Sky One’s family comedy Yonderland, a tremendously funny and delightfully silly fantasy show about mum of two Debbie (Martha Howe-Douglas) who finds herself adrift after her kids begin school. Little does she know that her pantry contains a portal to a colourful world full of wacky characters, where it seems she might have a vital role to play!
Reuniting the comedy talent behind Horrible Histories, in addition to Howe-Douglas, the show boasts Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard, Ben Willbond, Simon Farnaby, and Mat Baynton in a variety of roles. It’s about to be released on DVD, bursting with puppetry, quests, silliness and satire: so is it worth a watch?
What’s It About? After Debbie (Howe-Douglas) sends her twins off to school for the first time, she finds her life a little empty. But when an elf stumbles through her pantry from a portal in a fantastical world, she can’t stay bored for long. Yonderland is a colourful and strange place, filled with weirdly wonderful creatures. Debbie soon learns that in this world she is considered a Chosen One, destined to save the land from oncoming darkness – especially the conniving villain Negatus. But as she sets out on her quest to save the land and its curious people, she finds it hard to balance her life as a mum and her life as the Chosen One.
Verdict: Debbie is a great central character. She’s easy to relate to, smart, loyal, and even though she often plays the straight guy to the wackier characters, she still gets to be cheeky. And you can’t underestimate how good it is to see a mum being the hero in a kids’ show for a change!
Elf has all the charm of the marvellous Jim Henson puppets – which are a huge part of the show’s style and work seamlessly with the live action – but he has enough snark to make for an interesting double act with Debbie. Add in the cynical grumbling of Nick the Talking Stick and you end up with an entertaining trio to head up the show each week. Secondary characters, like the Elders, Negatus, the Monks, the Ninnies, and so many more, are both testament to the quality comic talent of the versatile cast and are inspired creations in themselves.
The show also has genuine moments of satire that grown-ups will love. The news dragon springs to mind (“Right wing or left wing?”) and the race of Ninnies who remain profoundly stupid because of their tradition of firing the cleverest of their kind into the sun. The occasional moment of gratuitous nudity, the pitch perfect delivery, and the spot-on gags all add to these warm and witty stories.
This wonderful family show is the perfect mix of whimsy, wonder, sharp humour, and fun, sure to put a smile on many faces. Yonderland is simply bursting with joyful creations: the vivid settings, wonderful costumes, inventive characters, charming puppets, hilarious escapades, hopeless villains, clever humour, and very subtle cheekiness make it perfect viewing for all the family, not just the kids!
Extras: There is a 25-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that includes interviews with all the main cast, as well as making-of footage of the show in production. The creators discuss the writing process, the production design, the look of the show, and much more. We get to see the smaller, more intricate details that you might miss and the cast all prove to be lovely people, who clearly love the show as much as viewers do. It’s a really sweet addition to the DVD that will please fans.
Final Words: A witty blend of comedy, adventure, fantasy, and tongue-in-cheek fun, Yonderland is a fantastic successor to Horrible Histories and has been favourably compared to Monty Python in its warmth, wit, and the calibre of comic performance. It’ll have you chuckling in minutes and will certainly put a smile on your face. Fun for all the family!
Yonderland is released on DVD on 17 February 2014.