Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Best Show on Television

You may have your America Idle. You may have your House, your Lost, your 24. You may even have your CSI.

For my money, the best show on television right now is The Backyardigans.

Yes, it's a kid show. But it's a kid show that is done right. It doesn't play down to kids. It doesn't go for flashy visuals and loud doings and quick cuts and exagerrated movements. It has things that appeal to everyone - good stories, interesting characters, imagination, intelligence, and damn good music. I mean these songs stick in your head and not in a bad way.

The premise is that you have these five kids - Tasha the hippo, Tyrone the moose, Pablo the penguin, Uniqua the ladybug, and Austin the kangaroo. They are a group of culturally-diverse youngsters living in the burbs in a sort of reverse cove. Their houses face outward, and their backyards join together to form a sort of round park. Austin's yard has a fence, but the rest of it is open. This giant backyard is their world, in which they use their imaginations to explore the jungle as Tarzans (plural, in his many manifestations), dig for dinosaurs and gold, race around the world, sail as Vikings, anything they want to do.

The stories are interspersed with music. The music has a theme for each episode, and it's usually not what you expect. The Texas cowboy episode is hip-hop and has probably their most memorable song - Riding the Range. The Tarzan episode is a hilarious take on Mozart opera. The Yukon episode is countryish. The world race episode is zydeco, for God's sake! All of it is great, and none of it sounds canned or synthesized. Those are real drums, real clarinets and guitars. Listen to the words, watch them dance, and boy can these kids dance their cartoon butts off!

The Backyardigans is what all kids shows should strive for. Remember Bugs Bunny and how great he was when you were a kid? You watch Bugs now and he's still funny, but for completely different reasons. That's the way Backyardigans is. It's great for kids - my boys love it. When it comes on, they jump up and dance and sing along. They watch the same episodes over and over (ah, the joys of Tivo), and the thing is, I watch them over and over with them.

The shows are not dummed down to appeal to kids. They are smart and sophisticated and silly, and they let kids be smart, sophisticated and silly. Because that's the way kids really are, if you just let them be. Kids aren't monkies compulsively pushing the button to get a food pellet, unless that's the only kind of interaction you offer them. George Lucas knew this when he made Star Wars. He forgot it when he made Phantom Menace.

The Backyardigans is the way television should be. It's on Noggin and Nick Jr, and CBS on Saturday mornings. Watch it even if you don't have kids. But if you do, you're missing out if you aren't sharing this with your offspring.

5 comments:

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polijn said...

Don't forget the spy episode where they break into the museum to *return* the treasure. I mean, come on, Spy Maple Syrup? Dun-dun dun dunnnnn. . .

Or the one where they're surfing? "I got the rad moves - bad moves..." How about when they explore the Haunted House.

Do you ever sit about and wonder exactly what they're using for props while they're playing? I mean, the "real" part and not just the well animated "imaginary" part. . . LOL

And thank you for settling for me what, exactly, Uniqua is. A ladybug. Makes sense. Mucho cool that they aren't kitties and puppies.

DVR (Tivo, whatever...) is so handy. Not only can I record Dungeons & Dragons for myself, but I have countless episodes of Dora, Little Ensteins, Jack's Big Music Show, and strangely enough Oobi. Why my kid likes Oobi, I'll never know.

The one show on Nick/Noggin that I can't stand has to be Lazy Town. I'm sorry, but Puppets with real hands are just creepy. Gimme Muppets anyday. Especially the monsters.

One last bit - Didja notice that one of the main folks on Little Bear is Maurice Sendak? The guy who wrote Where the Wild Things Are?

Somewhere, out there, there's a group for people who love cartoons. Somewhere, there's a help group for people who's only knowledge of new music is (FINALLY)a new episode of Jack's Big Music Show.

... I could go for days. Is there a market for cartoon reviewers? LOL

polijn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I don't blog and so posted in the wrong place.

I too watch Backywrdigans and Jack's Big Music Show like most people watch Law and Order.

Timothy's Mom said...

My six year old loves Backyardigans and I too watch right along with him. We know most of the songs by heart and sing them even when we're not watching Backyardigans.

Being that I'm 42, this kids cartoon took me back to when we use to play and pretend in our backyard with our neighborhood friends.

I'm so glad someone came up with a smart kids cartoon that parents could enjoy as well as not get sick of seeing over and over again.