Category Archives: TV Tuesdays

TV Tuesdays: The Educational Checklist

Today’s TV Tuesday comes to us from Fizzy, a doctor mom who draws hilarious medical training cartoons over at A Cartoon Guide to Becoming a Doctor.

Don’t get me wrong, I like when kid TV shows are educational in some way. Certainly it’s better when shows have some sort of teaching value beyond a sponge getting himself into mischief. But it’s a little irritating when the teaching seems really tacked on. It’s like there’s some sort of educational checklist and each show must check off a certain number of boxes to be considered educational. If that’s true, I can hypothesize about what some of these checkboxes might be:

–Teaching another language. This is fine on a show like Dora the Explorer or even Handy Manny, but does every single show need to have Spanish in it? It’s kind of baffling when the kid on Martha Speaks (the show about the talking dog) suddenly has a mom that’s Hispanic and now the talking dog is learning Spanish too. I mean, it’s already impressive the dog talks. Does she need to be bilingual?

–Learning about a disability. On the (now canceled?) show Dragon Tales, all of a sudden there was a recurring dragon character that used a wheelchair. All the other dragons can both walk AND fly… so this dragon kid really got screwed. It felt very tacked on, especially since he appeared soon after a random Spanish-speaking character was introduced.

–Team work. If Wonderpets is any indication, this a big teaching point. Honestly, Wonderpets, I do think there are a few problems in life that CAN be solved without team work.

–Asking questions of the kids watching the show. I get it when the question is something educational, like a math-related question or something, but my daughter’s new favorite show is Jake and the Neverland Pirates and they always ask the same damn questions! “What’s the secret pirate password?” (Yo ho ho — not very secure, by the way) and “What can we use to help us fly?” (Pixie dust. Duh.) How is this in any way educational? I don’t know what that show teaches, beyond not to steal other people’s junk.

There are many shows that are good at weaving educational points seamlessly into the plot of the show. Like when Word Girl teaches a new word, it’s usually relevant and cute. But if Word Girl starts speaking Spanish, I’m going to be pissed off.


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TV Tuesdays: Fresh Beat Flashback

Sunday my kids were watching “The Fresh Beat Band” with my husband while I ignored them checked my facebook email. I was vaguely listening when suddenly I realized what was going on. “Is this a flashback episode?!”

It was.

The show has only been on since 2009. I am shocked right now to read on that there have been 28 episodes because I could have sworn we’d seen every single one and there were maybe 12 of them. Apparently we are just seeing the same 12 episodes over and over and over again, which tends to happen in children’s tv so I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, 28 episodes in which they already repeat a lot of the same song videos does not constitute the need to do a flashback episode.

In the episode they were remembering all the songs they’d ever done. But seriously, they replay the songs OFTEN without the pretense of flashback. Why have a flashback episode when you flashback all the time anyway? Not to mention, like all Nick Jr. shows you are rerun multiple times a day. I can see a flashback if I watch at a different time slot.

Flashbacks are annoying enough in regular sitcoms, but in children’s tv having a flashback is absolutely ridiculous. Seriously Nick Jr., you did this with Dora recently and it was stupid then, please stop with the flashbacks!


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TV Tuesdays: Dino Dan

I’ve been meaning to write something about “Dino Dan” for some time now, but to be honest despite my best efforts to sit through the show I’ve never actually made it through an entire episode. The gist I’ve gotten so far is that Dan is obsessed with dinosaurs and can relate them to any situation. He sees them everywhere he goes. I’m not sure if he’s playing make believe or if he’s delusional. I’m leaning toward him being delusional.

When Dan relates something to dinosaurs, he acts all disgruntled that he is burdened with this dinosaur knowledge that other people don’t know. He sighs and tells people what he knows, the looks out the window and sees his delusional pet dinosaur du jour. It is apparently really hard to be smarter about dinosaurs than other people.

I would know more about “Dino Dan” despite my inability to pay attention, but my daughter has recently decided that the show is “too scary”. She screams and runs to turn off the tv the second it comes on. So, it seems I will be in the dark about the mockability that I’m sure “Dino Dan” contains.

I’m not the only one with “Dino Dan” fright woes. My neighbor’s son loved the show, but started having dino nightmares so she had to turn it off too.

