First. Those of you that pay close attention to this little blog project of mine (meaning, my mom and the few people who read it just to see how much I cuss — spoiler alert: it’s a lot), might notice that I have yet to report on the beautiful disaster that was our camping trip a few weeks ago. There are some good reasons for this… including that it was a beautiful disaster and that there were just so many moments of hilarity that I’m having trouble coming up with a narrative. You know, because I think I’m a writer or something.
Second, I know what everyone’s thinking about letting my preschooler watch TV, and I’d like to just tell those people to stick it. I’ve got a preschooler who can find his dad’s fish oil supplements in the very top cupboard and proceed to eat half of them in just the time it takes for me to pee (true story), and he could accomplish so much more while I nurse an infant who cares not if the entire house smells like rotting fish for 3 weeks. So, yes — I will turn on a 30-minute show if it means saving the supplements and/or not having to clean $40 of bare minerals eye shadow off the bathroom rugs (again, true story).
Ok. Enough with the preamble.
Since J was maybe 1 1/2, we have watched about 20 minutes of a show as part of his bedtime routine. This started because K had one of the worst jobs in the history of submarining, and it was a really great way for them to be able to snuggle on the couch together if he got home in time… and it was a great way for me to get a few minutes of quiet before the chaos of bedtime if K wasn’t able to come home “early.” So we started with Sesame Street, because education and crap… but quickly realized how annoying it is: Elmo playing the tune of Jingle Bells all the time, that Zooey one that does the fairy school, the overly enthusiastic adult actors, oh– and that idiot on Elmo’s World who doesn’t even know how to put his damn pants on.
We switched to Curious George, because who doesn’t love that adorable little guy and all his shenanigans?! After about a solid year of “C.G.,” we began to quote the episodes. I occasionally get the song from the bluegrass episode stuck in my head. We started coming up with backstories for the adult characters (The Man and Professor Wiseman totally have something illicit going on). Most of my emails were from Amazon: “How would you rate Curious George on Prime Instant Video?” Since our lives had become overrun by 9 seasons’ worth of this, I’ve recently started looking around for other shows that might become J’s new obsession.We tried Peg + Cat, but apparently something about the graph paper in the background or the sketched-in advanced math put him off. (Although we still do use the quote: “We have a biiiiiiiiiiig problem!”) We tried Thomas the Train, except I didn’t realize how flippin’ whiney that stupid blue engine is, and just the theme song makes me homicidal. We tried Daniel Tiger… that one also made this Momma homicidal. Something about it being a spinoff of Mr. Roger’s, but just so horrible, I felt like every minute that I watched increased Mr. Roger’s shame and humiliation. Then we had a brief affair with Blue’s Clues, which I actually like — except that J would randomly shriek “CLUE!!!!” while I was driving and I was afraid I’d run the car into a lake or rear-end a Civic or something. And that’s not to mention the several other ones that I’d heard to avoid from other parents: Caillou, SpongeBob, etc.
We moved on. My nostalgic self tried getting him hooked on Madeline. He was not so much a fan, so we quickly moved on to Olivia. It’s one of those shows that are not too annoyimg and have a female protagonist, so we make our sons watch them to appease our inner feminists. We all do that, right?? Oh – just me? Ok. Anyway… beyond that, I knew it was a winner when Olivia’s mom made some sarcastic comment about “you’re right, Olivia. Moms never have to share…” But. The problem was that there is only one season on Amazon Prime, and we started to realize that we could quote bits of the episodes. “Life rule: when your mom asks you if you want a baby brother or sister, you don’t always get the one you wanted.”
So it was with excitement that I stumbled upon Wallace & Gromit on (predictably) Amazon Prime. I had vague memories of a smart cartoon involving a hapless inventor and his dog/sidekick, who always got him out of trouble, all in charming claymation. With British accents. What could go wrong? Turns out, kind of a lot. It was a busy few days (K was out of town for work, and I’ve gone soft with him being around all the time), so J watched a little more tv than normal so that I could ambitious things like unload the dishwasher or microwave leftover pizza for dinner. I caught bits and pieces of the show, which confirmed my assumptions: a quirky show for little ones, with some hidden humor for adults. (Example: a newspaper headline that read something like, “Hound Suspected of Crimes; Lord Baskerville Not Questioned.” Clever, right??)
The “best” part of this story is just how many people I recommended this show to: friends, J’s preschool teachers, strangers on the street, random people with British accents (“omg!! I watch one of your cartoons! Me and you are the exact same!”), etc. I sincerely apologize to you if your kid was old enough to actually understand the not-so-sub-text. That’s my bad.
And, so, with the aforementioned experience under my belt, I feel completely qualified to pass along 4 tips for picking kids’ shows (so that you can be as happy as that family):
1 – No whining.
2 – Extra points if there is a female protagonist (especially if you are a feminist and have a son).
3 – Never listen to my recommendations.
4 (and this one is important) – No. Serial. Killers.
On a related note: any tips for Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime shows that aren’t about serial killers and won’t make the adults in the house twitchy?