I’ll come right out and say it: I let my son watch TV. It isn’t all that much unless I’m sick or desperate for a break, and it’s almost entirely PBS. It’s still more than my idealistic self thought I would let him watch – but then again, it is also less than I watched before he was old enough to notice there was a TV. So there’s that. Our schedule fits up against OPB’s so nicely that I have all the shows in my Netflix queue and play them in order on weekends. It’s not crucial that it happen every day or anything; it’s just the average morning.
Some days E is up at 530; on a good day, he’s up at 7. But most of the time it’s right about 6:30, like there’s an alarm clock stashed in his jammies (which there could be; he’s already a stasher). We deal with diapers and a bottle and things like that for a while. No matter when we get up the TV doesn’t go on until after 6:30, when Wild Kratts is on.
Wild Kratts is by the same brothers who did Zoboomafoo back in the day. Which I am exactly old enough to have missed, although I definitely remember that scary-ass lemur. This show doesn’t have any irritating puppets, though. Aside from some intro and extro of the real Kratts with various animals the show is animated, in the style of those Erin from eSurance ads. They’re sort of eco-superheros who have magic (science magic!) suits that effectively turn them into robotic animals. They learn about the animals abilities and then have to use them to stop bizarre villains who are constantly trying to kidnap and exploit rare animals. In totally insane ways. Or sometimes to help a lost baby animal or other semi-heroic tasks.
E isn’t all that interested in Wild Kratts, mostly because we don’t see it as regularly. He tends to perk up for Curious George though. Which is cool, because I remember watching Curious George stories when I was tiny. Back then it wasn’t even really animated – it was mostly just still pictures. And there was less learning and a lot more mischief.
The new one is pretty cute. The animation is good and stories are engaging and creative. There’s some interesting stuff – George tries exotic fruits like durian and Buddha’s hand, builds a lock to rescue fish, goes into outer space and generally is a lot cooler and more interesting than I ever remember him being. There is still one problem, though. The same problem that the original series and all the books share: they keep giving that monkey responsibility. Oh, here’s how we control the trains! I’ll just disable the alarm and leave the very active monkey alone with the control panel! Desperately important delivery of food and ants and raccoons to a space station? Let’s send the monkey who consistently gets into every thing he’s not supposed to have access to!
Next up is The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That. Here is a list of things I hate about it.
1.) Martin Short. I just goddamn can’t stand Martin Short. The only time I’ve ever liked him was in Inner Space. No, I do not think Ed Grimley or Jiminy Glick are funny. I think he was the low point in the entire series of Arrested Development. I don’t care how many actually talented comedians he pals around with. I hate him and his stupid voice, and he’s the fucking voice of The Cat in the Fucking Hat.
2.) I don’t actually like Dr. Seuss that much anyway. I liked Green Eggs and Ham and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, but otherwise, his stuff has never appealed to me. As a kid I just didn’t like the style of his artwork, and I thought his use of nonsense words to force rhymes was cheating and borderline insulting. I specifically disliked CITH.
3.) I kind of hate the rest of the voice actors too. The kids sound especially pointy at seven-thirty in the morning. And why did they make Nick’s mom Jamaican? I don’t mind that they changed his ethnicity, but something about her accent. Maybe it’s because it makes me want to watch Futurama instead.
There is a saving grace, though. Somehow, The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That tends to yield a lot of “wait, what?” moments. Not jokes over the children’s heads so much as things that just sound wrong and dirty, especially for those with twisted senses of humor. You know, like me. And probably like you, if you’re still reading my blog. So when, for example, The Cat says “Flick the jigga-ma-whizzer!” in every episode, I snicker like the adolescent my brain thinks I still am. And that’s the tame stuff – there are moments when I almost spit out my coffee. Like when I’m not paying attention and I hear the cat say (in Martin Short’s voice, which makes it just wrong-er), “I know a place that’s always wet!”
E watches parts of TCITHKALAT. He calls it “hat-hat” and gets very excited when the “go-go song” comes on. I must grudgingly admit that the song helps us get him into the carseat when he’s resistant. I particularly appreciate the specific mention of buckling up – that’s a lifesaver on a day when he wants to go play ‘side instead of getting in the cah.
Speaking of lifesavers, up next is Super Why! Oh, thank you, PBS, for Super Why. E absolutely loves that show and will come running from anywhere in the house yelling “Why-why! Why-why!” with joy. And the show is actually pretty decent. There’s a little boy named Whyatt who lives in Storybook Village, along with Red Riding Hood, Princess Pea and Pig (Piiiiiiig!). They become the Super Readers – respectively, Super Why (reading comprehension), Wonder Red (rhyming), Princess Presto (spelling) and Alpha Pig (alphabet).
