Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Widelawns Guide to Nick Jr. Programming

Before I had kids I swore that when and if I ever had kids that they would never watch TV. I'm not sure where I got this. Clearly I was insane with smugness when I made this declaration, and I still really hate the idea of my daughter glued to the TV set, partly because I'm jealous that it takes me three weeks just to finish one recorded episode of Modern Family, but you know what? Sometimes I need to make dinner. So sometimes she watches TV.

This makes me feel oppressively guilty. I'm a terrible mother. Her brain is going to rot. She's going to end up a stripper in 16 years and it will be Dora's fault and she will point the finger at me and say "None of this would OF ever happened if my mother hadn't let me watch Wonder Pets."

Note that my daughter's grammar is going to be terrible. That breaks my heart more than her stripping. I think I might rather my child dance naked for money than think "would HAVE" is actually "Would OF." And see, it's my fault because I let her watch TV. I bet she won't know the difference between your and you're either.

I watched an embarrassing shit load of television as a child. Some people might say that the cartoons I watched were better than the ones on now. I beg to differ. I watched some violent ass shit. Maybe that's why I cuss so much now. I watched Woody Woodpecker and Tom & Jerry and all the old, racist Loony Toons, plus a bunch of weird Japanese crap that was nothing but violence. I lived for Scooby Doo and I'm not even going to get into the ridiculous number of sit coms I watched at night with my grandparents, plus the old Brady Bunches, Gilligan's Islands and I Dream of Jeannie's that came on after school. I don't know how I found time for all these shows while still managing to actually play outside, which I did every day. Clearly the TV didn't damage me all that much because I became a writer for God's sakes. I have an advanced degree and I read a few books a week. I may have attention problems and anxiety issues but TV is innocent. Those came from genetics and a shitty childhood. TV, if anything, was a respite from those things. In some ways I almost credit my TV watching for my deep and profound love of stories and storytelling. After all, much of what we watch is stories. But who knows. It's a chicken and egg thing. Maybe I liked TV because I was born loving stories. Or not. I don't know.

So yeah, sometimes my little one watches TV and she seems to love it as much as I did, and no, the programs of today are not as bad as what I watched, and yes, I highly monitor everything she sees.

That means I have to watch children's programming too. It makes me want to rip out chunks of my hair and swallow them. I do not like cartoons, puppets, talking animals, people who make a living singing songs to children or anything that is supposed to be educational to children. I find it all very strange and irritating. But my daughter loves it and since I am trying to be a somewhat vigilant parent, I have watched every show on Nick Jr.

I'd like to share some of my findings with you so you don't have to go through the same agonies as I did. 

A Guide to Nick Jr. Programming for Concerned Parents

1. Dino Dan - I don't know what's up with this show, but a disturbed little boy hallucinates technicolor dinosaurs roaming what appears to be suburban Canada. Dino Dan needs an evaluation. I'm pretty sure he has Aspergers. All he does is talk about his extensive knowledge of large, extinct reptiles while the adults in his life nod and smile. Looks like they're in denial, but as an outsider, I think it's clear that Dino Dan needs some help.

2. The Wonder Pets - Now this show is sweet, has pretty animation and is cute and shows some imagination ( I particularly enjoyed the Fiddler Crab on the Roof). HOWEVER. How many baby animals can really get into that much trouble on a regular basis? And while we're at it, can someone please send Ming Ming Duckling a speech pathologist ASAP? This is Sewious, people. 

3. Go, Diego, Go - I really can't stand this show. Again with the animals in trouble. My god, animals. Please show some self control and exercise caution so you don't keep getting yourself caught in things. Diego is also a sad reminder of the demise of Rosie Perez's career (Do the Right Thing was great!). Where once she showed promise, now she is the voice of a camera that finds animals who've gotten themselves stuck in things. It's depressing. The other day I was watching Diego and he was saving, and I shit you not, a bird called an Oxpecker. An OX PECKER. Do you hear me? I can't even write Ox Pecker without laughing. It's as if the writers were bored and thumbing through an atlas of animals wondering what dumb shit animal Diego could save next and they found Oxpecker and just knew and with a name like that, how could they not? When my child starts screaming OXPECKER in the grocery store and stunned strangers look at me in horror, like what kind of language is this terrible mother teaching her two year old, I will thank Nick Jr.

