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We're Back, and Television is Horrible

After a prolonged absence, I hereby re-start this blog. It’s been a long school year, but I am the proud holder of a degree in Media Studies and Television and I completed my first year teaching typing and computers at a Brooklyn Private School, that Ronan may someday attend.

Now, with my first true week off since August 2008, I can sit and relax and look back on how we survived. In a word: Television.

It’s not for nothing that one of my Master’s papers was on Children’s Television. I now can investigate fully the shows Ronan watches, and without them we wouldn’t have made it through this tough year. I can’t tell you the number of times Terry called to say, “I’m exhausted, so I put on the television.” This would often be followed with an apology, because I think everyone who knows me knows that I abhor television. (Of course, I’m kidding! I love television. I’m not sure why Terry apologizes for television, other than every parent who succumbs to the idiot box feels like they have failed in some small way.)

I remember the exact moment I made a decision on how much television Ronan would watch. I was thirteen years old, and I had not yet met Terry, who was also in the eighth grade in another state. Ronan wasn’t even a gleam in my eye. But our first landlords in Queens, New York, had their first child, and declared he would not watch television while he was still in the womb. Six months later they had the only Betamax tape I have ever seen in my life – a video of Bugs Bunny. The irony of declaring a television ban and breaking it almost immediately deeply impressed me. Right there and then I decided I would not ban television from my child’s life.

Of course, I married Terry and we had Ronan, who is wonderful, and a bunch of eggheads decided that television was bad for anyone, but ESPECIALLY bad for children under two. So Ronan didn’t get to watch much television until he was 18 months old, when we finally gave up on the damn television ban and felt like the worst parents in the world.

That’s because banning television is much like flossing and exercising daily and not eating that last piece of chocolate cake. Yes, we all know it’s for the best. Yeah, we all still patiently while the dentist tells us how terrible cavities and gum disease result from not brushing six or seven hours a day (or whatever lecture you hate most, you fill in the blank.) But then we all fail to follow that prescription after a while. And then guilt sets in.

So, we were feeling very guilty, but we’re very tired. Clearly, very tired won out. This is because despite the eggheads warnings, the damn idiot box actually allows you to sit in one place for between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the length of the program. And that’s a good thing. I think all the eggheads researching Children’s Television should be required to have children, and to post their children’s viewing times at the end of their research. “Studies show that more than 54.40 minutes of television per child per day results in the death of .3492 brain cells per minute…but gosh, Jimmy and and Jamie just love it, and I can rest for an hour.”

Not that we’re not screening (and by we, I mean Terry) what Ronan watches. Hopefully, we haven’t started him on the 50,000 murders we all see on TV during our lifetime. Another child-rearing friend turned us on to Nickelodeon’s Noggin network. Most of the shows come from this cable channel; it has no commercials (other than promos for the shows). We time-shift all the shows, and Terry watches all of them in fast-forward. I never do that because each show only has about 20 episodes, and I remember when my two-year-old cousin watch Free Willy every afternoon during the week I stayed with them. Sometimes we watched it twice. I liked it the first time but by the fourteenth viewing I began to fucking hate that movie. So I know Ronan won’t really care if he’s seen something before. Plus, Terry is a much better parent than I am. But we all knew that.

Anyway, here’s the shows we watch with Ronan regularly, and some shows that everyone assumes we watch regularly, but don’t, because they suck.

Sesame StreetThis veritable children’s classic has reduced production from 125 episodes a year to just 30. Which means we watch the same episodes a lot. That explained why zombie Michael Jeter keeps showing up, even though he’s been dead since 2003. Sesame Street is still interesting for adults, and teaches lots of good stuff on mutliculturalism, numbers, alphabet, and models good behavior. So it’s a shock to me that fucking Dora the Explorer has crushed it in the ratings, causing the reduction in production. Those of you with fond memories will be quick to blame poor Elmo. The show has been criticized for promoting the red muppet too much. Plus, poor cookie monster has been the victim of the anti-obesity movement, because we all know that obesity in children has nothing to do with icky High Fructose Corn Syrup being added to fucking everything (if you’re eating spaghetti and meatballs with a coke while you read this, guess what, you’re probably eating corn in everything on your plate) and is entirely the fault of a manic blue muppet who has bad manners. Yeah, it’s definitely the muppet.

Anyway, Sesame Street has been translated into fourteen locales. I would really love it if PBS showed the other versions sometime; I would love it if Ronan could watch Ireland’s Sesame Tree or South Africa’s Takalani Sesame. But for some reason we can’t view the other countries’ versions. I blame Jesse Helms, who before he died got all bent out of shape that an HIV-Positive muppet joined the cast of Takalani Sesame. I bet Sesame Workshop is afraid their government funding will dry up if Michelle Bachman learns that other countries have Sesame Street.