I guess there’s more “Jurassic Park” in “Dino Dan” than the preschool can handle!


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The Real Diego

Diego has always been something of a hero around here. He zips through the jungle rescuing animals while the animal kingdom sings him a catchy tune to encourage him. He always knows how to save the day, and makes his saves in style by operating trendy machinery he’s probably too young to touch.

Diego, Dora's much more attractive cousin, has a mysteriously normal-sized head.

Lately my daughter has been even more excited about Diego than usual. She’s always loved him, but she used to like Dora better. Now she gets really pumped when she hears Diego is coming up. It took me a while to figure out why. Then one day she said, “I need to watch my friend Diego from school. I like it when he’s on tv!”

Lily has been going to school with a multi-ethnic boy named Diego for the past 4 months. Diego from school looks nothing like Diego on tv, but since they have the same name she apparently believes they are the same person. This explains part of the reason why she seems to be spending more time with Diego than any other boy in her class. Who doesn’t want to hang out with one of their favorite tv characters?

This week, we’ve also learned that there can only be one Diego in Lily’s world. A new student named Thiago started school with Lily last week. When I told her he was coming, she got really upset. “No, I don’t want Thiago. I want DIEGO. We don’t need a Thiago. Only Diego.”

Since Thiago materialized in her class and has shown no sign of disappearing, she has gotten more and more upset. “I don’t like Thiago! He needs to leave! I only want Diego! Not Thiago!”

Poor Thiago. Luckily, I’m 99% sure she hasn’t said this in Thiago’s presence, but whenever I ask about Diego and Thiago she gets very upset.

If someone with a similar name to Diego upsets her this much, I wonder how she’d feel if I introduced her to the Diego in another classroom down the hall?


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TV Tuesday: Ariel is a brat

This guest post was contributed by Lindsey of High Heeled Mom. Lindsey is an attorney mother of three little girls.

It’s no secret that I love me some Disney princesses.  My almost-4-year-old took an interest in them a while back and I encouraged it, because, well, they’re more fun than Dora for me.  I’m into ballgowns, castles, adventure, and happy endings. 

I even have my very own handsome prince.  (Who makes super cute kids.)

The first princess I recall taking an interest in is the above-captioned Ariel.  The Little Mermaid came out when I was in my early teens and marked, of course, the renaissance of Disney animation generally and princesses specifically (though the marketing of princesses as Princesses was still a number of years off).  I was quite a fan of the movie, and still am.  In comparison to the old-school princesses (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty), Ariel is… exciting.  She doesn’t wait for the prince to come to her, as do the previous three.  While Cinderella’s somewhat passive after the midpoint of the movie, and Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are actually ASLEEP, Ariel sees what she wants and goes out to get it.  When it’s denied to her, she takes one step and then another and another to get it.

It’s really a pretty decent movie for watching.  Ariel never falls asleep.  She’s clever.  She’s resourceful.  Her friends are fun.  And the music is fantastic.

And the villain is awesome.  In my opinion, probably the awesomest of all Disney villains. Pet eels as sidekicks!  Turns mermaids into little shrivelly things!  Out to take down the king!  And her song is the best.

But the problem lies in the plot.  Specifically, it lies right here:

That’s right, the problem is Ariel as a daughter to her fantastic dad.  (See, the picture of my cute husband above isn’t entirely irrelevant).  King Triton’s presented as an antagonist through most of the movie.  He stifles his daughter’s interest in the above world.  He destroys her collection of human trinkets.  He yells at her for going up to the surface, and wow, if he knew she was going up there with legs to man-chase, he’d be furious and probably grow his own legs out of pure fury to chase her down and get her right back.

How dare he?

I think that was probably my take on it as a teenager when I saw this movie.  Pretty dresses!  Sparkly beautiful ocean!  True love!  And a DAD SUPPRESSING A TEENAGER’S INDEPENDENT CHOICES!  When you think about it, this movie’s not made for little girls, it’s made perfectly for 14-year-olds who don’t mind enjoying cartoons.

But, see, here’s the thing.  Looking at it from the mom perspective, still a good movie.  But Princess Ariel is absolutely atrocious.

