Tuning In

I’m not sure how it happened, but we’ve cultivated a less-than-desirable morning routine of allowing Bee to watch TV bright and early. It is partly the result of a lapse between the time that I leave for work, and the time that Chris achieves semi-consciousness, and partly the result of sheer overindulgence.

Whatever the reason, Bee now watches a good 45 minutes of TV pretty much every morning. It’s worse on weekends, as neither one of us is willing to cop to a state of semi-consciousness until at least 8 am, and Bee can wake up as early as 6:30. She doesn’t notice that I’m lying on the couch, drooling if Diego is on. So between weekends and the occasional morning that I remain at home, I have become fairly well versed in television for toddlers.

It’s certainly not like when I was a kid – television was all about Sesame Street, Davey and Goliath (what? It’s old testament), Fables of the Green Forest and Mr. Dressup, and the weekends gave way to gems like The Harlem Globetrotters, Captain Caveman and Schoolhouse Rock.

And now? Well, Mr. Dressup is dead (r.i.p), Elmo has taken over the old ‘hood and The Green Forest must have been clear-cut. What do children today get? Nothing but a sorry mix of value tales and low-budget puppet porn – oh, wait…

Anyway, here are a few of what I consider to be the good, the bad, and the ugly of children’s television programming. Let the brain rotting begin:

The Good:
Zoboomofoo – I dig the little lemur's show, partly because this was Bee’s first TV show addiction, and partly because I like dorks, and you don’t get any dorkier than the Kratt Brothers. Sure, it’s formulaic, and yes, Zobooland is always recycled and rarely makes sense, but seriously, how cute is it to hear my kid say, ‘Oh, a kinkajou!’

Nanalan’ – everybody wishes she had a Nana like Nanalan’! Mona is one lucky puppet, what with a caregiver as invested as hers. Seriously, Nana never says, Mona, take your annoying dog and scram – Nana needs a gimlet. No, they’re too busy baking play-dough, frolicking in the rain and watching the best damn puppet shows I’ve ever seen on a, well, puppet show.

Backyardigans – the Backyardigans have flava’. Tyrone, Uniqua and the gang have the music, the moves, and the imagination. Makes me very intolerant of bad kids’ music on other shows, like…

The Bad:
Hi-5 Oh god. Shoot me now. Bee seems to enjoy watching this irritating gang of theatre-school dropouts prance around to the worst song-and-dance routines ever written. I want to smack the silly smiles right off of their faces. And I would, except I don’t want to get all tangled up in their gay headsets.

Arthur – I don’t know if this is such a terrible show, but I hate the style of animation. Can’t even bring myself to watch long enough to find out if it’s a really terrible show. Bee doesn’t like it either. Unfortunately she doesn’t mind…

Elmo’s World – like I said earlier, Elmo is just not in my scope of reality, and I didn’t particularly ever need him to be. I really got my hate on for the little red weirdo when I worked at a toy store during the Tickle Me Elmo craze. I don’t know, inviting someone to tickle you just seems dirty, man. And what’s with the stupid fish? It’s not like she contributes anything.

The Ugly:
Big Comfy Couch – this is the one that I truly can’t stand. I’m not sure if it’s the totally low-budge, chaotic sets, the fucking clown noses, or the supporting cast. I hate it all. I can dig strange, but Lunette’s world just seems like a bad acid trip to me. And that couch looks fucking disgusting, like Major Bedhead would bag a prostitute or Lindsay Lohan on it. Probably has.

Wonderpets – again, freaks me out. The style of animation; the weird is-it-real, is-it-not-real meld of stills and live action; the speech impediment – was this their way of trying to be inclusive? Because I find a fake speech impediment just kind of creepy. And annoying. And the fact that every song has the same tune? Cheap.

So there you have it. It’s enough to make me want to ditch cable (we keep threatening.) Hopefully no one ever critiques the shows that I watch.


