Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Wonderful and the WTF of Children's Television

Yes, I let my <1 year old watch TV.  Before she was mobile, it entertained her so that I could lay her on our bed, build a pillow fort around her and go take a shower.  Sometimes on a Sunday morning I just need to make coffee and inhale a muffin without her hanging on my pajama pants.  This is most easily accomplished by putting her down in front of 50” of color and movement and sing-songs.    Hey – you do what you gotta do. 

Now that my horrendous parenting methods are fully on display, let’s discuss.

As someone who watched cartoons and kid’s shows well into her teens, I figured I knew what I was in for.  I knew Blues Clues inside and out thanks to the neighbors I used to babysit for.  I was vaguely familiar with Bob the Builder and a few random others because of our nephews and friends’ children.  Because of youth group, I was even pretty well versed in the antics of the Veggie Tales (“Oh Where is my Hairbrush?” anyone??  Anyone??).  It seems that more than a few years will really put you out of the loop though.  Did you know they replaced Steve on Blues Clues?  Yeah, I didn’t either until a few months ago.  Joe is great and all, but it’s just not the same.  Don’t get me started on the “Gotta Go” song he does about using the bathroom.  It’s disturbing.  Joe isn’t even his real name; the only thing that would have been cornier would have been to name him Steve II.  But I digress…

So as I’m watching Nick Jr. with Kayla these days, I find myself smiling a lot at these shows.  I also find myself scratching my head quite a bit.  I’ve been kicking these thoughts around and wanted to see if any of my parent friends feel the same way as I do. 

The Show:  Yo Gabba Gabba

The Premise:  DJ Lance and friends interact between the real world and Gabba Land.  Through song and dance, they teach all kinds of lessons about the world around them and interacting with others. 

The Wonderful: The guest stars on this show are awesome.  The episode with Jack Black was particularly entertaining.  The songs are catchy and I’ve noticed Kayla bouncing along when they sing and dance. 

The WTF: I’ve been known to describe this show as “what I imagine a bad acid trip would be like.”  It’s frantically paced and a little bit disjointed.  The whole “Super Martian Robot Girl” segment is particularly weird and out of place.  There’s something unnatural about DJ Lance but I can’t put my finger on it. 

The Show: Ni Hao Kai-Lan

The Premise:  Kai-Lan and her friends Hoho the monkey, Rintoo the tiger and Tolee the Koala have fun adventures together.  Every show has a theme and at some point a conflict arises.  Kai Lan and her friends work together to solve the problem and everyone is happy. 

The wonderful: Kayla absolutely lights up when she hears the theme music for this show.  The focus on Chinese culture in this show is great.  They teach kids words in Chinese (although sometimes Kai-Lan and her grandfather Ye Ye pronounce things a little differently, which I find confusing) and celebrate things like Chinese New Year. 

The WTF: Besides the koala with an identity crisis (he really wants to be a panda, but I guess the show’s writers thought that would be too clich√©) it seems that they don’t always get the moral of the story quite right.  In one episode, Rintoo upsets Tolee by wrecking his house and when Tolee gets mad, they talk him into forgiving Rintoo so he won’t feel bad.  I think Rintoo needed to learn to be less rambunctious and he should have felt bad.  Tolee should have forgiven him because he was ready to accept his apology, not because he didn’t want him to feel bad.  Then again, maybe I’m just cynical. 

The Show:  Max and Ruby

The Premise: Max and Ruby are brother and sister rabbits.  They are often at odds, although Max’s perceived silliness often gets them to the desired end anyway. 

The Wonderful: Max’s one liners.  Seriously – he usually only gets to say 1 word per episode.  Over and over. 

The WTF:  Ruby is a bossy little thing, and very self-righteous.  Grandma bunny occasionally makes appearances on the show, but where are their parents?  Ruby babysits a baby bunny for his mom.  She has a “Bunny Scout” leader.  The world isn’t entirely devoid of authority figures, or even parents.  Theirs are the only ones missing.  It makes no sense to me. 

The Show:  The Wonder Pets

The Premise:  A group of three classroom pets travels the world saving other baby animals during after school time. 

The Wonderful:  The use of classical music in this show is particularly good.  The portrayal of different cultures or places is decent, if not a bit stereotype heavy. The emphasis on not giving up and working together towards a common goal is nice. 

The WTF:  I give the creators of this one imagination points, but the whole idea of a guinea pig, a duck and a turtle flying all over the globe in a bowl is a little ridiculous.  The Wonder Pets celebrate every success with celery – do all of those animals really eat celery?  I’m going to have to test that one out. 

I’m sure I will have future installments of “The Wonderful and the WTF” to come.  I didn’t even begin to delve into the world of Bruce A. Moose yet.  I could probably dedicate a post a day to him for like a month.  Sesame Street is also notably different from the show I knew and loved as a child and that merits some discussion.  Then again I mentally started ticking some of these things off 9 months or so ago, so it could be awhile until I can crank out another one. 

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