Children’s Television: What Is *Happening* Here?

Kids’ TV shows: I love them, and I hate them.  This post is mostly about how I hate them.

Disclaimer: please bring a sense of humor to this post.  I’m sure I’ll be criticized for letting my toddler watch TV but honestly, an hour or so per day never killed anyone.  I’m not going to pretend it’s “educational” or anything.  As far as I’m concerned, the TV is a magical box that keeps her from filling the toilet with my shoes or shredding and eating an entire box of Kleenex while I’m trying to cook dinner.  Now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to let you in on just a few of the things that go through my head while Caroline’s favorite shows are playing.

Yo Gabba Gabba: My name is Julia!  I’m way too white to dance!  As are 75% of the kids on this show.

When it comes to this show, all I have are questions.  For example, what is happening with Brobee’s elbows?  They are all double-jointed and weird and I’m pretty sure they defy the laws of physics.  They remind me of this time I saw a patient with a broken nose and I touched it and it wiggled like Jello and then I went off and threw up in the corner.  And why do all the inanimate objects on this show have to have human faces?  Why is DJ Lance’s jumpsuit so tight, and is that blinding shade of neon orange really necessary?  Also, what are his diet secrets?  And really, Plex, you have no idea what the word “fun” means?  You’re messing with me, right?  I’ll tell you what “fun” is– it’s whatever the creators of this show are taking that lets them come up with this trippy stuff.

My friend Lauren said it best: “Yo Gabba Gabba seriously makes me second-guess whether or not I successfully avoided taking acid this morning.”

Caillou: I’d pay obscene amounts of money to see Caillou’s mild-mannered mom totally lose her s–t on those kids.

I love that his name means “pebble” in French because how adorable is that, but that’s where my love for this show ends.  Aside from the fact that his voice gives me a migraine, his parents are just way too even-tempered and happy.  I am pretty sure Caillou could smash every breakable in the house, fingerpaint the walls with his own poop, and then burn the place completely to the ground, and his parents would just shake their heads and smile and say “That certainly wasn’t very friendly, Caillou.  Please let us know the next time you are feeling so upset, and together we will find a constructive way to solve your problems.”

His parents are saints, his grandparents are saints, his neighbors are saints, even his effing cat is a saint.  Quit making me feel so inadequate, Caillou!

Dora the Explorer: She might be teaching my kid Spanish, but she’s certainly not advocating the use of an “inside voice”.

I have ranted about Dora before, but she is Caroline’s absolute favorite.  I’m pretty sure that if Dora and I were both hanging off a cliff, Caro would save Dora’s life and allow me to plunge to my death.  For one thing, girlfriend has no volume control whatsoever.  Her parents have apparently never heard of “rules” or “curfews” or “not letting your kindergartener go wherever the hell she wants all the time with zero supervision”.  And don’t get me started on her friends.  Boots is a total sheep and can’t ever take any initiative, I can’t understand Tico at all (can I get some subtitles, please?), Benny’s always getting lost and stuck in volcanoes and whatnot, and all Swiper has ever done for anyone is cause trouble.  I asked Caro where my car keys were once, and she said “Swiper Fox take them.”  No joke.  And as for the Map, how about a little spoiler alert if you’re going to tell me exactly where all Dora’s magic eggs are hidden right at the beginning of the episode?

The only awesome thing about this show is the three little dudes who pop out of nowhere and play fiesta music when Dora does something right.  I want that in real life, please.

Anyway.  I feel like children’s TV shows weren’t quite so inane when I was a kid, but maybe that’s because, you know, I was a kid.  So there you have it.  What goes through your head when your kids’ favorite shows are on?

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  1. by Kelli

    On July 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Julia,
    I read about your blog in Parents magazine a few days ago and ahve been reading it for the past few days. Your writing is amazing and so helpful (not to mention hilarious at the appropriate times).

    I could not agree with you more on Calliou! I do not understand how his parents don’t just freakout!!

  2. by Amanda

    On July 31, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Caillou is way too whiny for my house- he has been banished. As for blaming things on characters Maddie used to have a HUGE crush on Handy Manny and would break things so that he would fix them. Ain’t happening girlfriend, now your doll is broken for evers!

  3. by ashley

    On July 31, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    I totally agree! dora makes my daughter scream MAP! MAP! and dotn get me started on diego! teaching kids thats all animals are all sorts of friendly and you can just go up to them and be friends.. id like to see him in real life go up to a cougar!! see if he wants to be an animal rescuer anymore!

  4. by Erinn

    On July 31, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Hahaha you have touched upon three shows that have been banned from my house. Also on the list are SpongeBob, and most of the Disney Channel.

