Well, who wouldn’t want to go to sleep with an A-lister? From Ryan Reynolds to Tom Hiddleston, every Hollywood heartthrob has been drafted in to put their dulcet tones to good use and read the Bedtime Story on CBeebies - much to the delight of adults everywhere. And the latest star to cause a frisson with their intensely whispered night-time tale? Harry Styles.
That’s right, as if he hadn’t caused enough sexual tension with the release of his new album last week, Styles is now spicing up bedtime and everyone (well, we doubt it’s actually the toddlers) has been Googling 'harry styles cbeebies bedtime stories' 'harry styles cbeebies bedtime story' and 'harry styles bedtime story'. So, what goes down in the episode?
‘Hello, I’m Harry. Welcome to my house,’ Styles says with a twinkly yet sincere gaze as he perches in an armchair wearing polka dot Gucci pyjamas. ‘I love it here,’ he continues. ‘I like to listen to music and read and hang out with my friends. Tonight’s bedtime story is about a house full of love and laughter,’ he adds before launching into a rendition of In Every House On Every Street by Jess Hitchman.
Styles is just the latest in a long line of handsome famous faces to help send the nation’s under-fives off to beddy-byes - while giving their mums a cheeky treat too. It’s a trend that comes with a knowing sisterly wink and we whole-heartedly approve.
Christmas Eve got a whole lot more exciting when Tom Hardy read An Odd Dog Christmas By Rob Biddulph. Earlier last year, Tom ‘I should be so Loki’ Hiddleston popped up to riff on his Marvel persona with the tale of heroic spud Supertato, written by Paul Linnet and Sue Hendra. His dramatic narration was child-enchanting. His tailored knitwear and impish grin were a sight for sore parental eyes at the end of a long day. He is the God of Mischief, after all.
Other tickers of the ‘one for the mums’ box in recent years include Joaquin Phoenix, Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, David Schwimmer, Tom ‘Lucifer’ Ellis, David Tennant, Orlando Bloom, James McAvoy and Josh Homme from Queens Of The Stone Age (a treat for indie types there).Everyone’s a winner. The proper target audience get sent off happily to dreamland, while their parents indulge in some idle fantasies of their own.
Yep, the BBC’s pre-school channel certainly knows its audience. On Mother’s Day last year, it cunningly scheduled Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page, aka Regency heart-throb The Duke of Hastings, as the storyteller. Watching him read Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Prasadam-Halls in a husky drawl, grown-up viewers came over all a-flutter.
The swooning Gogglebox cast captured the national mood. 'Ooh, he's doing his sexy voice and come-to-bed eyes,' said Ellie Warner from Leeds, leading her sister Izzi to reply: 'Smouldering, isn't he?' Brighton hairdresser Stephen Webb admitted: ‘I just want to lick the telly.’ Caerphilly’s Shirley Griffiths asked her husband Dave: ‘Are you sure this is for kids?’ Happy Mother’s Day indeed.
The phenomenon began in 2017 when Tom Hardy - who was being a bearded, tattooed bad boy in both Taboo and Peaky Blinders at the time - was invited to read Helen Stephens’ Fleabag. Not to be confused with Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Hot Priest-fancying, fourth wall-breaking comedy, this one was an adorable story about a boy adopting a scruffy rescue dog.
Tucked under a pink blanket, Hardy cuddled a dog-shaped soft toy with one arm and his actual hound Woody - a rescue dog himself - with the other. Hardy’s usual gruff tones were replaced with a tender whisper. Together with the low lighting and intimate setting, it was enough to make a grown woman blush.
Just when things couldn’t get much more emosh, it turned out that dear old Woody had died between recording and transmission. Hardy said it was a fitting tribute, dedicating the broadcast to Woody’s memory. What? I’ve just got something in my eye, that’s all.
It proved a game-changing moment, adding an extra dimension to the hitherto cutesy show. Suddenly it wasn’t just a way to help hyperactive toddlers feel sleepy by 7pm. Parents could get something out of it too.
Hardy’s stories have since been requested more than 1m times on iPlayer, making him the most popular guest in CBeebies history. We’ll wager it’s not kids eagerly typing his name into the search bar.
When fellow Hollywood heart-throb Chris 'Captain America' Evans read Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelley Becker shortly afterwards, he just happened to be wearing a tight white T-shirt. Mums on social media seemed to enjoy it more than their toddlers.
‘Watching CBeebies even though the wee one is in bed. Wonder why?’ tweeted one. Another added: ‘Of course, I’m only watching this for my daughter #hubbahubba’.
During lockdown, Hardy returned to cheer up the nation with ‘Tom Week’, hosting a whole five nights. This time he was accompanied by his French bulldog, Blue. 'Hello, I’m Tom,' he murmured as his stint began. 'Sometimes on a day like this, I feel strong and happy. But on other days, I just need somebody to give me a hug.' There was no shortage of volunteers across Britain.
During lockdown, Hardy returned to cheer up the nation with ‘Tom Week’, hosting a whole five nights
Of course, CBeebies Bedtime Stories isn’t just a pre-watershed perving opportunity. Across 800 episodes, it’s attracted all manner of A-list guests - from rocketman Sir Elton John to rhinestone-spangled Dolly Parton.
Arriving straight after In The Night Garden’s Iggle Piggle waves goodnight, the iconic slot performs a valuable parental respite service. It’s a warm and fuzzy full stop at the end of the day. A soothing part of the parenting routine, with the added benefit of putting books at the heart of family life.
It’s also an equal opportunities lech-fest, with the likes of Isla Fisher, Natalie Dormer and Rosamund Pike among its alumni. For a previous Father’s Day episode, the storyteller just happened to be glossy-haired 90s favourite Cat Deeley...
However, none of the female readers have generated the buzz of the aesthetically pleasing men. CBeebies often seems to slyly schedule the male pin-ups for a Friday, when it might well be #wineoclock or gin-in-a-tin time for women anyone who's earned a little bonus after a long week at the coal face of childcare.
Thanks to Harry Styles, Tom Hardy and their other handsome pals, CBeebies Bedtime Stories has unexpectedly become the latest port of call for Hollywood A-listers - right up there with The Graham Norton Show, West End premieres and awards show red carpets.
Children like it. Their mums love it. And they all lived happily ever after. The end.
CBeebies Bedtime Stories airs every weekday at 6.50pm and is also available on BBC iPlayer