Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Field Guide To Children's TV Shows

One of the most overlooked aspects of being a parent is deciding which TV shows to allow your young children to watch. This is a very dangerous area to ignore, not only because the shows will influence your child’s development, but also because once your child decides that he or she likes a particular show, you will constantly be subjected to it for years to come.

You will learn every episode by heart. You will know all of the characters. You will memorize the dialogue. You may even find yourself watching the show when your child isn’t even in the room. You won’t realize that anything is wrong before it’s too late, and you’re curled up on the couch dabbing a tissue beneath your eye because Hannah Montana’s TV boyfriend just broke up with her. Take heed, my friends.

As a public service to all parents who have young children, I’ve decided to list some of the more popular kids’ shows on television and critique each one. You can use this list to monitor what your child watches so that the show won’t ultimately drive you insane.

SHOWS FOR REALLY YOUNG KIDS:

Imagination Movers — Watching this show is equivalent to receiving a full frontal lobotomy without the aid of anesthesia. The program consists of several grown men who work for some sort of moving company. The thing is, they never do any actual “moving,” nor any other type of work.

So how do they spend their time? By singing songs and prancing around like douchebags for half an hour. I don’t even think I’ve ever seen them leave the building.
I’m all for teaching kids the value of music and junk like that, but these guys are just tools. Unfortunately, though, little kids love tools—especially the prancing douchebaggy variety—so they go nuts for this show. You’ve been warned.

Dora the Explorer — This show isn’t too bad, and it’s easy to make fun of, which makes it less difficult to watch. The focus of every show is Dora and her friends’ harrowing journey to find something or other. It doesn’t really matter what they’re attempting to find; it’s the same storyline every day so the objective is interchangeable. I went into more detail with this one in a previous blog, so check that out if you want more info.

Go, Diego, Go! — Basically a spin-off of “Dora the Explorer.” Diego spends his days rescuing animals that have sprained ankles and crap. To date, Diego hasn’t been savagely mauled by any of these animals, which is kind of a let-down.

SHOWS FOR TODDLERS:

The Fairly Odd Parents — This is a show about a kid who has a pair of fairy godparents who give him anything he wishes for. It’s reasonably entertaining, but it would be a lot better if it were more realistic. For instance, I’ve never seen an episode where the kid wishes for a box full of grenades. Hell, that would be the first thing I’d ask for.

That being said, the annoyance factor on this show is pretty low, and some of the jokes are actually funny, so it may be a good choice.

Spongebob Squarepants — Everybody knows this one. It’s been around for the last ten years or so, and with good reason. It’s by far the best animated show out there. You don’t even have to be drunk or high to enjoy it (though it doesn’t hurt). If your kid gets hooked on this one, consider yourself lucky.

Back at the Barnyard — This one’s also pretty decent. It’s about a bunch of barnyard animals (cows, chickens, pigs, etc.) who live on a farm, and the zany misadventures they get into. The writing is good, and the gags are genuinely funny. Good show.

The Mighty B! — Avoid this one at all costs. I’m not even sure what the show is supposed to be about; I always turn it off within five seconds. Why? The main character speaks in a high-pitched whine laced with a heavy lisp. It’s the single most annoying sound that has ever penetrated my ears. If your kid starts watching this show, set the TV on fire and then throw it out the window. You’ll thank me later.

LIVE-ACTION SHOWS FOR OLDER KIDS:

Hannah Montana — The phenomenon that is Hannah Montana is almost too difficult to fully comprehend. This has been the biggest thing for Disney since Donald Duck perfected the temper tantrum. On the show, Miley Cyrus plays a normal teenage girl who leads a double life as a pop star. Nobody knows she’s a pop star, though, and thus hilarity always ensues.

The show itself isn’t terrible. There are worse things your children could be addicted to. I find that my greatest joy in watching “Hannah Montana” is cheering wildly whenever Billy Ray Cyrus comes onscreen. This is usually followed by a rousing chorus of “Achy Breaky Heart,” which then prompts my daughter to throw a shoe at my head. It’s good all-around family bonding.

Drake and Josh — This show was on for a long time, but I don’t think they’re making any new episodes because the main characters reached Nickelodeon’s Magical Age of Disownment. If you can still find reruns, it might be worth looking into.

Drake and Josh are stepbrothers, brought together by a Brady Bunch-style marriage. Drake is the cool one, and Josh is comparatively dorky and awkward. This dichotomy supplies a seemingly endless variety of storylines, most of which have been done about a billion times by about a billion other shows. Still, it’s tolerable if you’ve got nothing better to do than watch it with your kid. The dude who plays Josh is good for a few one-liners and random physical comedy, so it borders on actual “entertainment” at times.

iCarly — This is a show about a couple of tween girls who have a weekly webcast called iCarly. It’s a spin-off of “Drake and Josh,” so if you didn’t like that show, then you’ll probably hate this one. That being said, it’s bearable, albeit slightly juvenile. If your kid prefers to spend every waking moment screwing around online, she might become interested in this show, so watch out.

The Suite Life on Deck — This is a spin-off of “The Suite Life with Zack and Cody,” featuring most of the same central characters. I won’t waste any time in telling you that this show sucks fat monkey testicles.

Remember Uncle Jesse and Rebecca’s twin boys from “Full House”? Those are the kids from this show, and they still haven’t gotten haircuts since then. Each of the boys possesses all the theatrical talent of a limp noodle, which is further proof that they sure in the hell didn‘t spend all the money from those “Full House” residual checks on acting lessons. Ten seconds of this show and you’ll be banging your head against a cinder block.

The Naked Brothers Band — Yet another ignorant-ass show. Fortunately, this one has stopped production, so you will probably never have to watch it.

The show focuses on a bunch of annoying tweener kids who are in a band and spend their time composing horrible, horrible songs. They then perform these songs within the context of the show. Oh yeah, did I mention that the songs were horrible? Well, they are. They sound like they were written by a raccoon on a crack binge. The mute button on your remote will see plenty of action if you find yourself subjected to this garbage.


Big Time Rush — This is a show about a “boy band.” It’s essentially a rip-off of that Jonas brothers show, which in turn is a rip-off of about a million other shows that are rip-offs of “The Monkees.” Everything old is new again; La-De-Freakin’-Da.

The members of the “Big Time Rush” band are pretty much exactly as you’d expect. There’s The “Tough” One; The “Cute” One; The “Funny” One; The “Probably Gay” One and The “Other” One.

The show is rife with tired dialogue and clich├ęd plotlines. Each episode finds the ensemble getting into yet another “wacky” situation through “zany” circumstances. Yawn.

You may be wondering why a network would bother to produce a show centered on a “boy band” fifteen years after that ship sailed (and consequently hit an iceberg), but it’s apparently still a profitable concept. As long as there are screaming, infatuated tweener girls with idle time and allowance money to burn, there will be idiotic shows like this.


Well, there you have it. I hope this helps all of you parents in choosing what kind of shows your kids watch. Remember, it’s never too early to start filtering this stuff. You’ll be sparing your children’s sanity, and your own.

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