    In fact, Gia isn’t really allowed to watch any cartoons produced after 1981, so Looney Tunes pretty much rule the house…And bonus – They are SO much funnier to watch as an adult than they EVER were watching as a kid. She is allowed to watch movies – Disney Princess, DreamWorks, and Pixar are all OK. But cable in general? Makes me barf. Or gives me an eye twitch. Or both.

  5. by Jennie

    On July 31, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    I abhor Cailou. My kids can learn to whine on their own, thank you very much. I think Raven watched it once or twice and I was like, Oh no. Never. Again.

    Sponge Bob is also outlawed in our house. I don’t really put TV on for them at all, but they do watch the Wiggles sometimes. And Chris usually DVRs a few movies at a time and puts them on for them. For awhile, Tristan’s favorite was ET, which he called “ABCDES.” Ridiculously cute? Yes indeed. lol

  6. by Hannah

    On July 31, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    It makes me miss the mild-mannered ex-marine we all grew up watching and wanting to be OUR neighbor. At least he threw educational things in with “Picture-Picture.” (VCR anyone??) Of course, I was always freaked out by the chipmunk and purple panda…
    I don’t have kids (yet), but I know my nieces love “Signing Time” and my sister is kind of obsessed with getting them on babysteals. Good luck finding something that isn’t mindless and mind numbing!

  7. by Amanda

    On August 1, 2011 at 12:15 am

    I cannot stand Dora but unfortunately Dora and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse are the only 2 things I can tolerate…although on occasion I yell at Dora where she can stick the map!!! I agree where are the good old cartoons!!

  8. by Melissa

    On August 1, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Um absolutely No spongebob allowed. I do not get why most the cartoons now are weird, like you mention above. I don’t get it. Reese is absolutely obsessed with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse but some of the shows I just can’t handle. Like have you seen Fishooks? Um WTHeck is up with that show? So weird. So we are stuck with the repetivenes of MMCH and Tangled but at least she’s not watching these new weird ones that don’t make any sense at all. It’s like the first time you watch Alice and Wonderland for the first time as an adult and are like, Um why the heck did my parents let me watch this? And if so where was the D.A.R.E message preceding it?

  9. by Laura

    On August 1, 2011 at 2:54 am

    Dora is like toddler crack…after watching one episode my daughter was hooked. She’s been obsessed with Dora for the past few months.

    Yo Gabba Gabba is one that we just watched for the first time the other day. Trippy!!! I completely agree with all the questions you said this show poses for you! I find the cartoony pictures of the food in the stomach really strange.

    Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That isn’t too bad, we have seen all the episodes and it’s not as weird or obnoxious as some of the kids programs out there.

  10. by Sherry

    On August 1, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Stumbled upon your site a few days ago and am hooked! You crack me up, but at the same time you can turn the situation into an emotional roller coaster (at least in your earlier posts about the divorce and such). Anyway, I’m now an official fan!

    About the cartoons…am I the only one who doesn’t mind Caillou? I thought it meant “bald” in french? Anyway, my son (3) adores him and I’d much rather watch an episode of that than Sponge Bob or Bubble Guppies (weird!!). We recently moved to a new city and for whatever reason I’m unable to find Gabba Gabba on our channels…and truly, I didn’t mind that one either. Weird, but not inappropriate.

  11. by Dionne

    On August 1, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I just completely laughed out loud at all of these. I have always thought the creators of Yo Gabba are smoking something, but my son used to be in a trance when he watched it! Oh and don’t get me started on Caillou, his voice is so whiney I can’t handle it and why is he 4 and still completely bald!? We don’t watch it in our house anymore, I think my son was picking up bad habits from him, we now tell him Caillou is broken at our house..lol.

  12. by Kathie Camp

    On August 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    So true! My daughters have watched all three of the shows you mentioned. I feel the same about Caillou…really, mom is always so calm..RIGHT!! Dora isn’t so bad, but I’ve had the same thought….where are her parents??? Yo Gabba Gabba is just weird and strange. Thankfully my girls have moved out of that stage. Other shows my girls like are Elmo, the Wiggles, Powerpuff girls. FUN times trying to find good kid appropriate shows! LOL

  13. by Katie

    On August 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I totally agree. After I first had my son, another mom shared some videos she had of a bunch of popular children’s shows. I watched each of them once to decide if I wanted my kid to watch those shows and… was a little unnerved. I find Wiggles, Gabba, Backyardigans, Wonder Pets all weird. They must build some child crack in there somehow judging by how addicted kids get. Between the cracked out shows and some of the kids movies (like Toy Story) that are actually pretty sassy, and the old shows we grew up with and now realize are so wrong for young’uns (um hello Scooby Doo?), they put us parents in a tight spot.