Still, if sucks that Dora is such a powerhouse. Sesame Street isn’t as good as the old show, but it’s still witty and fun, and Ronan enjoys it very much.

Little Bear – Little Bear could be Ronan’s favorite show, until he is old enough to realize that his old man thinks it’s his favorite show, and then he will hate it just because I think he likes it. Or something like that.

Little Bear is about a family of bears with incredibly unimaginative names (Little Bear, Mother Bear and Father Bear) that they have apparently had their entire lives. In one episode, Father Bear and Mother Bear refer to carving their initials in a tree when they dated, and Little Bear finds the tree. Damned if the initials, carved before their child was born, aren’t “F.B. + M.B.” Telling kids that your destiny is already decided, to hell with the American Dream. (And no, this show was made before the current economic crisis.)

Little Bear has similarly imaginatively named friends, Cat, Duck, Hen, and “No Feet” (a snake.) They have various adventures that usually involve exercising their imaginations, so I can only assume the writers used up all their imagination on the plot and had none left over for the character names. Despite the character names, the show is very well written, and for cable TV animation made in Asia (no insult intended) it’s actually quite ornate.

It’s Ronan’s favorite show because he laughs and laughs at the exploits of Little Bear and his friends. I actually prefer to watch him during Little Bear episodes, because he’s so much fun to watch. He just giggles through the whole show.

EXCEPT – if there’s a whale. Little Bear encounters a whale about every three episodes, and those big muthas just freak Ronan right the fuck out. I’m talking full on crying with parental comfort freak-outs. This actually impresses me, because the show reaches the extremes of emotions in our kid. Grover does not make my kid laugh and cry.

Dora the ExplorerI do not like Dora the Explorer. This is a terrible show and we don’t let Ronan watch it. It freaks me out that it’s the most popular children’s show. About the only redeeming factor is that it teaches kids Spanish. However, it does this in the most brain dead way. Every goddamned episode is the same. There’s a location that Dora and her best friend/pet monkey must get to. There’s an animal they must talk to in repetitive Spanish, because that animal only understands Spanish. They must flee from some miserable fox named Swiper, who can be easily dissuaded simply by yelling “Swiper! No swiping!!” leading me to believe the poor animal was serially abused as a child by a parent who only said “NO!” all the time. Swiper NEVER steals anything, and his character never evolves. After Swiper’s easily avoided non-attack, Dora and the monkey then flee another creature (Cougar, Rain Cloud, Dick Chaney) by outrunning it or shouting at it in Spanish. After avoiding/driving off/hiding from the bad creature, hugs all around and a chorus of “WE DID IT!” which is odd, since Dora and her monkey…. (Terry won’t appreciate where this joke is going, so I’ll stop there.)

Dora has no imagination, no redeeming social value, and no art, so clearly it became the most popular children’s television show in the history of the world (or something.) I fucking hate this show. They have the same show with Diego, who is a the male Dora. Parents were recently outraged that Dora’s new show, which ages the Explorer to fourteen, aged Dora to fourteen. Because nobody wants to see the same scripts with a fourteen-year-old shouting “Swiper! No swiping!!” Not even people who like Dora. And there are a lot of those, further confirming I am completely out of touch with modern America.

Google Translation:

Dora la Exploradora - No me gusta Dora la Exploradora. Este es un terrible espectáculo y no dejar que Ronan verlo. Se me fanáticos que es el más popular programa infantil. El único factor positivo es que enseña a los niños en español. Sin embargo, lo hace en la forma más con muerte cerebral. Cada maldita episodio es el mismo. Hay un lugar que Dora y su mejor amigo / animal debe llegar al mono. Hay un animal que debe hablar con repetitivas en español, porque los animales que sólo entiende el español. Deben huir de algún zorro llamado Swiper miserables, que pueden ser fácilmente disuadidos simplemente gritando "Swiper! No swiping!! "Me hacen pensar que los pobres animales en serie fue abusado de niño por un padre que sólo dice" ¡NO! "Todo el tiempo. NUNCA Swiper roba algo, y su personaje nunca evoluciona. Después Swiper fácilmente evitarse no ataque, Dora y el mono entonces huir otra criatura (Cougar, nube de lluvia, Dick Chaney) outrunning por lo que a gritos o en español. Después de evitar / conducción off / ocultamiento de la mala criatura, abrazos y todo un coro de "¡Lo hicimos!", Que es extraño, ya que Dora y su mono .... (Terry no apreciar que esta broma va, por lo que dejaremos ahí.)

