Having a kid rocks. It means you can watch cartoons and kids’ shows without having to make excuses. Not that you ever made excuses before.
Unfortunately, while there are quite a few gems out there, it’s by no means a safe zone for parental watching. I realize what constitutes a child’s entertainment doesn’t always equal fun for parents, but some of these shows are simply broken and beyond annoying. Also, these are the opinions of a highly geeky stay-at-home mom, so bear in mind my built-in biases.
Robert & Ribert’s WonderWorld – While PBS is usually spot on (my personal faves are Sid the Science Kid and, of course, Sesame Street), something weird happened with Robert and Ribert. According to their website, it’s a multi-award winning television show, but I can only imagine that the people voting were, um, bribed or something. I can forgive the bad jokes, and the awful tagline (“The first show a kid can ride!”), but the music and the premise is just mind-boggingly bad. From the horrid, cheesy songs, to the keys with names and faces on them (you sort of have to see it to get what I mean) the show is parental torture. There is just something unsettling about a grown man singing about his undying love for an underage CG frog…
The Wiggles – At first, I actually liked the Wiggles. I thought it was cool that they played their own instruments, that they worked as a band. And then something happened, something rather nefarious. I started getting their songs in my head. All the time. I would wake up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning, unable to dislodge the voices of Sam, Murray, Paul and Anthony out of my head. It was a kind of torture I can only begin to explain.
Dora the Explorer – She’s the Britney Spears of the five-and-unders, a diva and a fashion icon. The principle behind the show is great and it’s certainly not intended for parents to watch (which I think is an oversight in a lot of programming for young children). But WHY DOES DORA SCREAM EVERYTHING? It’s the screechy voice, the unimaginative plots and the flat characters that grate on my nerves. Preschool shows don’t have to treat viewers like idiots and I’ve never been impressed by Dora’s educational content, save for the Spanish language lessons.
Elmo’s World – Talk about manic! It’s a shame that Sesame Street now dedicates half of their hour to Elmo. Sure, kids love him. But the show is frenzied and nowhere near as educational and interesting as the rest of the show. Elmo’s voice just gets to you after a while. And that’s not to mention Mr. Noodle(s). Yes, I can appreciate the art of mime, but Mr. Noodle inspires a kind of loathing in me that I can’t rightfully explain. By the time the show reaches its hectic climax, Elmo singing his “song”—which is Jingle Bells, damn it—on his clangy keyboard, I’ve already got a headache.
Angelina Ballerina – Is it just me, or is Angelina a spoiled-rotten brat? She’s so self-absorbed with her own life and spends most of the show bemoaning her terrible existence that I often feel like I’m watching Gossip Girl instead. While the show has an impressive cast, including Dame Judi Dench, it comes off as teeth-grittingly annoying. I haven’t read the books in years, but I don’t recall Angelina being such a drama-queen. My kid is already spirited enough; I don’t need a conceited little mouse teaching him bad habits!
That said, most of these shows do have their bright spots, like learning through music, comedy and adventure. But most miss the point about preschool television. For kids shows to be really successful, they ought to engage the parents, too. At such a young age, it’s best if parents can enjoy the show with their kids. Television, when treated like a book or a learning tool, is invaluable; but when it’s kept to the kid to watch and digest, it’s more of a distraction for your kids while you’re doing other stuff (which we all do on occasion, but should really be the exception).
Some suggestions that are a little more enjoyable for the adult contingent: The Backyardigans, Toot & Puddle, Pinky Dinky Doo, Super Why, Jack’s Big Music Show and perennial GeekDad favorite Yo Gabba Gabba.