    And yet, I completely agree with you that there is a time and place for letting your kids watch tv. Like, say, when their toddler mood changes, defiance and clingy-ness are raging for 3 hours straight and then they look you in the eye telling you they don’t have to go potty while soiling their underwear (and your floor.) Time for a TV break!

    I guess my approach has mainly been about keeping a limit and variety so he doesn’t get completely hooked on any one thing. Plus I try to buy tv shows on dvd so I can control the episodes he sees and we avoid the commercials. As a related note, the shows may drive me bonkers, but as a marketer myself I really feel the advertising is the most detrimental to children.
    Shows on my ‘Ok’ list:
    Curious George
    Arthur
    Bob the Builder
    Occasionally Barney or Dora
    and some classic throwbacks like Pooh Bear and Charlie Brown every once in awhile.

  14. by Rory

    On August 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I have to admit, I really like Curious George. William H Macy makes it worthwhile and it’s on when we wake up, so I can get a little snooze time in.

    I hate Super Why with a passion, but my son is addicted. And, hey, he got very interested in learning the alphabet early on, so that’s good;)

    Otherwise, we ban Disney Channel, because I cannot take Yo Gabba Gabba or Dora or any of them, really and stick to movies. It wasnt long ago movies were considered art rather than evil. And really… How to train your dragon? Awesome!

  15. by Julia

    On August 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Thanks for the comments– and suggestions on better shows! It’s tough when she begs for Dora by name, though… sigh. I regret the day I ever introduced Dora and her obnoxious little crew. Haha.

    Oh, and the DARE comment on Alice and Wonderland made me laugh out loud.

  16. by erica

    On August 2, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Try Little Bill. It’s a sweet show.

  17. by Danielle

    On August 2, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Haha! I really enjoyed reading this post! My nephew is obsessed with Yo Gabba Gabba and when he gets his TV time that’s what he always chooses to watch. Side effects of Yo Gabba Gabba: getting songs stuck in your head for days that repeat the same words over and over again.

  18. by Betty

    On August 4, 2011 at 9:52 am

    My son loves Word World, Courious George, Clifford and Sesame Street. These shows are all on PBS which does not show crazy adult commercials like Sprout. That channel is horrible.

  19. by Morgan

    On August 5, 2011 at 5:23 am

    I read this and it made me laugh. I have the same thoughts as you do about Yo Gabba Gabba and Dora. When Yo Gabba Gabba comes on my 3 year old son looks at me and tells me that he can’t watch it and it’s creepy so he tells me to change the channel which I gladly do. I would also like to know why Dora’s parents allow her to run around unsupervised in every episode. My son loves most of the shows on Nick Jr his fave one is Team Umizoomi at least they teach you numbers and math. Like Dora how come Max and Ruby’s parents are never seen or heard. They expect a little girl to look after her brother, clean the house, make meals, go grocery shopping, and walk to grandma’s house alone. What are these shows really teaching our children??

  20. by Tanya

    On August 8, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Chuggington and wonder pets are thankfully the only 2 shows dylan really cares about, and they’re not that annoying. Chuggington is really good, actually lol. But as for the shows u mentioned, and spongebob, and a lot of disney jr…no-gos in my house. My son, bless him, told me he didn’t want to watch mickey mouse clubhouse bc the voices were annoying :) fine by me! Word world gets the thumbs-up from both of us. Don’t make me say what the red thing from gabba looks like…

  21. by Kimberly

    On August 15, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Love you comments about the shows! My 3-year-old daughter has seen Caillou once, but wasn’t into it, so I can’t really comment on that one. We don’t watch Yo Gabba Gabba. That is one strange show. The guy in the orange jumpsuit looks like his name should be J.J.(from Good Times). Some of my daughter’s favorites on Nick Jr. are Dora, Diego, Olivia (which I absolutely love!) and The Fresh Beat Band. She likes a couple on Disney Jr., too. At least all of these shows are age appropriate.

  22. by Sarah

    On August 15, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I absolutely agree. Caillou has been banned due to the whining as well as Max and Ruby. My three year old walks around talking like Max using only one word to say what she wants. I love PBS Kids channel and The Hub has a couple decent shows.

