Thursday, February 17, 2005

Arthur in LazyTown ?

Saturday morning used to be the only big day for children's television. I couldn't wait to get up wicked early, wait for the farm report or some-such-thing to end, and dive into cartoons and children's television on all three channels. [I know, I'm dating myself.]

PBS offered entertainment every day of course. Thank god for Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers, and later, The Electric Company. [Whatever happened to The Electric Company? I'm telling you, PBS is missing out on a large market without that show.]

Today kids have more choices. You would think they would be spoiled for choice - but you'd be dead wrong. For every great show out there, there are ten featuring pure dreck. Obviously, kids are the main target of these shows, the important demographic, but having personally watched plenty of daytime children's television, I think any television producers would be advised to produce for parents as well.

The "Barney" backlash is legendary, but there are other shows out there - I'm looking right at you, "DragonTails" - that kids may love, but parents need Xanax to endure. There is hope. Having no children of my own, I find this embarrassing to say, but there are some children's shows I'll watch myself. Hell, I'd TiVo these. (if I had a TiVo.)

Arthur is an all-time favorite. The show is consistently entertaining and believable - once you get over the idea of talking/walking aardvarks, monkeys and bears. What keeps the show interesting is its commitment to real-life problems and situations. The producers aren't afraid of inside jokes (D.W.'s snowball, anyone?) or humor that is sure to go over any child's head.

There are a few signs of Arthur's hip nature: Ziggy Marley Jr. sings the theme song and episodes have featured jazz saxaphonist Joshua Redman, Yo Yo Ma & the Backstreet Boys [I know what you are thinking ... but it aired when the Backstreet Boys were still quite popular.] Arthur is on PBS, which isn't all that surprising - PBS can lay claim to the lion's share of decent children's programming.

One show not on PBS is a recent discovery. Lazy Town, featured on Nick Jr., is an odd combination of puppetry and live action with dance and songs thrown in for good measure. It's a bit trippy - many bright colors & quick cut camera work - which is probably why I like it.

Additionally - as online discussion boards online attest to - gay men (hello) and mothers alike cannot over-estimate the appeal of Sporticus (pictured right) who is played by Iceland's former athlete of the year, Magnus Scheving. It makes for awkward forums, but thankfully the show is quality stuff.

With either of the above shows, it's good to know the enjoyment need not be limited to viewers under 10.


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