Listen, I understand that letting your kid watch TV turns their brains into piles of mush. I’ve read the research, I’ve chatted with the paranoid parents, I’ve listened to discussions on the topic. But since the day Quinn learned how to independently operate the iPad, that battle has been effectively lost. Also, our blessed hour or so of TV time in the morning allows me to compose myself for the toddler filled day to come. I get some food, some coffee, some time to just sit on the couch and be the coach potato I was born to be.
To be fair, it’s not like Quinn watches an excessive amount of TV. She is also only allowed to watch shows that air on PBS and nothing too fast or violent. Sponge Bob is a pariah in this house (is Sponge Bob even a thing still? I don’t know. I don’t want to know.) She isn’t watching sexed up female characters or overly macho crime fighting men. She has even learned some songs from her shows (ok, some words from some songs, but still, she’s not even two).
In my months watching TV with Quinn (it is a shared activity much of the time), I’ve learned a thing or two about TV characters. Mostly, I’ve learned all the various ways that I hate them. This happens when you spend way, way too much time analyzing the motives of the Man in the Yellow Hat or the problem solving capabilities of Super Why. And after literally dreaming that I was watching a Curious George episode last night (she is really into George right now), I decided to document my disdain, character by character.
We’ll start with the low grade offenders:
George, himself: As a character, George really isn’t that bad. He is a monkey, after all. And as Michael and I were discussing this morning (yes, we discuss these things), he is an awfully smart monkey. Generally well mannered and helpful, if, of course, overly curious, I don’t mind that Quinn likes George per se. I just mind everyone else on the show (but we’ll get to them later).
Winnie the Pooh, et al: I have no beef with these guys. While not technically on PBS, we have watched Winnie on Netflix during particularly grumpy/sick days. Perhaps I’m biased because I grew up with Pooh, but it’s hard to fault any of them. They are just lovable, friendly characters.
Thomas the Train and friends: I don’t mind the trains, although I do wonder sometimes why the trains, which are sentient, need conductors.
Bob the Builder: Not a real favorite (he isn’t on frequently), I like Bob. Probably because his name is Bob. Also, one of his co-workers is a woman and I appreciate Quinn seeing women portrayed as more than princesses.
The Kratt brothers, living: Dorky, but that’s ok, I like the humans on Wild Kratts when they are human and not animated. In fact, I really enjoy the live portions of this show – I have learned a thing a two about animals and Quinn seems to respond well to the wildlife. The animated portion is a different story.
Sesame Street: Sure, it can grate, but honestly, I don’t mind Elmo that much. Quinn isn’t as into him as she once was, but I like some of the underlying adult commentary that Sesame Street provides (Upside Downton Abbey, anyone?). I also enjoy the plethora of celebrities that come by to do the Word of the Day, one of my favorite sketches. Sure, Big Bird is a drag, but he isn’t on much anymore. And you can’t beat Sonia Sotomayor coming on to tell Abby Cadabby that “princess” is not an appropriate career goal.
Super Why and the Super Readers: While the theme song drives me crazy and I don’t understand why Whyatt spells his name like that (okay, I get it, it’s Super Why, but still), and I don’t get why Whyatt wears such high loafers, I do appreciate the show’s focus on reading and letters. The stories are silly and predictable and sometimes the “super big problem” is really stupid, but if I have to watch more than one episode in a row, I don’t want to pull my eyes out.
Dinosaur Train: I kinda like Dinosaur Train, even if the whole “Dinosaurs had a time travelling train” concept is really asking me to suspend a lot of disbelief. Still, it’s hard not to love Don, who I think has a developmental disability, or the conductor who is nurturing an interspecies romance with another type of dinosaur. I’ve learned a thing or two from the paleontologist the show features and maybe Quinn will too someday. I must say though, this has the potentially to totally bug. Quinn just doesn’t watch it that often.
