Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Geek Brain on Toddler TV

This past holiday I spent the week off of work at home with my sick child. As a result, we could not go out that much and stayed in to watch TV. TV aimed at toddlers. A lot of TV aimed at toddlers.

At first it seems like brain-numbing colorful and simple characters talking at the audience with a lot of awkward pauses to allow for a reply. It has been a while since I've watched the Electric Company or Mr. Rogers, but I don't recall the dead-into-the-camera stares and 3 beat pauses, but this seems to be a common trope of all children's programming.

But after a while of exposure, my brain started to break down some of the elements of these shows, and this is roughly my take on them.

  • Sofia the First: Middle daughter from Modern Family is brought into a Molyneux-like fairy-tale kingdom where she must learn to live the simple life of the top 1%. Wayne Brady is a rabbit that is street-smart and ethnic (i.e. something he has never done before outside of the Chappelle Show). Wakko of the Animaniacs is a magician that behaves like a borderline pedo, curses the entire royal ball, and gets away without blame. Not sure why, but there is a magic swing at royalty school that serves no purpose other than to throw people into a fountain.
  • Chuggington: People and train engines living in an idealized Marxist society. Every train and every person has a role they must perform to support the greatness of society as a whole, and no other pleasure is greater than getting the job done.
  • Octonauts: Marine biologist furries bumbling their way through underwater adventures and proving how little they know of the sea. Seems like the setup backstory to a Bond villian. Undersea lair. Genetically altered minions, or whatever a vegi-mal is. One of these characters will have a psychotic break, eradicate the rest of the base. I don't think it will be Dr. Inkling, as he does nothing but sit in the library. Peso could have a hidden Napoleon complex and he does have the medical knowledge. But best bet is on Shellington. He's a walking victim in every other episode, has the intelligence the rest do not, and is one bad day from unleashing a grudge on the entire world.
There is death behind those dark, cold eyes.

  • Mickey Mouse Club: This is a series on pure existential horror. Every episode starts with Mickey silently approaching the audience from the woods, Blair Witch Style. He then chants a magical incantation to create the clubhouse out of his own body parts, I'm assuming of non-Euclidean geometry. After a roll call of clubhouse members, Mickey leads a chant to activate Toodles, which is functionally kid-show shorthand for either Scientology, Chthulu, or both. Toodles provides 3 to 4 random tools for the day which will then solve a problem. These problems are situational, so to know what tools will be useful, Toodles or Mickey must be controlling the fates of all who walk in the clubhouse. After all tools have been used, a tribalistic dance is performed and the clubhouse disappears into the woods.
  • Minnie's Bowtique: Short vignettes of how Minnie cannot function unless a problem can be solved with a bow somehow. The bird will remind you of Cindy Lauper for some reason.
  • Little Einsteins: A show created around the scientifically rejected notion that exposure to classical music will make your child a genius. What really does set a high IQ is the ability of critical thinking, which is entirely ignored throughout this show. Example encounter: the team needs to get over the pyramids and they are in a rocket. Solution: audience must sing to make the rocket pogo stick over the pyramid. What the hell kinda message is that?! How is my child supposed to function if she believes that if you have a rocket and you need to go over something, that means singing on a pogo stick.

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