4.Yo Gabba Gabba - This is definitely the weirdest show on TV. You've got a DJ who looks like something out of a Tarantino movie, the guy from Devo and Biz Markie, and a bunch of high pitched creatures that all resemble sex toys with occasional appearances by hipster comedians and Indie Bands. It's all too much for me. It's beyond bad acid trip. The first time my mother saw this show she took one look at Muno, a studded, phallic, red cyclops thing, and said "What the fuck is a french tickler doing singing to children?" And I said that I had no idea, but The Shins were on, so I could overlook it.

5.Oswald - Another bad acid trip. This show is about a doormat of an Octopus, who lives in a city and is best friends with a ditsy dingbat of a flower, occasionally babysits a caterpillar and has a pet dachshund who wears a bun, as in bread and not a hair style. Oswald is also involved in a toxic, possibly co-dependent relationship with a real asshole of a penguin named Henry. Henry is effete, nasal and completely OCD. The bird needs Zoloft. He's a prick but Oswald won't stand up to him. Drives me nuts. I just want to be like "OSWALD! Tell that fucker off! Don't let him treat you like that!"

6.Oswald brings up another issue. I'm going to digress for a moment here. I'm totally confused by children's shows where the main characters are talking animals who have other animals as pets but the animals that are pets don't talk. The rules of these worlds are too confusing. An Octopus with a Dachshund? Olivia, a pig, with a pet cat? Whatever kind of animal Jack from Jack's Big Music Show is, with his dog Mel? WTF is going on here? 

7.Blues Clues - Blue jumped the shark back when Steve decided he was going to "college" and his younger brother Joe came along with a bunch of new characters created by desperate writers who had long since run out of material. Everyone knows that when shows lose their main actors and new characters get introduced that it's time to cancel. And really, bless Steve's heart, but how am I supposed to believe that a grown man, who looks to be about 30, and who has a hard time figuring out mysteries devised by an illiterate cartoon dog who says nothing but "doot dee doo" has been accepted at a University? I think maybe his parents told him that and that Steve is actually at a group home learning some much needed life skills. His younger brother Joe doesn't seem to be faring much better and God bless him too, but he actually sings a song about pooping and wiping your butt. Watch it here DOO DOO DOO. That poor dude must have really needed to pay his rent when he took over that job. Luckily he's doing better now because Nick Jr. promoted him to be the voice of Bot on Team Umizoomi. Which brings me to....

8.Team Umizoomi - There's not much I can find wrong with this show. I have a bit of a soft spot for it because its main character shares a name with my daughter and the animation is particularly pretty and nothing scary or untoward ever happens except on one episode an asshole squid kidnapped Jordin Sparks because his underwater castle was too dark and she could, apparently, light it up for him. Other than that, and I don't really have a problem with squids trapping American Idol winners in undersea prisons, this is probably the best show on Nick Jr. And the worst?

9.Dora the Explorer - I hate Dora. Someone needs to call CPS on her parents for letting their young child roam the countryside with a monkey and while we're at it, why has law enforcement failed to contain Swiper? That fox should have been arrested years ago and what happened to the Three Strikes law? Swiper is a menace to society and should be behind bars. Clearly he is a sociopath who will not be rehabilitated. Jesus Christ, even Santa Claus couldn't stop him from leading a life of crime.  Some people think Dora is educational. "My kid speaks Spanish!" they brag. Ok, if you call yelling out random, unintelligible Spanish words out of context speaking Spanish then fine. Salta Caballita, Salta! Because my two year old has so many occasions to tell ponies to jump. In Spanish. 

10.Ni Hao Kai Lan - Nick Jr. can also teach your child to shout out random words in Chinese, although I have to tell you that it wasn't my toddler, but ME who actually used her Nick Jr. acquired Chinese skills while in EPCOT China, so take that Xie Xie, Ye Ye. The waiter was pretty insulted. "Why you call me grandfather?? I look old to you?? I'm only 30!!" "Hai Twan," I replied apologetically. That's the Chinese word for dolphin, which is the only other word I could remember from Kai Lan because it sounds like you're greeting your cool friend 'Toine. The waiter wasn't amused. "Now you call me a dolphin??" Yeah, so next time I go to EPCOT, I think I'll eat in France. Thanks Nick Jr.

11.Max and Ruby - Can we please give the award for the most smug and sanctimonious cartoon rabbit to Ruby, sister of the waddling, one word speaking Max? I despise Ruby. She's just like every know it all priss I hated in school. Screw her and her Bunny Scouts. This show gets on my nerves.

