Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TV Guide

Childen's TV, specifically:

The summer before college I would get up at 10:00 (I worked the latest dinner shift at Friendly's) and watched Blue's Clues with STEVE while I ate my giant bowl of cereal. Later that year I met Bob, and as it turned out, he and his brother and sister used to do the same thing that summer. We love Steve. Joe, not so much. Steve I would have run off and married had he come and asked me that summer.

Do I let my kid watch too much TV? No. Not to the exclusion of other activities. She goes out every day, I make sure that at least once a week she gets to go to a place that is purely for her enrichment - so she's not just my errand-buddy all week. But yes, we watch TV over here. Besides, I have an "active" child. The only time I can get Maddie to sit calmly and have a snuggle is when the TV is on. I freakin' love kids TV for that reason alone.

A few shows that stick out in my head. Titles are links. Check out Yo Gabba's site, it's trippy.:

Nick Jr.
If you can get over the duck's too-cutesy speech impediment, this is one very cool show.
Talk about good music! Seriously, this is quality stuff. The content is character ed. with some geography and life/earth science - yay, some actual science for preschoolers! But the songs, OH, the songs. Each show is an operetta. I need to find the ringtone that sings, "The phone. The phone is ringing *dum dum dum* The phone. We'll be right there."

has been banned from my house. Don't tell Maddie, she hasn't figured out where the DVDs went yet.
Ugh, just UGH.
Ok, the dual-language approach is cool. I really do think that Spanish should be taught to children in school, as more than 1/3 of our country speaks it as their primary language. Besides, the rest of the world makes their kids learn English, it's the least we can do.
But not this way. *shudder* Not this way. Ugh.

Little Einsteins
Disney Channel.
This I really like to watch too. For the content, that is. The characters are the usual Disney-brand simple.
This is kind of your school's "specials" teachers answer to Sesame Streets's language focus. Artsy stuff. There's an artist and composer of the day. They also focus on a specific city or landmark. Nice use of authentic instruments and artwork. NOTHING pisses me off like kids' albums and shows that claims to be "enriching" or whatever, then go and use MIDI instruments and same-old, same-old classical selections. We get it, you like Mozart. They do know that the whole Mozart effect was bunk, right? Please, pay some real musicians so children will recognize what real instruments sound like, I'm begging you, Disney. No wonder my students think everything is a violin or trumpet. Side note: The Disney Baby Einstein DVDs, in addition to being an overpriced but occasionally useful mobile, have horrendous music. Little Einsteins has some lofty ambitions, teaching Music, Dance, and Art in 20 minutes. But kids will get used to that when they get to elementary school and find that there's one Music teacher for the whole county now, so class is once a marking period for 20 minutes. Most of the special vocabulary is a little (or a lot) over its target audience's head. On the other hand, my daughter knows a diminuendo and what it sounds like.
"We've got a mission!"

Nick Jr.
Two words: Acid. Trip.
I know the cool parents like this one, but seriously, it looks like fans of Sid & Marty Croft said, "Hey, we can do that!"
Decent music features, for sure. But this is crazy on a plate.

*Sigh* I wish Maddie still liked Sesame Street. Ellie better love it, because despite its recent deviation from its roots, this is half the reason I had kids. While I find Baby Bear intollerable, I still suggest this show to Miss M and hope she agrees. I usually get shot down in favor of Einsteins. But SS is still good, after all this time. The writers encourage you to watch with your kid by actually giving you, the adult, something to watch too. Guest stars, side jokes, parodies of adult TV-shows, etc. I about plotzed when James Blunt sang "My Triangle" lovingly to Telly. You pretty much know someone has made it if they've sung on The Street.
However, I'd like to put in my formal plea for the creators of the show to break from the trend and get back to basics. ALL the kids' shows out there stress character ed. stuff - social situations and how to deal, etc. But SS was created to feature urban kids in an urban setting, and intro them to basic phonics and math skills, too. I like the idea that my kids would see that children live in settings other than planned developments and travel in vehicles without sliding side doors. A laundromat? What's that? Sesame Street knows!
More importantly, this show is now devoting less and less time to language mechanics and early number skills and getting into trendier stuff that appeals to the 18 months - preschool set's fantastical side. Don't get me wrong: I LOOOOOOVE the guest stars and their 10 minute bits at the beginning, ie, Neil Patrick Harris the Shoe Fairy. But seriously, if I'm going to invest an hour of my kid's quasi-attention, I expect her to take away something other than the fact that fairies chase unicorn-hamster hybrids. Abby's Flying Fairy School is not even Muppets, it's computer animation! Get back to basics! Don't get me started on the Elmo-izing of The Street, either. The new bit called "Bert & Ernie's Big Adventure" is ok - at least the homophobia was dialed back and E&B get to co-habitate again. Geez.

From the Jim Henson company, and it does their creator credit. This show looks amazing. They create it with actors in large suits using action-capture technology to computer animate the scenes that the actors perform. It looks and feels like no other show.
Each show focuses on a different basic science-related topic. Simple machines, hypotheses, nutrition, decomposition, etc. It's about time we had a science show with some style. Seeing as Nickelodeon doesn't show Mr. Wizard anymore. :-(

"With the power to read, I can change this story and save the day!" Why so many PBS shows? Because in our Amish cable line-up (12 channels, ladies and gentlemen!) we get two PBS stations. Love.
This show combines fairy-tale stuff with superhero stuff and focuses on early reading skills. Each character has their own skill - alphabet power, word power, spelling power, and the power to read. Yes, I know. But it's cooler than that, trust me.
They re-tell fairy tales by jumping into books. They stress the power of reading and making real-life connections to what is read. This is school-skill building. This I really like. Oh, and Princess Pea is black, too. This is appreciated as well, since it took Disney HOW many years to come up with a princess who is African-American?
Their online games are fabulous, by the way. I credit this show with my daughter's letter recognition skills at age 2. Cause that had very little to do with me, let me tell you.

I'd love to hear what other people watch with their kids, or used to, or want to someday - and why. OR what you miss watching as a kid. Me, I miss Steve. *Sigh* Joe just doesn't cut it.

*For facebook: original blog post link here.


Anonymous said...

I love this post! You've just saved my hours of slogging through TV that's not worth watching. The girls aren't watching TV yet, but I'm glad to know there are good things out there when it's time. As for my favorites when I was a kid...SS of course, and Electric Company. There was also a Spanish language show called Via Allegre that I loved. /heidi

mysteryguy said...

Thanks Meg!!! I am adding you now:)

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