Fun with Children’s Television

Since we have a toddler at home, this means that our TV watching has changed a bit. Instead of scanning the cable guide for shows that might entertain us, we have to look for shows that will entertain our daughter.  As a result, we spend a lot of time watching children’s programming on both Sprout and Nick Jr.

Some of these shows are tolerable, even enjoyable at times. Others…not so much.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the shows that we’ve become familiar with:

Dora the Explorer

I’m sure most of you are at least familiar with the concept of this show.  Every episode, Dora has some sort of quest that she has to complete. It’s never made clear as to why a young girl is undertaking dangerous quests through treacherous terrain without adult supervision.

I’m not kidding when I say that the terrain is treacherous. Dora might need to really reconsider where she lives, since there seems to be no shortage of troll bridges, waterfalls, and volcanoes nearby.

For some reason, she also tolerates a fox named Swiper who steals stuff from her in every episode. You’d think that they’d have figured out a way to deal with Swiper by now, but he’s back each show to mess with them some more. I realize this is a children’s show, but even Dora’s got to have her limits, right?

She has a magic backpack which can provide her whatever she needs (which, by the way seems kinda like cheating to me) so when is Dora going to wise up and pull a gun out of the backpack and just shoot the stupid fox?

The Fresh Beat Band

Four energetic teens play together in a band. They wear colorful costumes and make feel good music that all the kids can enjoy. Along the way, they typically run into some sort of goofy circumstance that might prevent them from putting on their show.

But by show’s end, they always manage to find a way to entertain the crowd. To show appreciation, the crowd usually participates in an elaborate song and dance routine.

A couple of things bother me about the show:

– The girls in the band have regular enough name: Mirena and Kiki. But the guys are named Twist and Shout.  I’m assuming these are nicknames, but it leaves one to wonder why only the guys got nicknames.

– I’m also distracted by the fact that Twist looks a lot like WWE wrestler Jack Swagger and Shout resembles Jaleel White.


Surprisingly, the guy on the left is the one who used to be WWE Champion.  Man, Urkel is looking pretty badass these days.

Ni Hao Kai-Lan

Or as I like to call it, Asian Dora.  In theory, this show is about a young Chinese girl who gets into fun adventures with her animal friends. Sounds like fun, right?

Except what really happens is that Kai-Lan tries to have a good time, only to have things ruined because her friends whine too much. These characters are some of the whiniest that you’ll find on TV. Kai-Lan really needs to find some new friends, because they’re really dragging her down.

The worst of the group is probably Rintoo the Tiger. He’s the most athletic of the group and he either offends the others by showing off how much faster he is than them, or he’s getting pissed off because nobody is paying him any attention.

Rintoo reminds me of some kids I used to play with in little league. They might have been the most talented players, but they could also be huge detriments to the team because they were prone to mental breakdowns if things didn’t go their way. It’s really uncomfortable in a little league dugout when your teammate starts crying because he struck out.

I bet Terrell Owens was just like Rintoo when he was younger.  You think it was a coincidence that Owens played for the Bengals last year?  Yeah, probably.

Thomas and Friends

Thomas is a living steam engine on the island of Sodor, and he and his fellow train buddies get mixed up in all sorts of fun adventures.

My nephews love the show. I’ve watched it a few times, and I have to say: The trains are kinda creepy. Look at these things!

Maybe the appeal of watching the show is wondering if each episode will be the one where the trains finally revolt against their human overlords and go on a murderous rampage.

Also, the show is narrated by George Carlin, and that makes me laugh every time.

Yo Gabba Gabba

I really have no idea what is going on in this show.

A human named DJ Lance Rock has a bunch of toys that come alive.  The toys then sing, dance, and learn important life lessons about sharing and the like.  The show often features guest stars such as Biz Markie and Andy Samberg.  They also have musical performances by indie bands.  The basic premise of the show seems to be to present the audience with as many bright colors and loud noises as possible.

Not surprisingly, the show is very popular with potheads.

Yes, it is as weird as it looks.

Blue’s Clues

The show is about a guy named Steve (later replaced by his “brother” Joe) and his dog Blue.  A typical episode features a puzzle which Steve must solve, and Blue sends him clues via paw prints on objects.  Steve must locate all the clues and solve the puzzle.

I understand that the point of the show is that the audience can help figure out what the clues mean and solve the puzzle.  So obviously, they can’t have Steve just figuring everything out immediately.

But man, Steve comes off as such an idiot.  I think he’s supposed to come off as childike, but I think it plays more like functionally retarded.

I mean, just take a look at how he dresses:

And he wears that in every episode.  That just isn’t right.


I’ve saved the best for last.