Dora no tiene imaginación, no el canje de valor social, y no el arte, por lo que claramente se convirtió en el más popular de televisión para niños en la historia del mundo (o algo así.) Yo odio este maldito espectáculo. Tienen el mismo espectáculo con Diego, que es el macho Dora. Los padres fueron recientemente Dora indignado que el nuevo espectáculo, que el Explorador de Windows para las edades de catorce años, a catorce años de edad Dora. Porque nadie quiere ver a los mismos guiones, con catorce años de edad, gritando "Swiper! No swiping! "Ni siquiera las personas que como Dora. Y hay un montón de ellos, además de confirmar estoy completamente fuera de contacto con la América moderna.

LazytownThis bizarre, high budget show stars Magnús Scheving, Icelandic champion gymnast. I know what you’re thinking – Iceland and gymnastics? Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about more Magnús Schevings popping up, as I think he is the only Icelandic champion gymnast.

While Terry doesn’t like Lazytown,  I am utterly captivated by it, because in every episode I relive the worst parts of middle school. Magnús Scheving plays Sporticus, a jock who is so fucking awesome he doesn’t walk anywhere, he fucking flies. When he’s not chilling in his airship (!) above the town, Sporticus spends hours hiding trampolines all over Lazytown, which has a population of seven people, but houses for many, many more. Whenever someone shouts “Candyman!” three times, Sporticus pops out of nowhere, bounces in with the help of a trampoline, and kills them. (Whoops, wrong movie.)

Sporticus bounces and jumps and spins everywhere, because he eats apples, which he calls “Sports Candy” because no one in Iceland has ever fucking seen an apple, that place is so goddamn frozen. He is a hero to all the kids in Lazytown, all four of them, only one of which is human. Stephanie (Julianna Rose Mauriello, I looked her name up) was caught in a freak cotton candy accident, so she wears pink clothing to match her pink hair. Actually, the producer (Magnús Scheving , again) wanted to emphasize that she’s a girl, and Sporticus is a boy, so she wears pink and he wears blue, because kids may think the one with the steroid-enhanced arms is female. Or something.

Anyway, Sporticus beats the shit out of Robbie Rotten, who I empathize with greatly, because obviously everyone hates him, since he lives in the sewer. Robbie had many despicable traits, such as being an intellectual and also the only talented actor in the cast. So obviously Sporticus must humiliate poor Robbie in every episode. Why Robbie just doesn’t build a death ray and nuke the town is beyond me. After all, the entire town, including Sporticus, is so stupid that with only seven residents in the whole place, Robbie can dress in a disguise every episode and no one will fucking notice. Plus Robbie gets shit from Sporticus because he’s so thin, he’s the only man on the planet who can wear a five-button suit and made it work. To further indicate that Robbie is ugly and needs to be kept in the sewer, he’s the only human character who wears prosthetic makeup that makes him look like Max Headroom’s hairy cousin.

Every plot in Lazytown is the same. Robbie overhears something that gives him an idea to get back at Sporticus. He dons a disguise, despite only seven people living in the town, and attempts to get the kids to turn against Sporticus. Stephanie figures out Robbie’s plan but no one will listen to her except Sporticus. Stephanie figures out how to unmask Robbie. Sporticus beats Robbie like a red-headed stepchild, and then Stephanie and Sporticus dance. End of show.

Now, with my new degree in Media Studies, I might say that the relationship between the 14-year-old Stephanie (eleven? Fifteen? Julianna Rose Mauriello was seventeen at the time the show was shot) and the 40-year-old Magnús Scheving is creepy. There’s some sort of daddy figure missing from Stephanie’s life, and Sporticus is always there for her. However, I’m terrified that a pissed-off Magnús Scheving might come from Iceland just to kick my fat ass, so I’ll just say that it’s a beautiful and appropriate relationship and leave it at that.

Because I was so tortured in middle school, I grieve every episode for Robbie. Terry won’t appreciate my analysis of the gay subtext of his character, but the dude is definitely that theatre kid who liked Streisand. The whole point of the show is that it’s okay to beat homosexuals. Or something. You’ll just have to watch it for yourself.

Well, I came back to the blog with a very long blog this week. Hopefully I will make another post next week. The outlook is positive on restarting the blog; I’m off for the summer and then  I have double staff meetings during the week, so I’ll need something to do when I’m bored. I hope you enjoyed my take on children’s shows. There are many others that I’ll get to in a another post.


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