  1. I really, really hate Hi-5. I don't know why adults on children's TV shows need to make their eyes big & buldgey.

  2. sorry honey, but american/canadian idol is just Hi-5 for grown ups. and the winners on Idol just end up on Hi-5 anyway.
    Diego is my vote for worst tv, mostly cause it is a boardroom with bad coffee version of Dora. And Dora's looking pretty marketing meeting these days as well. what's up with those stupid stars? what up wid dat?

  3. I'm in the same boat as you. Sam watches tv in the morning, at lunch and sometimes in the evening.
    Backyardigans is my fav! Sam unfortunatly LOVES the Big comfy couch. Ech! and wonderpets.

  4. The monkey LOVES watching treehouse in the morning, too! My hubby and I need the extra half hour to lie in bed! She just sits with us in bed and watches our tv.... Not every day, but often. Big Comfy Couch? BRUTAL! Wonderpets? BRUTAL! I like Elmo, though.... I LOVE the Backyardigans -- not as much as my husband does, though....

  5. Hey you gotta do what you gotta do.
    If I had been thinking I would have been doing the same. Instead I tortured myself for a long time for no real good reason. One of my biggest regrets of the last few years is how little I allowed TV to solve all my problems bc I was too stupid to let it. I saw the light when I got pregnant though. TV can really make dinner times go better too! Don't hold back.

    Anyhoo, alone in the isolation room with nothing to do but sing to my kid that Green Forest song came to me - Its catchy.
    Oh and School House Rock. Those are classics. My friend who is an English teacher found them all online.

  6. Lisa's not kidding about that Green Forest song. I'm holding you responsible for that echoing jingle in my head right now.

    And! We took the kids to see Hi-5 Live last Sunday, having paid a truly astronomical sum for five tickets. And they were mesmerized, in a somewhat deer-in-headlights way, and Bub has actually displayed voluntary episodic memory ever since. (Like, he voluntarily brings up the concert, and when asked about it, he volunteers additional memories of how we were sitting in chairs and Kimee dressed up like a butterfly.) The show is horrifying, but it's also crack for kids.

    I, on the other hand, love those quirky little Farzzle's World bits. We watched one this morning, where his paintbrush comes to life and starts drawing pictures. It made Bub shout "Oh no!" and it made Pie cry.

  7. My son's two favorites right now are Max and Ruby and Wonderpets. I agree about the animation, but I've found that repeated watchings have numbed the effect. Which concerns me.

    In the States, Scooter watched a show called Oobi, which is people's hands as puppets. Seriously have to see it to be weirded out appropriately--and I became immune even to that.

  8. We don't have a TV, but I haven't been above searching for Backyardigans clips on YouTube on a bad day and I saw some *terrible* Little Einsteins TV when we were in the US. I was actually mesmerized by how bad it was. I don't know any of the other shows but Nana needing a gimlet made me laugh.

  9. My 4 year old loves the Magic School bus...its irritating but educational.
    I love Nana...she's an older version of my Mom to the kids believe it or not.

    I borrow Mr Dressup from the library and my girls LOVE him.

    My fav kids show is Yoko Jakamoko Toto (sp?). It shouldn't be allowed on air for children but I love it. The little monkey farts all the time.

  10. Wonderpets makes me want to barf. It's that bad.

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who resorts to TV first thing in the morning - it really does make it much more bearable. I am not a morning person.

    Other than the animation, Arthur is actually not that bad. The Boy likes Dora, and Max & Ruby. The only thing that really mesmerizes him, though, is Mighty Machines.

    I LOVE Zooboomafoo. I've actually learnt stuff from that show. My old roomate used to do continuity on it. Apparently, one of the brothers is a complete a##hat, and the other is nice. I keep trying to figure out which one is which.

  11. The Kratt brothers are very lovable dorks.

    But I do like Arthur, but my girl is school age, so it is more her age. The style of animation is weird, though

  12. We love Backyardigans, too. It's one of Cordy's favorites. She loves the Volcano Sisters episode the most.

    Gotta agree with Wonderpets being creepy, but Cordy loves them. She also loves Dora and Diego.

