Friday, October 21, 2011

What Are Those Kids Watching? Part One: Nickelodeon Shows

The next time you turn on the television, take a few moments to appreciate the plethora of confusing shows your children love watching. The Nickelodeon channel is a prime offender; they air some of the strangest, most senseless programs out there. In order to alleviate some of your bewilderment, here are rundowns for a few of the channel’s most popular shows aimed at young children.

“Team Umizoomi” This show is all about math. Yeah, math. I’ll wait until you work up your excitement. No? Okay. Me, either.
Much like your tenth grade algebra teacher, Team Umizoomi will attempt to convince you that math is cool and useful in everyday society. Unlike your tenth grade algebra teacher, Team Umizoomi won’t try to convince you to keep watch while he smokes a doobie in the parking lot.

Each episode, the Umizoomi gang comes to the aid of some whiny and helpless kid. They’re sort of like The A-Team, I guess. Watching is pretty unnerving, though, since the kid in question is a real-life actor and Team Umizoomi is animated. This results in a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? type series of odd and uncomfortable interactions against a green screen.

Anyway, the whiny, helpless kid always has something math-oriented for Team Umizoomi to help him with. The set-up is usually something like “Hey Team Umizoomi, help me find the eggs in this grocery store. They’re in aisle 12” or “Hey Team Umizoomi, my dad drinks too much and won’t get a job. Find his eight whiskey bottles” or “Hey Team Umizoomi, what’s this weird rash on my crotch? Math.”

Of course, Team Umizoomi always more than eager to assist the whiny, helpless kid with his addition and subtraction issues. The funny thing is, one of the team members is a talking, sentient robot. You would think that with that level of technology, Team Umizoomi would at least have built a calculator into the robot, since they do this whole math thing for a living. You would be wrong, though; the robot is just as moronic as the rest of the characters.

“Max and Ruby” Choose this show when you want your kid (and yourself) to fall asleep. “Max and Ruby” is the television equivalent of Simon and Garfunkel; its solitary mission is to chill you the *&^% out. Like Simon and Garfunkel, there’s probably some political agenda in there as well, but I can’t hear it over the sound of my yawns.

The premise of the show revolves around a pair of brother and sister bunnies -- Max and Ruby. These two boring-ass rabbits gladly embark upon the mundane tasks of human existence: everything from making the bed to flushing the toilet. Not only are their actions monotonous, but they stretch each singular act into a half-hour episode.

Max, the younger bunny, plays the foil in the show. His senseless and strangely hypnotic actions lead to gentle rebukes from Ruby, such as: “No, Max, our Netflix return goes into the mailbox,” or “No, Max, chairs are for sitting.”

Max will lead your children to a well-deserved sense of self-empowerment. They’ll think, I may not be able to wipe my own butt without help, but at least I’m smarter than these morons, and you know what? They’re right. It’s a genuine confidence booster.

“The Fresh Beat Band” If you’re one of the three or four people who read my overview of “Imagination Movers,” you’ve already got the gist of this show. If not, simply reading the title “The Fresh Beat Band” should prepare you for the lameness that will ensue after the opening credits.

This is actually a heartwarming program. “The Fresh Beat Band” is set up exactly how the simplistic title indicates: an overly dramatic group of idiots making crummy music about everyday experiences.

The actors are so diverse that you’d think the ACLU made the casting decisions. There’s a redheaded girl, an Asian chick, a black guy and a white dude. They all defy ethnic boundaries to come together and suck as a unified force. It almost brings a tear to my eye.

This show has real-world value. It will teach your children that skin color is irrelevant in choosing your friends. Obviously, the most important characteristics to consider are acting and singing abilities.

“Bubble Guppies” This show takes place underwater, like “Spongebob Squarepants,” only it sucks about ten thousand percent more. The Bubble Guppies are a group of mermen and mermaids who don’t seem to notice their abhorrent genetic conditions and simply go about their days learning how to recognize circles. This in itself would be commendable, but they’re just so freaking smug about it.

You’ll grow to hate the Bubble Guppies, even attempting to crap on their remedial educations. Apparently, there are no quality grade schools beneath the ocean water, because these douchey fish-people have to ask your children for confirmation on even the simplest tasks.

