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It’s not because Sesame Street isn’t good. It’s because there are many other better shows. Yet every year Sesame Street and her PBS sisters take home all the prizes. I just watched the Daytime Emmys. This year it’s Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, Arthur, Cyberchase. This happens every year. I can only assume that the voters are just not watching the nominated shows. Or that there’s something weird going on where shows that deserve to win are not put into the running.

I also suspect that voters are voting for shows that they believe to be educational rather than merely entertaining. In most cases, I think they’re wrong about that. Just because a show isn’t teaching the alphabet doesn’t mean it isn’t educational. But, in any case, that isn’t supposed to be what the Emmys recognize. They’re supposed to recognize excellence, not content or great intentions.

I watched tons of pre-school TV from about 1998 through 2006. Tons of it. And we’ve watched plenty of PBS in there, so I do know that which I diss. I’m saying Sesame Street or Arthur or Reading Rainbow, in terms of quality, haven’t been in the top TEN of any list for years and years.

Here are some shows that have always deserved to beat the pants off anything PBS has to offer.

Charlie and Lola: Disney. Via BBC, I believe. Narrated by Charlie, the big brother, whose intro is, "I have this little sister Lola. She is small…and very funny." This is a charming show which has some of the best art and art direction on TV. Charlie and Lola are English. We see them and their friends dealing with typical kid stuff. The one on picky eating is called “I Will Not Ever Eat a Tomato”. It’s dry, but hilarious and often touching. If we must bring educational value into it, the show is really effective at life lessons and portrays siblings and friends who are realistically loving and kind to each other.
Max and Ruby: Nick Jr. Another sibling show. The Emmys have a category for Best Performer in a Children’s Show, and I think Samantha Morton should have won at least one of these. She voices “Ruby” the big sister bunny, with a whimsy, wisdom and subtlety that always had my kids captivated and me chuckling. Again, the art direction is fabulous. They use some technique where all the surfaces of their world (walls, grass, trees, carpets) are taken from photographs, which creates a depth and visual interest that’s really unique. It’s hard to describe --- you have to see it. It also has this sweet and swanky retro musical score that’s a pleasure to listen to.
Little Bear, Nick Jr. The definition of sweet. Little Bear had the simple elegant watercolors of Maurice Sendak’s original books and stories to match. I love this show as an example of how young children don’t need big scares or crises in order to engage with a show. (I’m making the “looking at you” sign, Disney movie makers.) One big plus for me: child actors for child characters --- none of these women voicing the kid parts. The musical score was as charming as the rest of the show, heavy with strings and woodwinds. Just delightful.
The Backyardigans: Nick Jr. The premise is that several kids from several families share a back yard. When they play together, they are transported by their imaginations to another time or place, like ancient Egypt or the old west. The characters are CGI and they do amazing things to make them dance realistically (think Happy Feet). The stories are delightful and the music is the very best in children’s TV. If you have the occasion, watch The Yeti (an homage to James Brown) or Riding the Range, which is a brilliant overlay of hip-hop on western themes.
Blues Clues: Nick Jr. For me, this show has an incredible concept and really excellent art and music direction. What always put it over the top for me was the brilliance of Steve Burns. He should have won Best Performer every damn year he was on the air. Based on what I could find out, he was nominated once and never won. He was totally committed to the role he was playing, completely respecting the child viewer, and yet somehow found a way to inject a sly sort of humor into every show. He was just amazing to me. He’s the test --- for me, he’s how I know there’s something wrong with the Emmys, because nobody was better than Steve.

Now that my kids are getting a bit older, we’re on to the stronger stuff: Cartoon Network, Discovery Channel, and Disney After Noon. We like things like Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and Fairly Odd Parents. Bonus for me, because these shows are truly funny. But, honestly, I miss the pre-school stuff. I found that I appreciated the incredible creativity and talent so much more than I expected. I just wish I could revisit my love for them and cheer at Emmys time.

Feel free to leave a tribute to your favorite kid shows, old or new! I'm sure I'm missing a bunch. :-)



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 17th, 2007 05:35 am (UTC)
I had this on last night to see what soaps would win since I haven't watched any in years. I was so surprised to see Reading Rainbow win. First, I had no idea it was still on TV and second because it seemed so old. The opening was still the same from when I was young. And that wasn't recently!

I have to say that I don't know any of the newer shows, but I will say that my junior high students know them and some still watch them. And my niece is a FREAK for Backyardagins. She loves them. So, I know that's a hit.

I'm trying to remember what TV I watched as a kid. Really, I wasn't allowed to watch much TV. I remember Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, some Seasame Street, and I loved The Electric Co. but didn't seem to get to watch it all that often. That's about the extent of my TV. I wonder if it's that we only had one or two TVs in the house at that time, and it was mostly on what the adults wanted to watch rather than the kids. No such thing as game room/tv room back then.

Good topic; I'm sure parents will have more to offer. :)

Jun. 17th, 2007 04:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, our TV was pretty restricted too, especially as we got older. When I was a kid we had very few options, so we watched Mr. Rodgers, Sesame Street, Electric Company, Zoom (remember that?), and then a bunch of kids shows on WGN here in Chicago, like Bozo's Circus. I remember we weren't allowed to watch Speed Racer. :-)

I tell my kids that we had two channels that showed kids' shows after school plus the networkds on Saturday mornings and that was it. And no DVDs. And no computer. I think they don't really believe me. It's like telling them we didn't have ice.
Jun. 17th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC)
Was Bozo on early in the morning? I watched that for a while. But Zoom? I can't remember that at all! What was it about?

Ha! My brothers watched Speed Racer. I loved the song!

OH! I just remembered He Man! I loved that intro. "By the power of Grey Skull, I HAVE THE POWER!" That was 5th grade when I would come home by myself. Happy time for me as the oldest of 4!

I know, my students can't imagine life without computers and especially Google, where we get all of our information. And without recording devices or when VCRs were new and cool.

I remember when CDs came out, I was all pissed and decided I was just going to listen to tapes forever. Yeah, that didn't last too long. But I'm not really good for technology change. I still haven't used my mp3 player. yikes!
Jun. 18th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)
Mary: I saw your mention of Zoom last night when I was speed-reading through the keytus thread, but I didn't have time to chat then. I couldn't let a Zoom-mention go by without comment, however. I LOVED Zoom when I was a kid. Seriously, I was obsessed. It's the only television (well, plus the Partridge Family) in my life that foreshadowed my West Wing focus...

Remember how they used to do those musical numbers at the end of the show? I used to tape those with my little sony tape recorder in front of the tv and my friends and I would re-enact them ad nauseum.

I could impress all kinds of folks doing that arm-swingy thing that Bernadette did and I can *still* impress my kids with my mastery of ubby-dubby.

Ah, sweet memories... thx for sparking the walk down memory lane.
Jun. 18th, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
well, plus the Partridge Family

OMG, me too. :-D (I pride myself on having an icon for every occasion.)

Remember how they used to do those musical numbers at the end of the show? I used to tape those with my little sony tape recorder in front of the tv and my friends and I would re-enact them ad nauseum.

That is so cute. They brought Zoom back for awhile! I think it might be off the air again, but I know a few years ago they were airing a new version of it. I was impressed --- they stayed very true to the concept.
Jun. 18th, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC)
Wow, a David Cassidy icon just for me? I'm thrilled. My mom took me to a David Cassidy concert when I was in my Partridge Family phase and it was something of an epic moment for both of us. All these teenage girls were crying hysterically and running down the aisles and the security guards were pushing them back...I was only 7 (as were my friends, who went with us) and we were mystified. My mother was rather put-out by all the raging hormones, to say the least :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )