I am taking a small break from the kiddie shows in order to focus on another genre, one possibly more deadly. Teenie-bopper shows. Disney and Nickelodeon (or Nick, cause they are trying to be cool) are two of the most responsible for this programming. These shows tend to feature beautiful, pimple-less teens with major problems, like prom, boyfriends or lack thereof, and parents who are complete morons.
While these shows feature teens, they are usually watched by pre-teens in the 9 to 12 range. That’s because once a kid reaches the age of the kids on the show, they realize that real school life isn’t remotely like the lives of these teenage stars. But for younger kids, these shows are great, because they feature great role models they can look up to – um, at least until their role models get caught smoking crack. Which brings us to the first example, by request:
Hannah Montana is about a girl named Miley, played by Miley Cyrus, in yet another T.V. trend of naming the main characters after the actress so that they can more easily remember which part they play. Also on the show is Miley’s real-life country music has-been mullet-headed father, Billy Ray Cyrus. Billy Ray made it big with the song “Achy Breaky Heart” which was played on the radio so many times in the early 90s that people were poking at their own ears with sharp sticks. The song even spawned a line dance. No, really. Horrible times, the 90s.
Anyway, after Achy Breaky, Billy Ray didn’t do a whole lot until he was able to ride the coat tails of his daughter onto her new Disney show. In the tradition of Disney, they chose a girl who was both pretty and a good singer. They would also have her act, badly, but with the goofy scripts, it was really hard to tell. The plot of Hannah Montana was rather simple. Miley was a young teen who had just moved from Tennessee to Malibu and had to adjust to her oh-so-difficult life filled with problems like concealing her secret identity as rockstar Hannah Montana. Her disguise was almost as clever as Clark Kent’s. She wore a blond wig. Yup. A rock solid disguise there.
So what were the highlights of this show? Well, first there was the corny accent that I could listen to for all of five seconds before I started looking for that pointy stick I used back in the early 90s. Or the costumes, that were always modest and appropriate -for a showgirl. And the singing – imagine the exact same song played over and over and over again. Oh, sure, my daughter assures me that she was actually singing several different songs, but they all sounded the same to me. Here’s some of the songs I got from Wikipedia that thankfully I don’t remember.
“Make Some Noise” (how very apropos!)
“If We Were a Movie” (whut?)
“Nobody’s Perfect” (except for Miley / Hannah!)
“The Best of Both Worlds” (I really don’t want to see the worst, then)
Hannah Montana ran from roughly the beginning of time about a million years until mercifully ending in 2011. By this time, Hannah had spawned a huge merchandizing frenzy, with dolls, bedspreads, and clothes. At one point, Wal-Mart carried only Hannah Montana clothing in their girl’s section. The face was everywhere – like Hannah was purposely following me around. “Haha, you just think you can avoid me by screaming when the T.V. is on until your daughters turn it off. I’ll show you!”
As Hannah’s fame grew, so did Miley Cyrus’s. The little brat is worth millions but you’ll be happy to know she has been very responsible with it. At 15, she posed nearly naked in bedsheets – pictures approved by her father. Can’t describe the Ick factor there. Later, she got a video leaked on youtube of her doing drugs on her birthday. Parents everywhere were filled with joy. Around the time of this scandle, I was helping at a kindergarden Christmas party for my youngest daughter. An adorable five-year-old classmate of hers told me, “Miley Cyrus smoked a bong.” “That’s nice dear, want a cupcake???”
On the plus side, Hannah and Miley are now of age, and the show has ended. But never fear, for there are still other shows about kids who happen to be rock stars – dozens of them. So exciting! OMG.
Irritating, has-been country music star: Check
Teen with totally realistic alter-ego: Yup
Disney actress that does drugs: Uh huh
Ick Factor: Present
|The Village Monsters|
|Hey Mom . . . arghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!|
|Well, this is awkward.|
|Scary what the mind can
do, isn’t it?
|Hi, I’m a real T-Rex. Scuse me
while I eat this guy.
|Haha, Stick ’em up, kids!|
A lot of people put down T.V. because they think it makes kids lazy. I protest, for often my children watched T.V. while standing on their heads, or jumping on my back, which was revenge for when I used to turn somersaults in front of the set, narrowly avoiding electrocution each time. At any rate, in order to appease those who think T.V. makes you sedentary and brainless (imagine that!), network executives came up with the brilliant idea of “interactive” children’s shows. These are shows that ask kids to help the people on the screen, usually by shouting out obvious solutions to the problems of very stupid characters.
