Posts tagged ‘Disney’

Vast Wasteland…for kids!

Here’s the deal:  I don’t really watch TV anymore.  Very little, and what I do watch is pretty narrow.  Maybe part of it is being busy, and part of it may be that the Internet has replaced TV watching as my “screen time” of choice (which is why Nielsen is changing their core biz from TV watching to “screen” watching, trying to encompass computers, consoles, and mobile computing).  There have been few things to come along that get me watching regularly (right now that is “Lost”, the last show I am really invested in: “Heroes” has fallen by the wayside).  Of the others, they fall into the “I’ll watch it if I happen to come across it” shows, like Mythbusters, or Family Guy, or any of the Adult Swim stuff on Cartoon Network.  I haven’t fallen for some of the shows my peers go in for, and I stay far, far away from the “competition/reality/staged realism” show in the mold of “American Idol” or “Jon & Kate Plus Eight”.

But thanks to the two mini men tearing around my house, I have deep knowledge of shows aimed at the preschool set.  Here’s some thoughts.

First, the channel of choice is Disney.  They broadcast a set of shows in the AM and on the weekend called Playhouse Disney, with animated and real-life characters.  The keystone show is “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, with Disney’s core characters rendered in well done 3D graphics.  The plots are simple enough and encourage lots of things like counting, shape recognition, the usual.  Plus it is one of the few things that engages the boys (at least most of the time) and that Sean will ask to watch.  They do employ the waiting pause popularized by, and repeatedly made mockery of, the show “Dora the Explorer”.  They go like this:
Dora: “Do you see the monkey?”
pause…pause…still pausing…
Dora: (blinks)
pause…pause…yes, still pausing…
Dora: “Behind the tree!  That’s right!”

Mercifully, MMCH keeps these pauses short.  The other bonus for me was discovering that the opening and closing music was written by “They Might Be Giants”.  What theme music haven’t they written?

A newer show that has grabbed the kids’ attention is Special Agent Oso, about a stuffed bear who helps kids with kid problems like how to make a party hat or plant flower seeds.  I’ve mentioned that the show’s premise bothers me, in that this so-called “agent” is entrusted with Bond-esque materiel like jet packs, a sports car, and hi tech wrist communicators, but will ask his kid pals for help with mailing a letter or picking strawberries.  Evidently the term “special” is the same usage as for the kids from elementary school who had their own room and went on field trips.  Along this “special” idea, the show uses as a framework the conceit that all these problems can be broken down into “three special steps”, with it’s accompanying tune.  Sean has picked up on that tune and will chime in.  In the spirit of learning we devised a “Three special steps” for his bathtime.  Note that to get the full effect, you should know this tune and its delivery.
“Step one!  Fill the tub with water!
Step two!  Get into the tub!
Step three!  Get dry!”
You see how the detail of the activity gets glossed over.  Cathy and I decided to apply the “three special steps” paradigm to other aspects of life.  Here’s my application to the activity, “Heart surgery”:
“Step one!  Cut open the chest!
Step two!  Fix the heart!
Step three!  Sew up the chest!”
Yes, it really can be that simple!  Cathy contributed one of her own, and this follows the format of the “wrap up” version of the song sung after the mission is over, when Oso adds his own commentary about the steps.  Her mission was “Travel to California in a Covered Wagon” (think Great Plains migration):
“Step one!  Get in the wagon! (Oso: We barely had enough supplies!)
Step two!  Cross the plains! (Oso: There were a lot of Indians along the way!)
Step three!  Go over the mountains! (Oso:  We had to eat grandpa when we ran out of food!)”
Her humor sometimes has a dark streak.

There are other shows on as well: “Handy Manny”, about a Spanish/English-speaking handyman and his talking tools in more straightforward touchy-feely kind of problems versus the “counting & identifying” stuff; “Little Einsteins”, which the boys don’t care about, despite being gonzo for the “Baby Einstein” vids we have; and “Imagination Movers”, a live action show which seems like a Disney-fied relative of the Aussie import “The Wiggles” (for kid show programmers abroad, they seem to like gentle voices, bright colors, and pleasant camaraderie to their shows, which means, that when it hits the US, is immediately called gay).

The only other broadcast show the boys watch is Sesame Street, which is on daily after dinner and the weekend.  The show is certainly different from the show I grew up with (there’s a more contemporary feel to the music and shorts, read “hip-hop-y”), but the core is the same; nice people talking to puppets, peppered with cartoons and set pieces.  The most visible of these set pieces is Elmo’s World, a kind of show-within-the-show featuring the high-voiced red monster.  One aspect of this mini-show is when Elmo, after listening to kids talking about the topic of the day, inexplicably asks a baby what it thinks.  Elmo leans down to a baby sitting on the floor and asks the baby what he/she thinks.  Naturally, being a baby, he/she sits, drools, and looks around vacantly.  Elmo giggles, kisses the baby, then resumes the show.  It has the feel of a big star, having his own show, indulging in something that makes the production staff cringe, but they don’t say anything since it’s the star’s personal favorite.  I have a vision of an Elmo’s World production meeting:
Elmo: Hahaha!  Okay folks, is there anything else?
PA#1: (Exasperated) Sir, can we please get rid of the baby segment?
PA#2: (whispered) Dude, shut up!
Elmo: No. The baby segment stays.  It’s Elmo’s favorite part!  Hahaha!
PA#1: But it’s pointless!  The freakin’ baby can’t talk!  It stops the flow and wastes time we could use on…
Elmo: Again…the baby segment stays!
PA#1: (louder) It’s a giant waste of…
Elmo: (slaps PA#1 backhanded) No one…touches…the baby segment! Get your g*bleep* d*bleep* s*bleep* out of your f*bleep*ing desk and get the hell out of Elmo’s studio!  Hahaha!

Y’know, my humor has a dark streak too, sometimes.

So will our kids’, probably.