Once they grow old enough to realize that they’re being used, your children will lose interest in helping the Bubble Guppies. They’ll remain silent in a curious hope that the failure to find a triangle will result in the genocide of the merman race, as if their civilization rested upon baiting kids into talking toward television screens. It’s a futile experiment, of course; somehow, the Bubble Guppies keep getting renewed, no matter how hard your kids try.

“The Penguins of Madagascar” If you’re anything like me, your second question upon hearing the title of this show was “There are penguins in Madagascar?” (Your first question was “Madagascar? That’s a thing?”) This series is a spin-off of the movie -- you guessed it -- Madagascar, with the quartet of penguin characters serving as the focal point.

The penguins spend their time trying to escape the zoo or something, I guess. It doesn’t really matter what they’re doing. Whatever they’re trying to accomplish, they’re doing it badly because they keep showing up in the same setting every week, then complaining about it for half an hour.

My main problem with this show is the character voicing. The penguins feature a hodgepodge of dialects that don’t make any sense at all within the context. It’s almost a New Jersey-type accent. Granted, I’ve never actually been to Madagascar, but I’m pretty sure the locals don’t all sound like Snooki.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bill Murray Was Right

I wouldn’t call myself an “animal lover,” but I’m reasonably close. I’m a “cat person” and everything, but I just wouldn’t go so far as to file myself in that category.
To me, the phrase “animal lover” conjures mental images of tree-hugging hippie douchebags throwing buckets of fake blood on fur-wearing celebrities.
The throwing things at celebrities part of that is cool (stupid celebrities! That’ll teach ‘em to be successful at their craft!) but I’m not so comfortable with the tree-hugging hippie douchebag part of it. But I digress.

My feelings about other animals aside, I’ve got issues with Groundhog Day. Lots of issues. Who was the paint-chip-eating moron who came up with this holiday? Hey, here’s a great idea: Let’s pretend that a sorry excuse for a beaver has omniscient control over the seasons! Who cares if it makes no sense whatsoever, it’ll be fun!
If the groundhog sees his shadow, there’s supposed to be six more weeks of winter in store for the country. If he doesn’t, spring will come early. How about we forego all the groundhog crap and just look up at the damn sky? If it’s cloudy, then no shadows. If the sun is out, you’ve got shadows.
Wow, that was easy. Letting alone the fact that this logic has absolutely no bearing on predicting the weather, it does prove that bringing a freakin’ groundhog into the mix is not only unnecessary, but completely insane.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Groundhog Day (which is an awesome movie, and the only good thing to come from this holiday), then you’re aware that there’s actually an annual ceremony devoted to this nonsense.
Every year, thousands of easily amused douche-holes descend on Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to partake of the festivities. Everyone gathers at a place called “Gobbler’s Knob”—a phrase which brings so many crude jokes to mind that every time I consider it, I fear that my head may explode.
At Gobbler’s Knob, the crowd eagerly watches to see what kind of weather the “official” groundhog will predict for the rest of the season. Yes, there’s an “official” groundhog, if you were unaware. His name is Punxsutawney Phil.

Punxsutawney Phil is treated like some sort of hairy deity at this ceremony, even though he’d probably much rather be somewhere else giving people rabies or eating his own poop—you know, normal groundhog stuff. The following information was taken from a news site, just to show you that I am not exaggerating any of this:

The groundhog's full name is actually "Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary." It was so proclaimed by the "Punxsutawney Groundhog Club" in 1887, the same year they declared Punxsutawney to be the weather capital of the world.
For most of the year, Phil lives in a climate-controlled home at the Punxsutawney Library. He is taken to Gobbler's Knob and placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on stage before being pulled out at 7:25 am on Groundhog Day, February 2, to make his prediction.

Wow. He lives better than I do, and he only has to work one day a year—just like that lazy bastard Santa Claus. I’m in the wrong line of work.

These people need a new hobby. I don’t have anything against groundhogs in general (there’s a very large groundhog who splits his time between my neighbor’s shed and his vacation home beneath my porch. To his credit, he‘s never called the cops on me or anything), but this just goes to show how easily cold-climate people can lose their minds during a long winter. You don’t see people in Arizona standing outside in February. They’re too busy putting on sunscreen and thinking about how awesome it is to not have frostbite.

All of this makes me want to start my own senseless holiday tradition. On Presidents’ Day, I’m going to dress my cat in a fake beard and a stovepipe hat. Then I’ll pull her out of a suitcase and have her predict the winner of “American Idol.”

Yeah, that sounds like a plan.

Here, kitty-kitty…