I picked two of these shows to highlight, although I warn you now these reviews might cause PTSD in susceptible parents. First up:
Dora, Dora, Dora the Explorah is a cute little Hispanic kid with a football shaped head. She has a pet monkey that wears boots, but nothing else. Together they force children to help them get somewhere, as if they were tiny human GPSs. Dora is prepared, though, with her trusty backpack (cue song: “Backpack, backpack, backpack, backpack . . . “) that contains a map. Yes, that’s right. You can’t hear that word without also hearing the song that goes with it. “I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the MAP!!!!!”
Next an arrow – like a giant, supernatural mouse pointer – “clicks” on whatever object the child is supposed to select. So it’s like a cartoon computer program, for annoying children who grew up with computers and frequently slam their hands into storybooks expecting them to talk. I guess the arrow helps them identify the obvious even more . . . obviously.
Since Dora is Hispanic, she often teaches the kids Spanish words, mostly by repeating herself, which if you haven’t noticed, is a major pattern in this show. I mean, sure, I’ve heard of Spanglish, or using a mixture of English and Spanish, but this kid just says the same thing in two different languages. Here we go again: “Come on Vamanos! Everybody let’s go! “
Okay, so basically this is what Dora is saying, if you just keep it all in English. “Come on, everybody let’s go! Everybody let’s go!” Do you know anyone that talks like that? If so, they’ve probably been damaged by children’s T.V. Anyway, besides teaching Spanish, Dora also teaches kids about using a map to get somewhere, which admittedly, most adults still haven’t figured out either. Each episode, she pulls out a map and points to three places they have to go on their way. It’s always three places, no matter what. It could be to the bathroom, and still she would have three stops. And she would point each one out. Repeatedly.
By the time Dora has done this a dozen or so times, the kids have gotten the hang of it and are calling out answers to her. But she doesn’t just want help with direction. She also needs help with basic motor skills, like when she says “Jump! Salta! Say it with me! Salta! Salta! Saaaaaaaaaaltaaaaaa!”. Executives and parenting experts think this means the show is actively engaging the child’s brain, which I guess it is, but only so the child can get the character to SHUT UP ALREADY.
To spice things up, the show has a villain fox named Swiper, because he . . . swipes stuff. Which I guess is a better name than Clepto. He has to be one of the dumbest crooks ever though, because he’s always stealing things like parts of railroad track, rather than, say, an Xbox that he could sell on Ebay. He’s also easy to turn away. All you have to do is yell – you all remember it, don’t you? “Swiper, no swiping!”
And magically he stops what he’s doing, says “Oh, man” and leaves. Imagine if every criminal was that easy to discourage. My brother pointed out that this could inadvertently encourage children to say “Sniper, no sniping” which would be a pretty bad idea, considering that the sniper would be much more likely to shoot you in the head as snap his fingers in frustration. But I guess it’s worth a try, huh? Hint: It might be more effective if you know how to ask in both languages, just in case he’s bilingual.
After some trial and error, and repetition, repetition, repetition, she gets where she’s going and we are mercifully treated to end credits. But the song NEVER goes away. Maybe this will help:
The second of our interactive T.V. shows is about a dog named Blue and her human owner, who is the stupidest man on earth. There have actually been two owners of Blue – who you notice gets her name in the title over him, despite being not only a dog, but a cartoon dog. You can’t blame them, though, since Blue is arguably the brightest one. Steve was first, before he left for “college”. Personally, I don’t think he was ready for college. Except maybe clown college.
Never fear, though, for Steve’s brother Joe steps in next. I liked Joe a little better, because he was at least cuter, even if there was a vacancy behind those pretty eyes. Unlike Dora, Steve and Joe – for simplification I’ll call them Stejoe – don’t use a map. That’s way too complicated. Instead they must search for clues; difficult, considering neither of them has one. Blue leaves these clues all over the house and yard in the form of paw prints. This would annoy the heck out of me, but I guess it is better than her leaving “presents” for us instead.
Blue starts the show by leaving clues for kids to follow in order to guess what she’s thinking. Because unlike Lassie, she can’t convey this in yips. Of course she can’t talk – she’s a dog. Everything else can talk, though, including the mailbox, a clock, a bar of soap, a shovel, a pail, a sidetable drawer, and, naturally, the salt and pepper shakers (Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper). (By the way, these two got married and had a baby named Paprika. Don’t ask.)
