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.

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