In a nutshell, what we’re looking at is a 16-year-old who risks her life, and thoughtlessly sells out her father and her ENTIRE CIVILIZATION to chase a guy she’s met once and hasn’t even spoken to.  She goes to Dad’s enemy for help.  She’s willing to give up her entire family and world for just the CHANCE at a guy.  She repeatedly defies Dad’s sensible rules (let’s face it, wandering around the surface doesn’t work out well for her, I’m thinking Dad knew why).  It’s  pretty much only by pure chance things work out well for her family.

I’ve got absolutely no clue why Dad indulges her at the end after she’s been such a completely stupid bratty teenager.   Does your daughter really NEED to get married at 16 to a guy she’s still only spent about three days with, mostly non-talking?

To be sure, Dad’s got a bit of a temper and if he’d held it in check and spoken more reasonably, maybe she wouldn’t have been so rebellious, but the fact is, Dad’s right.  And looking at this movie from an adult perspective, quite truthfully, the protagonist of this movie is this dude:

Also, he’s got an awesome bod.

A couple other observations on this movie:

*As awful as Ariel is, I love the movie, as noted above, and I’m thrilled it brought this genre back into style.  Thanks, Disney!

*When I was young, a friend once described Ariel in this dress as a Valentine cookie.  I’ve never forgotten that, as it’s one of the most apt descriptions I’ve ever heard in my life.

*Did you know that the voice of Princess Ariel was later tapped to play Belle, but they changed their mind, as they wanted Belle to be more European sounding, whatever that means?

*This is my favorite image that came up when I Google Image Searched “Ariel”:

*I feel really bad for Sebastian.   The dude TRIED.  Flounder and Scuttle are sort of boring.

*Prince Eric has zero personality, aside from owing a dog, which is a recurring problem in princess movies.  I’d go so far as to say that the majority of love interests for the princesses don’t possess any character traits aside from “prince”.

*One of my favorite scenes is the following, as I’m obsessed with bubble baths.

What are your thoughts on everyone’s favorite redhead mermaid?  Think it worked out for her and Eric?  It’s not really a solid foundation for a marriage if you ask me… nothing in common, no time to build a relationship, and don’t even get me started on how the original story ended.  While I give her credit for not being passive like her predecessors, it takes  a while for the Disney Princess to grow into someone who’s actually a role model.

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Husband picture courtesy of the fabulous Monika Dechene

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TV Tuesdays: Toy Story Preference

Warning: Contains “Toy Story 3″ Spoilers.

Of all the children’s movies I’ve ever seen, “Toy Story 3″ has the most upsetting moment. I was surprised when my 3-year-old watched it again and again with very little concern for the toys as they scrambled hopelessly through the tumbling debris whirling toward a pit of fire and their almost certain deaths.

Finally, the other day she asked me “What’s that orange?” She meant the fire. So she didn’t understand it! Ah, now I get the lack of concern for Woody’s safety. I explained what it was and that fire could hurt her and her Toy Story friends. Now she yells “That’s fire!” when she sees that scene, but still is not upset that the toys are in peril. Of course, at this point, she knows they will be ok, but that doesn’t seem to stop her from getting upset during scary moments in other shows and movies she’s seen repeatedly.

Since we’ve watched “Toy Story 3″ per her request nearly every day for the last four to five weeks, I’ve been urging her to choose another movie or tv show. Whenever I turn on something else, she gets upset it is not “Toy Story 3″. She even rejects our other Toy Story movies. At first, she said it was because she wanted to see Jessie and Mommy Potato Head. I’ve pointed out that both Jessie and Mommy Potato Head were in “Toy Story 2″, but she still rejected it.

While I agree that “Toy Story 3″ is the best of the Toy Story trilogy, I couldn’t figure out why she didn’t also want to watch “Toy Story 2″. Finally the other day she gave me her very legitimate reason.

“I don’t like ‘Toy Stoy 2′. It’s too Woody’s arm broken.”

She doesn’t like it because Woody’s arm is ripped at various points throughout the movie. This is apparently VERY upsetting. Much more upsetting than Woody swirling through garbage toward his almost certain death.

You heard it here first, guys. “Toy Story 2″ is way more upsetting than “Toy Story 3″ because Woody’s arm hangs precariously from his body for parts of the movie… and then is repaired twice. Then Woody gets to live with Andy “forever” (or until the end of “Toy Story 3″).