Blue leaves her clues on various objects, and Stejoe searches for them, often walking into walls, getting confused, and walking into the same wall again. Not really, but this wouldn’t surprise me. The clues are always out in plain sight, but somehow Stejoe just never sees them. This frustrated my youngest daughter so much that by three she was shouting at the T.V. in frustration “It’s THERE. Right THERE! THERE!!!!”
Once Stejoe finally gets the hint, he writes down the clue on a notepad. Because the guy can’t remember squat. Actually, he draws it, because he’s also not so hot at reading or writing. Along the way, he stops and talks to the inanimate objects, who give him advice like “Right in front of your face, you dork.” You know it’s bad when you have less intelligence than the salt shaker.
Once Steve has gathered all the clues, he has kids help him guess the answer. Because trust me, he would never, ever get there on his own. One thing I’ll give him – he was always very polite, even when I answered his questions rather rudely.
The concept of both shows is really not that bad. It’s great to teach kids to look for clues and solve mysteries, and everyone needs to know where they’re going. A few words of Spanish are nice too, for those moments when you must demand that a Spanish person jump. But the repetition is hard on us parents, who spend most of our lives repeating things anyway, to no avail. “Get your shoes. Your shoes. On your feet. Your feet. They’re right there. There!!! Your shoes!” and so on. So obviously repetition is not the answer, since it has never worked for me, so why further punish people? Just get the kids a GPS and a game of Clue and be done with it.
Repetition: Yes Yes Yes
Annoying songs: Yes
Forces interaction for self-preservation: Yes
Didactic: Sing with me!
|Bob the Builder|
|Haha, welcome to the
|Imagine opening your toolbox
to find . . . .THIS
|Wrench: My teeth hurt
Hammer: Bang. . . bang . . . bang
|Thomas the Tank Engine|
|Better make yourselves
useful – FAST
|All Aboard! Hahaha . . . I’ll walk, thanks.|
|Jay Jay the Jet Plane|
|“Gosh, Tracy, we sure are creepy!”
“You said it, Jay-Jay!”
|“Yeah, I dunno, she’s been standing on that lot talkin’
to the planes for over an hour . . . better get the white coats.”
PBS means well – they really do. Back around 2000, they started making more shows with minority characters, because I guess they felt left out of the wackiness. Which brings us to my next children’s program:
Two kids, Max and Emmy, who look white and speak English like Anglos, yet have a disembodied parent voice with a Mexican accent, find a glowing scale in their playroom. No, not one you weigh on; it turns out it’s a dragon scale – and it’s magical, of course. I’m thinking if I saw something strange and glowing in my room, I might get Mom and Dad. But not these two. They say some magic words – I guess whoever left the dragon scale left instructions or something, I forget. Anyway, these magic words – which are repeated every episode so they can reuse the same animation – transport them to dragon land.
Now I’m a big fantasy fan, and I’ve read a lot about dragons. They’re big, scaly, and they breathe fire and eat people, especially knights. They seem oddly fond of kidnapping princesses. So I’m waiting for these kids to get roasted, but, alas, turns out they’re friendly. And they can speak Spanish. No, really! Who knew?
Anyway, there are several eccentric (read: annoying) dragon characters. Cassie is the pink one, who shrinks when she’s unhappy and whining, which is pretty much all the time. Org, or Ord, I was never quite sure, is the token big, stupid one. And then there’s . . . Zack and Wheezy, the two headed dragon. They have one body, two heads, yet one’s a boy and one’s a girl and . . . anyway, they also have opposite personalities. Zack is paranoid, and Wheezy is so obnoxious you want to kill her. Talk about your therapy issues.
They also have a teacher, Quasimodo, no wait, that’s the hunchback. At any rate, he’s the typical old, wise teacher, and apparently the only adult Max and Emmy come in contact w/ besides disembodied parent voice. From time to time there are guest star dragons, like the one in a wheelchair. Cause his legs don’t work. In that case, I don’t know why he doesn’t just fly, except that they all have such tiny wings on such huge bodies that I’m not sure how any of them fly.
From what I can tell, Max and Emmy spend most of their time in this dragon place, and their parents never know the difference. They never say how long the kids are gone, but when my kids got quiet for more than five minutes at a time, it usually meant they were covered in Noxema or something and it was time to check on them. Either this doesn’t occur to the parents, or they’re just so glad they’re gone that they don’t care. Maybe they left the dragon scale there on purpose.
I really didn’t like Dragon Tales. I’m not certain which character was the worst – I guess they all tied for last place. Where the heck was St. George when I needed him?
General Weirdness: Yes
Two-headed, Bi-Polar, Dual Gendered Dragon: Yes