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Mat Yoyo: Not quite child’s play

SINGAPORE — The fact that the children’s pre-school TV series Mat Yoyo — The New Generation will be back for a third season means two things. One, your children will be entertained by 20 new episodes — complete with new faces and content. And two, the show’s ridiculously catchy theme song will probably be stuck in your heads for a while.

SINGAPORE — The fact that the children’s pre-school TV series Mat Yoyo — The New Generation will be back for a third season means two things. One, your children will be entertained by 20 new episodes — complete with new faces and content. And two, the show’s ridiculously catchy theme song will probably be stuck in your heads for a while.

“It’s so amazing that a song can just be one note throughout the whole chorus,” laughed Joanne-Marie Sim, the new female host on the English-language version of the show. Sim replaces Kim Wakerman, who hosted the first two seasons. Her co-host, 987FM deejay Joakim Gomez, returns from the second season, but their two cat-friends Yoyo and Yaya are played by two new child actors.

“They are so fun to be around, they make you feel young again,” said Gomez of Yoyo and Yaya. “It makes me miss being a kid.”

Mat Yoyo first aired in Malay from 1982 to 1994, and was hosted by veteran actor-comedian Mat Sentul and the male cat character Yoyo. It was revived in 2012 as Mat Yoyo — The New Generation, running in English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, and telecast across four of MediaCorp’s TV channels: okto (English), Suria (Malay), Channel 8 (Mandarin) and Vasantham (Tamil). Season 3 of the Malay version started last month, with the English version premiering on March 3. The Tamil version begins on April 4, while the Mandarin version will start on April 13.

Catherine Yap, Senior Programming Director, Channel Management/Programming Strategy & Planning, TV, okto, said the fact that the series has consistently performed above the time-belt average on all four channels is a testament to the show’s long-lasting popularity.

What’s the secret of its popularity? As Gomez and Sim said, the children really just want to see the cats.

Q: Be honest, now: What is the worst thing about working with kids?

Gomez: For me, it’s going close to their cat costumes, because it’s full of fur. When I breathe in, I start to sneeze!

Sim: Actually the poor boy (who plays) Yoyo was allergic to his own fur. He was sneezing, but he just went on with the show and didn’t complain.

Q: Has working with children made you want to be parents?

Sim: I think kids are very cute when they are not yours. You can have so much fun with them. You can do whatever you want. There are no limits to what you can do. But if I had kids who bounce off the wall all the time ... I don’t know, man.

Gomez: I am a bit too young to think about fatherhood, but I believe I’ll make a cool dad one day. I’d probably be one of those fathers who’ll play with babies and make those machine-gun sounds.

Q: What’s one trick you use when kids start misbehaving?

Sim: The who-can-keep-quiet-for-the-longest-time game. But it only works with kids who like winning. There are some kids who don’t really care (but) if you just talk to them nicely, they are quite responsive and cooperative.

Gomez: The kids are so passionate. But I think also you should address them in an intelligent manner.

Sim: Treat them like equals, like individuals. Kids nowadays are very smart. If you talk down to them, they don’t deal well with that.

Gomez: And they know.

Q: Is it tiring to be so upbeat all the time on the show?

Sim: But how can you feel tired when there are all these kids who are so excited to see you and the show?

Gomez: A kid’s show might look very simple to do. But it’s not. There is a lot of hard work. A lot of people scrutinise what we say on TV. We have to make sure we pronounce something correctly. We have to make sure we’re always smiling and friendly.

Sim: The audience is always so besotted with the cats! Joakim and I are always trying to give them instructions and they just look at the cats. They just want to touch the cats.

Catch Season 3 of the English version of Mat Yoyo weekdays from March 3, 10am and 1pm on okto.

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