Dealing With Children Television…

Daniel Tiger's NeighborhoodThere are times I wish I could really turn my critiquing mind off. Put it aside until later or when I am reading a book or watching something more sophisticated.

I can’t.

It’s a curse, and I feel it as a curse each time I sit down to watch TV or a movie with my kids. And while I may have no problem sitting with my kids on the couch, pretending to laugh at the obvious joke, a part of me is screaming to nitpick… nitpick everything!

And many times they deserve it! Come on, The Care Bears: Welcome to Care-A-Lot is just asking for it! It’s like those blasted bears are just teasing me!

Which makes this blog a godsend in many way. For here, without my kids knowing, I can take on the things that they love with abandonment. Here I am free.

I’ve written a few times on this site about different kid shows. Many times my focus is on PBS Kids or shows that attempt to educate. While I’m all for education on TV, sometimes odd choices are made under the guise of education, sneaking in what I consider lazy writing under the idea of a lesson. (Yes, I am talking to you the makers of Sid The Science Kid).

Here are six links (and new thoughts) to some of my old (and fun) kid entertainment television articles that you may have missed. Continue reading

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Growing Up in the Neighborhood: Mr. Rogers to Daniel Tiger

Mr Rogers and DanielThe Then

I had a spare grandparent. And this grandparent visited me every day, was interested in what I was doing, asked me questions, talked to me about my feelings and told me the coolest stories that involved a land of make-believe…

He also taught me how crayons were made.

For many, it was always easy to make fun of Mr. Rogers and his show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but I never could. Even as an adult, I look back on it fondly. Yes, I loved Sesame Street, Saturday morning cartoons, Donald Duck, Looney Toons, but Mr. Rogers spoke to me… directly to me.

I think one of the reasons I felt so close to the show is that my grandmother was a very popular kindergarten teacher. No, popular doesn’t do it justice, she was a celebrity in her hometown. When we would visit stores together we would have grownups of all ages approach her to say hi and give a hug. And my grandmother, with a skill I cannot imagine having, could always see the child behind the older eyes. She never got a name wrong, never.

When I think back on conversations with my grandmother, it always feels a lot like how Mr. Rogers speaks during the show. That patience. That unblinking interest. That humor that seems to hide behind the wink and smile. Continue reading

Mush: The Effects of Parenting on the Artistic Mind

My brain has turned to mush.

I can’t say exactly when it happened, but somewhere between the long sleepless nights with a newborn and the obsessions of a toddler (who is convinced he is a racecar, and tells everyone. I don’t even understand how Nascar is a sport!), this fine-tuned tool I have always been so fond of has become permanently muddled.

To know me before my son was to know a devout follower of classic literature. I could discuss the finer points of Finnegan’s Wake and Middlemarch and not drop a bead of sweat. I was a snobby individual, and proud of my snobbiness, wearing it as almost a badge. But now, I spend my days thinking:

  • Where did Piglet disappear to during the entire Piglet’s Big Movie?
  • Why does Elmo tell kids the best place to learn more is to watch a TV channel in every episode of Elmo’s Room? Does anyone else have a problem with that?
  • And where can I get my own Tootles like Mickey Mouse has, because it seems like a really useful invention? Continue reading

I Love PBS

Sometimes I feel guilty when I write something.

It happens. I am only human, but whenever I write an editorial it is coming first and foremost from a good place. Usually my negativity, when it is presented, is because I believe there are better ways that things can be done (the bad in a way acting as an introduction to me explaining why I am giving the advice in the first place). I have never written a negative post for the sake of attacking. I’m not wired like that.

Basically, I just want to put in my two cents … Which, in a way, is the entire point of having a blog, right?

I’ll get to my apologies in a bit.  Let’s start with the love…

I would estimate that when it comes to TV, PBS makes up 85 percent of all of the television my family watches. From PBS Kids in the morning (my son loves Super Why, Dinosaur Train, and especially Wild Kratts) to History Detectives, Masterpiece Theater, Great Performances, Ken Burns documentaries… Well, the list can go on and on and my DVR is full of just that one station.

Yes, PBS owns my DVR. Continue reading

Dear Wild Kratts, You Guys Are Awesome

PBS Kids has always been a good idea in theory. It’s the follow through where things get a bit muddled.

Each of the shows seem to have their own agendas (besides the obvious of keeping the production company working), and many times I wonder if they do involve educating my children. Even Sesame Street has problems with its obsession around showcasing celebrities (that, let’s be honest, children don’t care about) and in the end only seems to teach kids the importance of pop culture. Wonderful. Thanks.

