Monday, January 21, 2008

Cartoon Nation

We always look forward to a three-day weekend, because we are all super-lazy. The only problem with this past weekend was that it was too cold to spend much time outside. Being who we are, we had no problem substituting physical activity for some time in front of the TV.

For four years now, I've wanted to write about some of the shows on Noggin, even though I know you don't care. So here goes. For the kids, the shows are great- they teach lessons (both social and scholastic) and they are free of weapons and cursing. They are on a level that the kids understand (unlike, say, SpongeBob, which passes right over Connor's head) and they can usually stand to watch at least part of a show without the company of a parent. This allows me 15 minutes to do the dishes or look at email or go to the bathroom- it's awesome. But the other 15 minutes- goodness.

Problem #1 with these shows, in general, is that so often they star anthropomorphic turtles or bears or rabbits, and yet they all have pets. That freaks me out. Why is a beaver your friend, but the goldfish is content to swim around in a bowl? When Franklin's mom had a baby, Franklin was thinking "baby sister!" and I was thinking "pet turtle that won't last more than six months!" It's just so hard to keep straight!

And the names. Franklin has a regular name, then his parents are Mr. and Mrs. Turtle, and his friends have names like "Bear." I don't get it. And what is the parental situation for wild animals, anyway? How come Little Bear lives with his parents, yet his friends Cat and Duck (again with that!) just live on their own? Are they his older friends? Are they his age but they moved out really, really early? Were they orphaned and the system failed them? I just hope Little Bear gets invited to their non-adult-supervised parties. He needs to live a little.

The worst offenders on the absentee parent list are Max and Ruby's parents. For some reason, they have never been seen, and it is up to Ruby to mother Max until I run screaming from the room, clawing at my eyes. I violently hate this show. Why, when Max gets dirty, does Ruby have to take him to the laundrymat and spend her money getting his clothes clean RIGHT THEN, then when she notices it's almost noon, why is she in charge of feeding him? Why is it her job to tell him what he can and can't play with, and to nag him constantly? She can't be more than eight. WHERE IS HER MOTHER?

There are shows that feature animals who speak with offensive stereotypical accents (Wonder Pets) or who can ska-do into a book or picture (Blue!). Some of them feature lovely Latinas who have no human friends, only animals. But we love her and will not speak ill of Dora or her equally starved-for-human-interaction primo, Diego. Little Bill is a good show, full of humans, and Pinky-Dinky-Do actually teaches vocabulary and themes and other reading comprehension skills, although there is no reading involved. Other shows are fun and harmless and educational, and some even acheive the perfection that is Yo Gabba Gabba.

There is one show, however, that deserves its own paragraph: Lazytown, a show about how you should go outside and play and not be lazy. Not content to teach shapes or colors, this show has taken on the formidable task of teaching your preschooler irony! Amazingly, they have chosen to do this with three human characters who live in a town of puppets. Two of the humans, Sportacus and Robbie Rotten, are named something like Magnus in real life and struggle to speak well enough to be understood (think Governator), while the third is a girl named Stephanie. Stephanie has bright pink hair and has recently moved to Lazytown to live with her uncle who, in addition to being mayor of Lazytown, is also a puppet. I often wonder which of Stephanie's parents is a puppet. Was her mom a fat, ugly human who could only find a mate in the puppet world? Was her dad a weird fetishist who trolled the puppet message boards looking for love? Fortunately, the only thing puppet about her is that hair. And her friends. Somehow the people behind the show (they are also named Magnus) felt the best way to voice the puppets would be in a weird, nasally voice, which makes the songs extra-annoying. And the songs! They all have a weird techno dance beat that makes me think I'm at 616. Connor is obsessed with these songs, which I tried to fight but then I ended up dowloading the CD for him. I guess he will learn the white man's overbite in addition to irony.

Thank goodness this channel comes on 24 hours a day. I'm not sure I could cover all these life lessons on my own.


Cathy said...

Maybe they expect that all the kids will watch Lazytown via a downloaded version on their Ipods while riding their bikes or playing king of the mountain. Or something.

Stan said...

Not interested? Our life revolves around Noggin. I really need them to intersperse election news in there so I can have some contact with the outside adult world.

Grace's new favorite: Max and Ruby! Imagine my dismay! We enjoy Miss Spider though, very cute, although very few good lessons.

Anonymous said...

Drew just asked me this morning why Franklin has a "real" name and the other animals don't. (after getting ready for school, he watches Franklin while eating his breakfast. It comes on at 6:30a now, which is perfect because we leave for school at 7:00!)

Max and Ruby do have a grandmother that apparently lives close to them. They visit her from time to time. Still, that doesn't make up for a live-in-mom.

Stacey Greenberg said...

i know team chockley questions the shows the junior members of team oster watch, but i can honestly say that i am happy i don't have to watch any of the shows you just listed.

Unknown said...


Phillip said...

Now close your eyes and imagine all those Italian.