I know a lot of us parents who grew up in the 80s and 90s miss the kid’s TV shows of old – The Gummy Bears, The Smurfs, Duck Tales, Animaniacs, Goof Troop, Doug, TaleSpin, Pinky & The Brain, Darkwing Duck, Chip ’n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, Rainbow Brite. And what is not to miss, they were great! Not too high tech, not too moralistic, not too violent, not too PC, not too cerebral and definitely not too logical.
And sometimes today’s idea of kids entertainment is just the opposite, I mean for goodness sake, Blaze and The Monster Machines sings songs about inertia, combustion and centrifugal force ( I had to google this term just to know how to spell it). I get why this is important as Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) fields are in need of new blood and what better way than a talking car to get kids excited about science and physics.
But where is the goofiness, the fantasy, where is the random-these-writers-must-have-been-stoned entertainment for kids?
I am also not naive to the problems with many of our shows growing up, it would be easy to ask a few poignant questions of them too. Where are the kids of colour as the leads or the heroes? Where is the tolerance for differences? Where are the characters that show the diversity of the human race? Where are the strong women, not just the damsels in distress? And I think this is why these shows stick out as being my favourite because they were already beginning to tick some of these boxes, kind of anyway.
Well it is 2019, the world has changed, and I have a few shows that I love that my daughter loves:
1. Nella The Princess Knight (Nick Jr.)
This show has it all – imagination, princesses, knights, dragons, adventures, swords that conjure magical solutions, bows & arrows that shoot sparkly ribbons and soft-hearted villains who have just lost their way temporarily. But the best part of the show is the hero and her sidekick.
Nella represents the best of both worlds for the type of model I want for my daughter, She is a princess who wears beautiful dresses, loves pink and sparkly goodies, spends time pampering herself with her mom, the queen, and has a freaking unicorn for a best friend and sidekick!
But she is also fierce and loyal and brave and strong and I could go on and on. Thanks to her heart pendant, her crown transforms into her sword, her belt buckle becomes her shield and with the swish of her sword, her dress turns into her armour. And just like that she is ready to kick some ass, save her friends, teach the citizens of Castle Haven a lesson or two about kindness, courage, accepting all creatures, even those who are different, and, last but not least, she does all of this while looking fabulous.
2. Hey Duggee (CBeebies)
What is there not to love about an oversized dog leading a scout club made-up of teeny tiny critters, named the Squirrels? Nothing. Duggee doesn’t speak English even though his fellow menagerie mostly does, he loves hugs (but only with consent) and he possesses every imaginable badge a scout could possess. But Duggee is not the only thing that makes this show brilliant, the mix of characters do too.
Betty, the octopus, is an A-type personality that can sometimes experiences bouts of anxiety and OCD. Roly, the hippo, is a prime candidate for an ADHD diagnosis. Happy, the glasses wearing crocodile, is a happy, cheerful chap, he also happens to be adopted or a stepchild as he is always collected by one parent who is an Elephant. Tag, the rhino, is gentle, kind and loves all things, he has a very big and soft heart. Enid, is Duggee’s pet cat (I know right?!), she doesn’t participate too much, as she is, after all, a cat, but she offers some comic relief as she often seems to be exasperated by Duggee and the squirrels’ energy and enthusiasm. She is a loud eye-roller if you get my meaning.
There is a whole host of additional crazy characters – a tiger king/emperor who marries a giant panda, an artistic mouse who strives for perfection in the visual arts, some hippy rabbits that only ever say, “Cool, man” or “Not cool, man”, a Scottish terrier dressed in a kilt and accompanying garb, and a whole host of other interesting and quirky characters.
This show offers all the random-writer-must-be-stoned-ness a kid could want from a cartoon.
3. Kiva Can Do (Nick Jr.)
This is a show that is getting so much right, in my eyes. Firstly, Kiva, a little Indian girl, is the lead character, the hero. Secondly, Kiva and Saul, her best-friend and her Grandmother’s neighbour, spend their afternoons with her Grandmother (aka Nanny) while their parents are still at work – Kiva’s mom is an engineer just as a cherry on top – because in real life many people cannot afford to outsource their childcare or stop working. Third, Kiva is 2nd generation British, but her Nanny moved to the UK from India and so she shares her traditions with both Kiva and Saul – traditional food, dress, rituals, and more. Fourth, and by far the most important, Kiva and Saul’s adventures all take place in their imaginations and using stuff that is lying around the house (toilet rolls, bubble wrap, tin foil, cardboard) they create props for these incredible fantasies. Even her dog, Angus, who is always along for the adventure is made of toilet rolls, an empty tissue box and some cardboard, but is as real as can be in the moment.
This show not only exposes kids to different cultures, family structures and child care systems, but it is also a homage to children and their astounding creativity. It is also a very valuable lesson in making do with what you have, but even more, making something amazing out of nothing much.
4. Zack & Quack (Nick Jr.)
This show’s appeal to me is similar to Kiva, it is just such an ode to imagination, creativity and crafts. The show is set inside a pop-up book and the characters are too cute, especially Fluffy, the hedgehog, and my daughter loves Belly Up, the elderly frog who speaks with a very proper English accent. Quack, the lead duck, reminds me of a young Daffy and he is about as angry and unintelligible as his forerunner. The show’s characters are always on a paper adventure, and often use their creativity and crafting skills to solve incredible problems – exclaiming “Paper play saves the day!”.
5. WallyKazam (Nick Jr.)
Wally Trollman, is the hero of this show, and his friends and he are often on a quest to retrieve, save or help someone in their neighbourhood. His best friend/pet is Norville who is a baby dragon and their friends are Gina Giant, Ogre Doug and Libby Light Sprite. Bobgoblin is not a friend, per se, he is more of a trouble maker, who speaks in the third person, which I find hilarious. So, apart from lots of inside jokes with the viewer, a narcissistic scheming goblin, a dog-like dragon and a giant who likes to use giant words, what I love about this show is that the show is all about words and reading. Using his magic stick Wally conjures words into things, but only if the thing he wants to conjure starts with the letter that particular episode is focusing on. The vocabulary this show exposes little minds to is amazing and not patronising, there is no dumbing down, it is simple and clear but challenging.
Anyway, that’s my top 5 shows for 2019 so far. If you know of a show that I might like, ahem, I mean that my daughter would like, please feel free to share with me so we can check it out.
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