  23. by Jolene

    On August 23, 2011 at 11:22 am

    My boys (2 and 2 months)only get to watch PBS. We don’t worry about the others because I can’t justify paying for tv. My 2 year old has known his letters since was 18 months. He loves Word World and Super Why!. We also watch Sid the Science Kid, Curious George and Wild Kratts. I’ll admit there are a couple shows on PBS he doesn’t get to watch Caillou is one of them. We did watch nothing but Thomas the Tank Engine for months. Now he has discovered Winnie the Pooh.

  24. by Stephanie

    On August 24, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    I am glad that I found this blog. Your description of Caillou almost made me pee my pants. He is my daughter’s favorite. I cannot get his voice out of my head!

  25. by Emily

    On August 30, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Oh, my goodness! I started crying when I read the description of Caillou! I H-A-T-E that show!. Get a backbone and throw that whiny little snot in his room! It has been banned forever from our home.

    While I am on the subject, where are Max and Ruby’s parents? Rabbits are prone to having as many kids as the Duggars so they may be off somewhere parenting additional kids, but, aside from the random Grandma sighting, they seem to be self-sufficient bunnies-given their parents’ penchant for absenteeism, just like Dora’s folks.

    I agree with you here as well. Let’s give a young girl free rein in a huge South American jungle with a monkey as her companion…genius. Oh, and there are constant pitfalls everywhere, like poisonous snakes, falling boulders and crocodiles. Don’t worry, though. With a click of a mouse, she’ll be safe. Just wait for the click of the mouse in real life, kiddies, when you get lost at the store or encounter a stray, rabid dog.

    All annoyance aside, I do somewhat fondly recall those shows when I see my girls trying to watch shows like Victorious, iCarly and beyond…I don’t even want to get into that. If I had to put up with Ruby’s irritating smothering of poor Max for another year, it wouldn’t be too bad in the face of the tween tv disasters…

    Phineas and Ferb forever!

  26. by Julie

    On September 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Oh my god – halarious! I started laughing out loud at work! I feel the same way – I refuse to put Caillou on for the voices alone!

  27. by Deborah

    On September 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Your blog cracked me up! I find those Yo Gabba Gabba characters just plain ODD. We don’t watch them. I agree with many of the other mothers who talk about how addictive Dora is. Seriously, why is that? Are they putting subliminal messages in the show? :) As a single mom, I also sometimes use the tv as a babysitter so I can clean up the kitchen or cook supper; but I also try really hard to give my daughter more mind enriching things to do. We have been doing really fun baby development activities since her first day of life. You can read about them at http://www.babydevelopmentnow.com

  28. by San

    On January 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I looovve the last line about the three little guys playing fiesta music for Dora. I am totally reposting. :) Hope its ok

  29. by Stacey

    On January 10, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Ok so I just have to say it..how come everyone one in gabba land has their own land but pled he lives in a hole in the wall? Really so every time he gets in trouble does he treat to his hole he doesn’t have a “home” to call his owni..and further more why he in charge?

  30. by Oriane

    On March 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I have the cure for your nostalgia of kids tv of yesteryears… watch some. Sesame Street is timeless, but I watched a little Rugrats and Smurfs recently, and boy was it void of anything we look for in kids tv today. My 4 year old was bored and didn’t understand what was going on, and she seems to have the gist of Dr. Who! Some of today’s shows I enjoy (even Dora – her pacing seems perfect), but some of it on the other hand… oh well. It could be worse. My 4 year old is obsessed with Japanese youtube videos featuring Hello Kitty and friends.

  31. by Tyler

    On February 7, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Hiya. I know this is old, but I had to say something. I’m thirteen years old, and my three year old brother is sat watching Nick Jr at the moment. We just saw Lazy Town and he loved it, but there was a few things I noticed that were not quite right…
    But back to the point, I searched for other Nick Jr problems and here I am. Now – Max and Ruby. I… There was no show I ever loved more. I remember being transfixed, staring zombie-like the whole time, and when finding out it was on I actually told my mum to get out. Yes, that’s how far I took it. I’ve not seen the show in in years and had admittedly forgotten about it, but there’s no doubt something wrong with it because I was so damn stuck. I ordered for more and it never came back on. So I had to wait until the next day. And it was just a cycle. I now love Doctor Who and Sherlock and things like that, but I am able to sit with a slight disturbance and not worry too much about missing what the Doctor said or John told Sherlock. But I was like it with nothing else. I don’t even know WHY I liked Max and Ruby so much, but it was so amazing for me at the age I was.
    So the show is just… weird, now that I’ve figured, and am pretty sure, there’s some sick subliminal message in it, something to up the ratings, and by God I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. So what do you think? Did you ever see anything weird in the show?
    Oh, and Face creeped me out a bit.
    But that’s just me.