Can somebody make a kid’s show that doesn’t cause frontal lobe entropy?
December 13, 2016
After hearing my 3 year old shout “yes we mechanic-can!” about 23 times during her afternoon bath yesterday (because naps were a big fat bomb. Napping on a Monday? That’s for losers, mom. Signed, most of my kids.), I got to wondering if there would ever be a kid’s show that doesn’t suck so profoundly that I can actually hear the brains siphoning out of their little skulls over the gentle hum of Netflix streaming from my smudgy old laptop.
I give you some examples of the cultural wasteland poor misfortunate millennial toddlers are forced to wade through for their entertainment options:
Daniel Tiger. Daniel Tiger is the worst. His songs are the worst, his adult caretakers are the worst, and his apparently insatiable need to be sung to for life lessons to sink in real deep…also the worst. Daniel Tiger’s parents spend 98% of their waking hours either making up songs about flushing and washing and being on your way or reassuring Daniel that they will not permanently leave him. Because he is such a terrible anthropomorphic being that it’s a real possibility they would want to. I don’t think either of his parents can actually hold a job, because it would require leaving Daniel’s orbit for more than 90 consecutive minutes, and it might require him to face some discounting real-world situation without the ammunition of a self-soothing theme song. Also, show me a toddler who has ever been edified by learning a timeless lesson about the inherent goodness of sharing blocks. And then prove that he isn’t on mood-stabilizing pharmaceuticals.
Maybe I’m being too hard on Daniel. But you? You’ve heard the songs. You know how they embed into your subconscious and haunt your dreams.
Justin Time. This one is new house favorite, and as far as I can tell, it’s about a mushroom trip that lasts and lasts. The co-stars of the show are a little boy named Justin and a flying piece of cheese called Squidgy that can shape shift. Sometimes while sitting around the dinner table, my 6 year old will wax nostalgic about something hilarious that Squidgy did in a recently viewed episode, and I will experience a searing moment of certainty that I am failing him as a parent.
To add insult to injury, the animation in Justin’s world is so tragically 2-dimensional and repetitive that I can’t even lie to myself that they’re being redeemed by some kind of accidental exposure to digital art. It’s exactly like watching a Nintendo 64 video game on a continuous loop for 23 excruciating minutes. But louder and with lessons! learned!
Animal Mechanicals. See above description of breathtaking graphics. But at least this show has a Sasquatch. 3 guys in a dorm room in Tokyo wrote this show in 1999 and designed it entirely on their Gateway PC using Paintbrush.
Octonauts. This one I have to be gentle with because to be fair, my kids all know what Adelie penguins are thanks to Captain Barnacle. And ADELIE PENGUINS ARE ADORABLE. But we also have a book about penguins, so that could also be the source of their information. The Octonauts thematic format is so distressingly repetitive as to be almost on par with Special Agent Oso, but with slightly less annoying theme music. My children are being trained to expect linear results in 3 special steps that can only predict future pain and frustration in the realm of real life. I will not tell them how I know this, because I am not that cruel.
(Why not just shield them from the banal mind-melding power of children’s programming you ask? To which I cackle. THERE ARE FOUR OF THEM AND IT IS 14 DEGREES OUTSIDE. And we’ve already read the Boxcar Children for 40 minutes today.)
Plus, who am I to cripple future John Paul’s chances at mopping the floor at a 2010’s trivia night at a college dive bar one day in the distant future when a hologram pitcher of PBR vintage could be resting on the answer of “What is the name of Dora’s inappropriately affectionate cousin who lacks control over vocal intonation and pitch?”
Diego. Beer me.
Honorable mention goes to The Magic School Bus which has amazing graphics from the 90s and is all-around awesome, minus the thinly veiled and omnipresent subplot written entirely by the church of ecology, and Dragon Tales which I do not remember ever seeing as a child, but which also appears to involve young children tripping on psychedelic drugs and deadbeat parents who are unaware when their children are absent from the home for 5-7 hours on a given day.
Julian Fellowes, if you could come down off your high horse of crafting witty banter and cerebral content aimed at an adult audience, we could sure use you around the 0-7 subset. I’d like my kids to be learning less about potty time manners and more about navigating the complicated socioeconomic scene of turn of the century England. Or at least about fox hunting.
P.s. Did I miss one of your house favorites that you love to hate? This is a safe space. Don’t be shy.