The Super Readers encounter a problem and find a book that will lead them to the solution. They use their special abilities to change things in the story, eventually helping the characters in the book solve a problem similar to the one the Super Readers have. Along the way they pick up “super letters” that go into their “super-duper computer” and eventually spell out an answer, usually something like TAKE YOUR TIME or PRACTICE .
I wish that all the characters were in every adventure. It always starts with Alpha Pig and ends with Whyatt, but the girls alternate. I’d understand the time constraint if they hadn’t recently added a new (male) character – Woofster the dog, with Dictionary Power. There are now three male and two female characters; all three males are active in every plot, but only one female per episode. Sigh. I do find this ingrained sexism boring and annoying, but what can you do?
E fully participates in this one, which is actually pretty fun to watch. He yells out letters, dances to the songs and in general puts on more of a show than the TV ever could. Granted, I am just as likely to use this time to accomplish any number of tasks that my son strenuously objects to – like making my bed, getting dressed, putting on makeup or peeing with the door closed. Super Why is also our go-to for when he (or Mommy or Daddy) is overtired or worked up and needing to slow down. He might not be able to settle down enough for a book or a song, but he will calm down (and cheer up) for Why-Why.
Dinosaur Train is up next, and is generally the signal that it’s time for breakfast. E is usually pretty preoccupied with the meal so this ends up being background noise. Which really is too bad. It has been many years since I was into dinosaurs, and holy shit have they discovered stuff since then!
It’s a family of Pteranodons who have adopted a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I just try to let that part slide, even though I am convinced that Buddy will eventually eat one of his siblings. The Pteranodon kids have varying degrees of character development. Tiny is the little cute one that’s the other main character. She’s irritating as hell and yet still cute. Shiny seems kind of snooty, and Don? Well…Don’s kind of stupid. The family spends most of it’s time riding the train around, meeting dinosaurs (and other creatures) and learning about them. It’s pretty straightforward, and the show is divided by segments were paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson talks about what we know (or surmise) about the real dinosaurs. And goddamn, I have learned so much. Y’all know that dinosaurs had feathers, right?
The characters are fun and the adventures are tame but engaging. I also love the fact that Buddy’s favorite word is hypothesis (it’s an idea you can test!). There are more species than I can even keep track of, and the way they’re introduced makes them easy to understand. I’m excited for the day E is old enough to get into dinosaurs, because they’re even cooler than when I was his age.
And then we get to Sesame Street. I’ve already written about my love for Sesame Street, and I have absolutely no doubt that I will write more about it in the future. It’s just so damn enjoyable, and so genuinely well written. And there are all sorts of references and jokes for adults…and of course, plenty of stuff for my brain to warp.
E loves Elmo, of course. All freaking toddlers love Elmo, and nobody knows why. He has is own de-tickled Tickle Me Elmo that he takes everywhere and can spot Elmo anywhere, like some kind of sixth sense. He also enjoys Abby’s flying fairy school and anything about numbers and letters, but otherwise isn’t particularly interested. We regularly turn it off or leave during this hour, but there’s one more show before the TV absolutely, positively turns off: Sid the Science Kid.
I love Sid, and I am looking forward to when E is old enough to get into the show. It’s just four kids in a suspiciously under-crowded, ethnically diverse and incredibly well funded preschool. And they learn all about science, including neat experiments that can easily be recreated. I can hardly wait until he’s a curious little scientist, all ready to try things. And Sid get’s double points for doing an entire episode about vaccinations, with the tagline “When you think like a scientists, vaccines are a really great idea!” Given the current bizarre and deadly fad of
vaccine science rejection I am thrilled to see real, useful education. It makes up for those times when I have a little hate seizures when Jenny McCarthy shows up on Sesame Street.
So that’s it. Worst mother ever, no doubt, that I let my toddler watch TV in the morning. But I don’t feel all that bad. My philosophy is that this is the world E is growing up in – a world of screens. So he gets exposed to smartphones (there are some apps that are magnificent) and the computer and TV, and he somehow still manages to talk, eat, play, love and develop so fast it’s like a time-lapse of a flower opening to the sun. And given who his parents are, chances are extremely high that he will have “problems focusing” no matter what we do. So ultimately I am perfectly comfortable with it.