Caillou comes on at 7:30, which is generally when the Cutlet takes her evening bottle.  While giving her the final bottle, we often allow her to watch a little bit of TV.  As a result, the show we watch the most is Calliou.

We now have this song deeply engraved into our brains:

For those of you who wisely did not watch that video, the basic premise is that Caillou is a four year old with a strong imagination.

There are a few questions that need answering about the show:

– Why is Caillou bald?

Thanks to some diligent research, I found the answer to this question.  Apparently, the show was originally based on books in which the character was much younger. For the cartoon, they aged him to four, but wanted to have him retain the same basic look. Hence, the lack of hair.

– Why does there seem to be a cloudy white border around the frame at times?

It’s what you would expect to see during a dream sequence, and it would make sense if they only used it when Caillou was fantasizing about something. But they use it during the real world segments, and it isn’t consistent at all.

– Why does Caillou’s grandfather look like George W. Bush? (Watch the end of the theme song to see what he looks like)

The show’s creators were Canadian, so maybe this was a parody? Except the grandfather is quite wise and caring, so that doesn’t seem right. Maybe it’s just a big coincidence?

Taken in small doses the show isn’t that bad. It teaches lessons about sharing and family and I suppose that these are important lessons for children to learn.

The problem is that Sprout doesn’t seem to have too many episodes on hand, and they keep repeating the same ones over again. And since we watch the show most days, I’ve seen some of the episodes enough times that I practically have them memorized. If I have to watch Calliou learn about magnets or fire safety again, I think I might lose it.

Sadly, as the Cutlet grows older, this problem is only going to get worse. She’s going to start developing her own tastes, and inevitably she’ll want to watch the same shows OVER and OVER.

I just hope she doesn’t grow to love Calliou too much.  I really don’t think I can take much more of that.


About The Cutter

I am the Cutter. I write some stuff. You might like it, you might not. Please decide for yourself.
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13 Responses to Fun with Children’s Television

  1. Janet says:

    The music show makes me think of “Kids Incorporated”!

  2. TammyeHoney says:

    Add a mix of baby tv in there and I know this roster only too well…when I stopped being a nanny I had to reorient myself to the real television world of adults. It was scary.

    • The Cutter says:

      I could write a whole update to this now. Eventually my wife and I got sick of Calliou that we refused to watch it anymore. Now that she has tastes of her own, my daughter enjoys Team Umizoomi, Cat in the Hat, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

      At least she mostly watches independently now so I am no longer forced to watch along too often.

    • TammyeHoney says:

      she will soon out grow the terrible two’s also as she finds new independence…hang in there.

    • The Cutter says:

      Thanks. I’m sure she will outgrow this phase…only to bring about new challenges.

    • TammyeHoney says:

      Children are God’s way of either having a great Joke or teaching us patience…not sure which…wait till she is a teen…you will pray for these days to return…

    • The Cutter says:

      I think about that sometimes. When I’m listening to the same Disney Princess song for the millionth time, I have to remind myself that in a few years I’ll probably look back at these days with nostalgia.

    • TammyeHoney says:

      and a big smile 🙂

  3. How have I missed this post all this time? I covered most of these shows in my children’s TV reviews. I was not kind to Dora, Blue, Thomas (that FACE), or Yo Gabba Gabba (total acid trip). I still haven’t gotten to Cailou. He’s such a little whiner – I just want to slap him. And yes, I agree – the repeating of the shows is what’s so awful. Nick would take a much more tolerable show like the Backyardigans (that was Thing Two’s favorite) and show it only at midnight or something. But they’d repeat episodes of Little Bill, Dora, etc constantly. PBS is a major offender of the repeats too. I think I have every episode of that blasted Clifford show memorized.

    • The Cutter says:

      I’ve only seen a few Clifford episodes. Unfortunately, because she was given the tie-in book, the Cutlet always wants to watch the episode where they dig for dinosaur bones.

      I want T-Bone to die a slow death.

    • ME TOO. I was always hoping Clifford would accidentally step on him and the poodle.

  4. I just stumbled upon this post and I thought it was brilliant, but maybe that’s because I have a little guy who is going on 3. My son likes the show Special Agent Oso and that stupid bear makes Steve from Blue’s Clues look like he’s getting his Master’s Degree. My son also likes Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and though that show also annoys me (e.g. Izzy using her “only-for-emergencies pixie dust” in every episode when some instances definitely don’t qualify as emergencies) I’d rather watch that all day every day for a week than watch Oso for another minute.

    • The Cutter says:

      I have (thankfully?) never heard of Special Agent Oso. But I can imagine just how mind numbing it must be. I’ve seen Jake a few times, but it isn’t one of my daughter’s favorites…at least not right now.

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