And who knows what Arthur teaches except how not to get along with your sister.

I’ve written about my issues with the shows before (I wrote about Thomas the tank Engine and Sesame Street for a parenting site), so I really don’t need to continue my rant here. There is just so much ranting you can do about kid shows until you come off sounding a bit, well… odd; even to your understanding family.

I don’t want to be that guy. No one wants to be that guy.

Which brings me to what I consider one of the highlights of the PBS Kids lineup, the stellar Wild Kratts.

Why do I like this show above all of the other ones on TV today? Simply, my four-year old son learns from the show and that is just wonderfully awesome. Continue reading

John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Your Children

While it is not surprising I have written an editorial on The Beatles and parenting for Green Spot Blue, it IS surprising that it took me a year to get around to doing it.

Here is the beginning of my article:

John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Your Children

When you think of The Beatles today, it’s hard not to get lost in the image of the innocent and sweetly sarcastic four moptops running around while “Can’t Buy Me Love” plays loudly.  Yet, The Beatles were more than that; they probably were the most important artists to come out of the last century.  In only ten years, they created a wealth of music and cultural influence that is still impacting and inspiring people today… Basically, I am not saying anything here we haven’t read or heard before since their break up almost forty years ago. Continue reading

Do you like humor and insight? Sure we all do…

I’ve collected all of the editorials and articles I have written for Green Spot Blue in one location.  They can now be found here on my blog:  https://sdsouthard.wordpress.com/articles-on-greenspotblue-com/

And via the links, you can learn:

* How Indiana Jones can make all of us feel old (Its not the years, its the mileage).

* Why Sesame Street needs to be saved from celebrities (and how it can be done).

* The many, many, many problems with Thomas the Tank Engine.

* Another series of reasons why the Star Wars prequels suck (because we need more reasons, right?).

* How an agnostic celebrates Christmas… and explains death!

Sounds fun? All those and way too many articles about super heroes.  Check it out!

Doubting Thomas… Thomas the Tank Engine

An editorial on Thomas the Tank Engine and PBS Kids is up at Green Spot Blue.  Here is part of the introduction of the article:

 It all starts so innocently. 

     And it always begins the same. Thomas the Tank Engine, we all (parents and children alike) get indoctrinated via the cute little wooden railway toys.

     They are so fun and who doesn’t like putting the tracks together! My son and I always like to lead the track under furniture, but that is just us, I’m sure.

     Oh, the toys are expensive and really we parents should’ve taken that as the first warning sign to run for the hills. (Seriously, when did 15 dollars for a little wooden train make economic sense?) And like Scientology with their free personality tests, Thomas inches you forward subtly until finally, your child is sleeping in a bed covered with Thomas sheets, your TV is running episodes every day and you can’t get that blasted theme song out of your head (both the version with lyrics and without).

     I’ve been there, fellow parents.  And like an alcoholic at AA let me tell you there are better life style options out there for you (and your kids). Because when you really step back and look at Thomas and its show and its message, it’s all… well… smoke.

T0 read the rest of the article (where I also give  some suggestions on how the show could be made better and more educational), please click here.

Peep! Peep!

Lost on the Street

I have a new editorial on GreenSpotBlue.  This time I take on the problems with the modern Sesame Street.  Here is an excerpt:

There is that expression you can’t go home again, and as the older I get the more I am surprised by how much that exactly relates to.  From old haunts from my college days long closed to family gatherings where beloved members are no longer with us, things are different, changed, and never will be like they once were. It’s a sad fact of life. Yet, as a parent I never thought it would be true of Sesame Street.

Sesame Street, growing up, was one of my streets. It was real to me and I loved the show. I had favorite characters (I was Super Grover for one Halloween and Ernie for another; thanks to my mom’s amazing ability to make costumes) and I had many of the songs memorized. For example, when counting to twelve it is impossible for me, even to this day, not to sing the numbers like the Pointer Sisters.

So when I became a father I looked forward to introducing my son to the street I “grew up” on.  But the days of Mr. Hooper are long gone.  The days where stories would unfold over the hour with “commercials” about the alphabet and numbers in between has joined our favorite shopkeep. It is a show now of scheduled “segments” each one a show onto itself, losing the spontaneity, surprises, and energy that made the original an unpredictable joy to watch.

To read more of the article (including my point by point issues with the show and what can be done to save it), click here.