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The Elmo’s World Takeover

When Elmo first struck it big and was hanging out on Rosie O’Donnell’s show, I really liked him, but these days I just wish I could see a little less of him.

Remember when Elmo was just a cute and cuddly muppet that sometimes participated in “Sesame Street” skits? Not so much anymore. Now at least 1/3 of each show is dedicated to Elmo.

That’s right, “Elmo’s World” now takes up approximately 20 minutes of the 60 minute show. I timed the live action plot segment of the show and it was only 15 minutes. “Elmo’s World” takes up more of “Sesame Street’s” time than the plot. That’s just wrong.

Elmo’s role on “Sesame Street” isn’t just restricted to “Elmo’s World”. He often plays an integral part of the plot and makes frequent appearances in the muppet comedy/educational skits. Instead of “Sesame Street” these days the whole show should just become “Elmo’s World”. The other major characters rarely get the chance to shine when Elmo is almost always on the screen.

I know Elmo is adorable and his merchandise sells like mad, but this is definitely a case of too much of a good thing. I don’t understand why “Elmo’s World” needs to take up 1/3 of the show. Twenty minutes is nearly long enough for it to be its own independent show separate from “Sesame Street”. If Elmo needs more screen time (and I really don’t think he does), make “Elmo’s World” its own independent show.

I know I’m not the only one who feels that Elmo gets far too much screen time. In fact, Elmo’s Wikipedia page makes reference to Elmo being called “The Little Red Menace” by Sesame Street traditionalists.

What’s worse is that it seems like “Elmo’s World” paved the way for the heavily segmented show “Sesame Street” is playing today. I think it was a gateway drug for “Abby’s Flying Fairy School” and “Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventures”. The show was so much better before they started dividing it up into big chunks like this. It’s lost itself along the way. If more of the show is devoted to “Elmo’s World” than the plot, how on earth are kids supposed to care about any of the characters? They barely see them.

For now, we’ll just do most of our “Sesame Street” watching in the form of “Play with Me Sesame” on Sprout, where Cookie Monster, Ernie, Bert and Prairie Dawn still rule the show in those old school skits we adore.

(How on earth could Elmo ever compete with greatness like that? Exactly. He can’t.)

And that concludes “Sesame Street” week. Regular Kids Play stuff returns Monday.



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Muppet Swap

One of the things that makes me saddest about “Sesame Street” lately is that a lot of characters have had their roles taken over by new characters. Take Kermit, for instance. Kermit used to make pretty regular apperances on “Sesame Street”, but now, as far as I’ve seen, he’s completely disappeared. The other day when I was watching Prairie Dawn did a Muppet News Flash instead of Kermit. Why on earth would anyone take over Kermit’s job as reporter? He does such a great job!

Murray also seems to have taken over Kermit’s role as a reporter. Murray is one of the few new muppets I actually like, but I’d still rather have more Kermit and less Murray. In “Word on the Street”, Murray interviews people about the meaning of words, then throughout “Sesame Street”, Murray introduces what’s coming up next.

Even though Snuffy is technically still around, for some reason they’ve created a new elephant character. Horatio the elephant is the most annoying and strangest looking muppet I’ve ever seen. I hate him the most of all the muppets. I had trouble finding a video to illustrate my justified hatred and that makes me hate him even more. Horatio shows up at about 3:20.

Why, “Sesame Street”, why?

And of course, there is the ultimate muppet swap. Grover is still around, if just barely, but Elmo has taken over most of his roles in “Sesame Street” skits. Elmo’s personality is a lot like Grover’s, only Elmo is more annoying and red and Grover is funnier and blue. Here’s what I mean by Elmo taking over Grover’s role. Grover used to play an antagonist to Kermit.

Here’s Elmo playing Grover’s role as Kermit’s antagonist.

Yes, Kermit is no longer on (as far as I’ve seen), but I feel like this shows how Elmo slowly moved in to outplace Grover. Grover is still around, but his role has been minimized. It really is a shame because Grover is much more funny than Elmo. He has great physical comedy.