Fellow parents and parents-to-be, I hope this guide has proved useful. Now excuse me while I cook dinner. Diego's on. There's a macaroni penguin trying to get back to its parents.


Anonymous said...

As the parent of a fourteen year old and an eight year old, I hate to tell you that the programming gets worse. I do not get Spongebob Squarepants, the show is just plain idiotic. I miss Sesame Street, but then I think I just miss that age.

mcgrimus said...

A lot of the shows do get worse, but there are some gems. Adventure Time, Regular Show, and The Amazing World of Gumball I like in particular. But the entire Disney Channel lineup is, well, idiotic.

I couldn't agree more about Henry the Penguin and Ruby! Max consistently saves her ass. And where are their parents? My own theory is that Max is actually Ruby's son, and that her parents sent her away when she was pregnant. She decided to stay rather than return home in disgrace.

jenjellybeans said...

Thanks to Dora, I have had this conversation with my preschooler:

Morgan: Gracias is how you say hello and goodbye in Spanish.
Me: Gracias means thank you, sweetie.
Me: Alright, then.
Morgan: How do you say taco in Spanish?
Me: Taco.
Morgan: No, in Spanish, Mom.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows the only Spanish" kids learn from Dora is to scream BACKPACK! at random intervals. I made the mistake of pointing out that you have to yell extra loud since backpack doesn't have ears. Silly mommy!

janet from chicago said...

Hands down best kids show on tv is 'Between the Lions' on pbs.
It shows in limited markets - we're in chicago and we used to watch it on the pbs cable channel out of Indiana, the chicago pbs channel didn't broadcast it. Then we changed cable packages from comcast to wowway, and we don't get the IN pbs station anymore. The first season is on dvd so we get it from the library.

Anonymous said...

Little Bear. I have watched countless hours of horrible Nick, Jr. programming, first as a nanny and now as a mother, and Little Bear is the only show that I actually like. It doesn't make me twitch, doesn't contain irritating characters, no stupid storylines, some of the stuff that happens is pretty funny, and the music is great. The only thing I could do without is the occasional slurping that Little Bear does when he sees something tasty, the only mildly irritating thing about that show, which of course my children picked up on and now irritates the freaking hell out of me. But other than that, I have watched the same 130 episodes for close to 10 years now and I haven't ever once wanted to kill myself and oddly enough, still enjoy seeing quite a few episodes even though I can recite every damn line. That is saying a lot in the world of children' programming.

JoeinVegas said...

Our kids are all gone, now you've got me wanting to start watching Nick to see all of these things.

Anonymous said...

My son is three weeks younger than your daughter, so I seriously feel your pain. We don't have cable, but we watch Yo Gabba Gabba on Netflix, and I have to say it has seriously grown on me. I mean, Anthony Bourdain played a doctor and Weird Al Yankovic played a circus ringmaster! Although, when we met Muno's phallic, cyclopic family, and we found out only the males have the bumps, I realized they must be external gonads...

Anonymous said...

Also, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is a non-interactive video game. The characters have to solve problems and use tools, and they talk to the viewer and ask for input, so it's basically training my toddler to play video RPGs at his earliest capability. However, the theme songs were written and performed by They Might Be Giants, and April Winchell from does the voice of Clarabelle the Cow, so I find myself unable to object.

k2 said...

I think that Max and Ruby make a good barometer of a person's belief system. I find Max an insufferable pain who is smug and obnoxious. One of my closest friends thinks that Ruby is the problem. She describes Ruby as demanding and bossy. In the end, we both hate the show but for different reasons.

Anonymous said...

You fixed your banner! Yay!

Kelly said...

How did I miss this post? Too funny! I have been lucky with the shows my daughter favored. At two when she first took an interest in tv she would only watch Franklin. Fine by me, my husband and I loved it to. (The original Franklin, the new "Franklin and Friends is crap).

Now she is five and loves The Freshbeat Band. As do I. We were even suckered in to the hype and took her to their live concert :)

My son just turned three and still can't sit through an entire show but he likes Disneys Jake and the Neverland Pirates. The story lines are all too similar but all in all not too annoying.

Shannon said...

I believe Henry the penguin is also voiced by the same dude that played Squiggy on Laverne and Shirley.

I also laugh every single time the creepy white phallic friend comes out on Yo Gabba Gabba. Poor thing looks like a tampon.

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