Big time offenders:
Sid, the Science Kid: Sid drives me NUTS. Maybe it’s his purple hair, maybe it’s the stupid way his friend Meg talks, maybe’s it’s the fact that he is SO DAMN CURIOUS. I like the premise of the show – learning about science is great, and I appreciate that the girls are just as interested as the boys – but Sid is just so annoying. Also, Grandma’s paunch bothers me. And her giant glasses. Grandma in general, really. Sadly, I feel like Sid is a show I will encourage Quinn to watch. We might even replicate some of the experiments someday. Sigh.
The Kratt brothers, animated: Okay, the animated portion of this show is just stupid. The stupid Kratt brothers transform into animals using their stupid suits. The whole thing is ridiculous. I understand it is predicated on their whole “what if” premise, but honestly, I think a Steve Irwin approach to wildlife would be far more educational and entertaining. Sure, maybe some of the animals on the cartoon part can’t really be filmed in the wild, but there are plenty of animals who can. Instead of a “save the animals, fight the villain” plot, I’d really prefer, “here is a sloth/meerkat/elephant/etc.” One saving grace: the inventor of the suits and all that crap is a woman, which is appreciated.
Daniel Tiger: In a way, I like Daniel Tiger. The show is animated, but moves slowly, so it doesn’t overstimulate Quinn’s brain. And some of the lessons learned (sharing, being yourself, finding the good in the bad) are valuable. But still, SO CHEESY. Also, lingering questions: Why don’t Daniel or Dad Tiger wear pants, but Mom Tiger does? In the how to use the potty episode, why wasn’t WIPING emphasized? (Seriously, the song went “flush and wash and be on your way.”) Still, the magic trolley was always my favorite part of Mr. Rogers, so I have a bit of a soft spot for the ole tiger.
Bill, from Curious George: Bill is the country kid who is a cocky snot. He is always talking down to George about him being a city kid. Whatever, Bill, you can’t even tell that GEORGE IS A MONKEY, NOT A KID. However, as Bill seems to have no parents, perhaps a little slack should be cut.
The Cat in the Hat: God, I hate the Cat in the Hat. I’ve always hated him, actually. I don’t even like the book. The show is pretty awful too, although I do appreciate that Nick and Sally are friends despite being a boy and girl. But the Cat … ARGH. So annoying. Less annoying animated that the live-action Mike Myers version, he still drives me crazy. Sadly, Quinn is pretty into him, so we watch a fair amount of the damn Cat.
The Man in the Yellow Hat: Biggest idiot ever? Likely. How many times does George have to freaking cause a raucous for the man to learn to maybe not send the monkey out to do his errands or leave him alone in a train station? Also, WHY SO MUCH YELLOW? And what exactly does he do? Mike and I have had LONG conversations about the man. Mike is particularly concerned about his source of income (seriously, the dude lives in the approximation of Manhattan in a doorman building, has a country house, and owns a car) and potential sex life. The man doesn’t really do anything specific – loosely affiliated with a “museum,” his position seems to run the gamut from writing reports to literally going into space (though in one recent episode we watched the man said, “I’m not a scientist.” THEN WHAT ARE YOU, MAN?).
THE ABSOLUTE WORST:
Caillou: On man, Caillou seriously sucks. Quinn LOVES Caillou. She even says his name. Caillou is 4 years old (according to the theme song) and just a quivering piece of cheesiness. Also, so bald. WHY IS HE SO BALD? Clearly, he is not a leukemia patient undergoing therapy as that would not be funny and also his parents would be constantly compromising his immune system. Does he have alopecia? A protein deficiency? Why is no one in the show concerned about how bald he is? Aside from his baldness, he is just annoying.
THE ABSOLUTE WORST EVER:
Mommy and Daddy from Caillou: Man, they are also stupid. And annoying. And have ridiculous eyebrows. Also, Mommy’s breasts are just a bit too well defined for my liking. Also, her clothes are TERRIBLE. Neither of them appear to have jobs. I cannot stand them.
Whew. It feels good to get that off my chest. Now if I could just get the hybrid of the theme songs for the Cat in the Hat and Caillou out of my head.