As with all my other posts this week, I don’t understand why “Sesame Street” tried to fix something that wasn’t broken. “Sesame Street” was great with the old characters and I think today’s kids would like those old chracters as much as we did. When we play classic “Sesame Street” clips on youtube for my daughter, she asks for the ones with Grover and Kermit over and over again. Why not keep wonderful skits like these alive on “Sesame Street” today instead of overfilling the time with new characters and animated segments that aren’t nearly as funny and, in my opinion, not as educational either?

Stay tuned tomorrow when I wrap up “Sesame Street” week with my thoughts on “Elmo’s World”.



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Taking away the simplistic

When I was growing up, I thought the muppets were real, and I think this is what has made “Sesame Street” work for the past 40 years. They are furry, cuddly and cute. Even though they are basically overdressed pieces of upholstery strapped to people’s hands, the muppets seem to have souls, and eternally youthful souls at that. Big Bird will be 6 forever, and that helped me understand where he was coming from when I was a little kid. 

The realness of the muppets is so important to “Sesame Street” that it baffles me as they decided to turn muppets into animated figures for two of its major segments. When “Sesame Street” turned Ernie and Bert into clay, they might as well have turned them into stone. They just aren’t real enough when they are clay. If that weren’t bad enough, Abby Cadabby has been turned into a computer animated series within the show in “Abby’s Flying Fairy School”.

I don’t know who decided to turn Abby into computer animation, but I think it was a horrible idea. If I wanted to see a sketch with Abby in it (and I don’t, really. I don’t like Abby as much as some of the old school muppets.), I want to see her in her real fur, as a muppet performed by a puppeteer.

I don’t understand the need to try to “improve” this classic show with technology. I feel like directors and producers are overly impressed by computer animation and throw it in wherever they can just to show how cool and current they are. They’re like “Look everyone! We can make a computer animated Abby Cadabby that looks just like REAL Abby Cadabby. Isn’t it neat?”

Sure it’s neat, but you know what else looks just like real Abby Cadabby, is more fun to watch and (I’m pretty sure) costs way less to operate? Real Abby Cadabby. There is no need to prove that there’s technology to make a computer likeness of a muppet.


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Remembering Sunnier Days

When I had my daughter, I really looked forward to watching “Sesame Street” with her, but the truth is now that she’s old enough we hardly ever watch it. “Sesame Street” just isn’t what it used to be.

Maybe I’m remembering things wrong, but when I was a kid “Sesame Street” had an episode-long “real people” plot line that was broken up by educational “commercials” about letters, numbers and Spanish, as well as short comedy skits with muppets. I would sit through counting “commercials” like these just to get to the live action plot line that ran throughout the show.

Classic pinball action.

The baker falling down is one of my favorite “Sesame Street” memories.

And we can’t talk about “Sesame Street” number “commercials” without including “Ladybug Picnic”.

These days, all of the live action plot line happens at the very beginning of “Sesame Street”. The learning “commercials” are few and far between and usually incorporated in one of “Sesame Street”‘s heavily regimented schedule. Instead of an episode-long plot line with commercials, now there’s a short plot at the beginning, “Ernie and Bert’s Great Adventure’s” in claymation, “Abby’s Flying Fairy School” in computer animation, “Murray Has a Little Lamb” and “Elmo’s World”.

There are still learning “commercials”, but they are usually integrated and explained into a segment such as “Elmo’s World” or “Murray Has a Little Lamb”. They are usually clustered together into one part of the show instead of spread throughout.

I’m sure there’s some heavily researched reason “Sesame Street” changed its format, but I liked it better the old way. With the “commercials” clustered together, I’m less likely to watch them. Honestly, I’m less likely to watch most of the show. I used to stay tuned just to see what happened next in the live action plot line. Now that segment ends within minutes of the beginning of the show. I have no motivation to continue watching or to sit through the “commercials”, especially since I don’t like many of the other segments (I’ll be ranting about the other segments for the remainder of the week).

I miss old “Sesame Street”. I wish it would go back to how it was during my childhood. Despite this, I know I should just learn to love “Sesame Street” as it is now since my kids still enjoy it. In fact, in 25+ years, my daughters will probably be whining that “Sesame Street” isn’t as good as it is NOW. At least, they will be whining about it if I can ever get over myself enough to turn the show on.



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