  13. Ditch the cable and watch bits from Sound of Music on you tube!

  14. We are guilty of the morning television tuneout, too. It buys me some waking up time and time to get myself dressed. We are, strangely, often better on the weekends than in the week.

    I agree about the Backyardigans, and I don't mind Zoboo that much, but Pumpkinpie isn't into it. So we watch Rolie Polie Olie, Clifford, Max&Ruby, or Dora. That's pretty much what's on during the morning slot on commercial-free channels.

  15. blah, blah, blogJune 21, 2007

    I can honestly say I don't know any of the programs you've critiqued but am bloody curious now.

    The begat really doesn't watch much television. And while I'd like to get all sanctimommious about it, its mostly been her own decision. At two, she seems to appreciate that the book really is better than the film.

    Much like her rejection of the soother, it's one of those things that I appreciate big picture, but occasionally find difficult in the here and now. It would have been great during recent first trimester fatigue/nausea to grab a quick half-hour break.

    Which is why I get royally pissed off when others plunk her down in front of the tv--and here I will get sanctimonious!--when a certain set of grandparents who have complained bitterly about not seeing their grand-daughter in too long are finally invited over to babysit, why in the hell do they bring Disney dvds?!

    The begat inevitably gets bored within minutes and wanders off and they actually attempt to re-engage her as if tv watching is some skill that must be patiently taught. And when that fails, they inevitably leave it on in the 'background'.

    It makes me want to scream: get out of the freakin' basement already, it's summer out there.

    There are moments when I would love to eschew television entirely, but in light of the fact that the other adult living in the house is a television producer, I suppose that would be akin to my having to packed up all my academic texts.

    Although, honestly, I use them way less... !

  16. blah, blah - well, it's Chris, the tv editor that yells the loudest for ditching the thing. His argument? We don't watch your work when you come home.

    It's a good point.

    And yes, the tv bought me a few decent first-trimester breaks.

  17. Love Zoboomofoo. Chicky doesn't necessarily agree but Elmo, oh Elmo, he runs our lives.

  18. god, i hate it when M watches TV and yet, wow, she watches TV.

    and i agree, that couch show sucks serious ass.

    but i am amused by Calliou - have you seen it? this little kid who's parents appear to be permanently on ecstasy - otherwise there is simply no way they'd stay so mellow all the time.

  19. blah, blah, blogJune 22, 2007

    Oh, I do like the Christacular point of view regarding television.

    Around our house, the endless broadcast of sporting events is justifed by the fact that a sport's journalist (a title he readily volunteers is an oxymoron) needs to keep abreast of all the latest developments. Ditto for the dish on the roof receiving the most obscure sports stations known to humankind.

    On to other concerns, as I read the descriptions above of children's television, especially the likes of Nana or Calliou's mellow parents, I am struck by an alarming thought: Is children's television promoting unrealistic expectations with regard to parenting?! How are we, simple caregivers, supposed to compete with that?

    This definitely needs to be embraced as a feminist issue of representation, easily as dire as the airbrushing of cellulite.

    We need Archie Bunker back...

  20. snort.

    sorry. all I can say is thank gawd for TV.

  21. ha ha
    too funny.
    Lulu is the same- it's either let her watch the tube from 5:45 -7 or we actually have to "entertain her" which is absolutely ridiculous at that ungodly hour.
    loved all the shows you mentioned when we were growing up.
    (though you forgot Read-A-Long..Boot and Pretty rocked)
    I totally agree about all the shows of today.
    That Molly/ Lunette chick really needs to get her sorry ass to an upholster and fast.
    that is one not-so-comfy-looking-couch.

  22. We started letting MF watch a little tv in the mornings a few weeks before Baby Boo arrived. Out of desperation - mornings were early and tough for me at that point.

    The few little shows we let him watch don't aggravate me tooooo much - Noddy; Roary; Peppa Pig; and Thomas -- but we do get the Hi-5 show and it is rather peppily insanely annoying. But he seems fascinated when he catches bits of it.

    Luckily, he doesn't seem overly fascinated with the whole thing - probably because we delayed it for so long - so if I turn it off he generally just shrugs and does other things.


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