Saturday, March 14, 2009

let's do the time warp again

Children's television is interesting. Cartoons still rule, but there is a ton of variety for today's media-savvy and -saturated child. When I was little, I remember my brother and I creeping downstairs and turning the T.V. volume on low to watch Saturday morning cartoons, with Speed Racer and other Japanese animation, Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, and Felix the Cat as top favorites.

Cartoons were something you waited for; a weekend treat. There was after-school kid programming too, like Batman and Underdog. When we got a bit older, we also watched shows in syndication that we might have missed first-run, like Lost in Space or the Brady Bunch.

I bought the Lost in Space DVDs soon after my daughter was born, as much (or more) for myself as for her, and got a kick out of her asking to see "Mish, Mish!" when she was a toddler. The appeal of the antics of Dr. Zachary Smith is apparently still strong. Now kids don't have to wait until the weekend, as these shows are available on 24-hour cable channels, run by commercial stations or even PBS. My daughter has discovered Tom and Jerry, a cartoon I never really watched or liked when I was a kid, but enjoy watching with her now. And of course there is my beloved Flintstones, along with the whole Hanna Barbera canon.

It has been interesting to me that she is discovering so many things from my childhood, as well as older cartoons like the Smurfs and Snorks and kid shows like Teletubbies and Barney that were first seen by kids who are now in college. I don't necessarily want to hang out and watch with her as much when she opts for Barney, but as much as that show has been slammed by adults, I find it less obnoxious than Dora. Barney may be beyond corny, but at least the show is gentle. I appreciate the snippets of Spanish that Dora may (or may not) be passing along to viewers, but what is with all the yelling? The whole show is at too high a pitch and quickly went from annoying to unwatchable for me. That goes for you too, Diego.

As much as children's programming is decried (and there is a lot of crap out there, without a doubt), I have been pleasantly surprised by quite a lot of the modern offerings. Shows like Angelina Ballerina, Max and Ruby, Little Bear, Babar, and Franklin are all beautifully animated and fun to watch. The fact that they all correspond to great children's books doesn't hurt, either. I have to admit a fondness for the 90s animated Batman, which we also watch.

I grew up with T.V. and would never be one of those folks who "just watch PBS," as I am just too fond of pop culture. I don't want T.V. to substitute for reading or playing outside for my child, but there is no real danger of that. I admit that it buys me some time in bed on a weekend morning, so that I can get a little extra relaxing time, much like my parents did all those years ago. I find it funny, and I guess, a little bit reassuring, that a lot of the same characters, like the Pink Panther or Yogi Bear or Top Cat might be amusing my little one as I put off getting up and starting my weekend day for just a little while.


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