Lydia’s pediatrician has a real antipathy about children watching television or videos. While most guidelines suggest avoiding kids watching TV before the age of two, we waited until she was three.
Most of the first programs were actually videos – programs on something called VHS – which we acquired from my now-18-year-old niece, all circa 1994. Surprisingly, given the fact that Alex was obsessed with him in the day, there was only one Barney video. (I remember specifically being chastised by my parents for NOT buying her a Barney thing in the day; it wasn’t my antipathy for Barney, it was “What do you buy someone who seems to have everything already?” It’d be like buying me Beatles stuff until they put out new product.)
I DO have antipathy for this Barney DVD I got from my in-laws, a “live-action” game show with a studio audience of kids and adults. My wife said that I might applaud if I were in the audience; maybe, but I just don’t want to SEE grown-ups getting all excited about the antics of a purple dinosaur.
Another batch of videos features “the Magic School Bus.” Voiced by Lily Tomlin as The Frizz, and occasionally Malcolm Jamal-Warner in the ending segment, they were so successful with Lydia that she now has over a dozen books and a DVD.
Not much else really stuck, other than Arthur, the aardvark, though she was briefly enamored with this funky 15-minute (in English, followed by the same in Spanish) home safety tape with the catchy tune, “Code Red Rover, grown-up come over.”
Ultimately she found there were shows on TV for her. Her first great love was Little Bear, based on the Maurice Sendak-drawn books from a half-century ago. She was onto Little Bear, and Emily, her doll Lucy, Cat, Duck, Hen, Owl, Mother Bear and Father Bear every day for about eight months until we were seeing the same episodes for the third time. Still we read the books, which are direct sources for some of the episodes.
Lydia’s current favorite TV show is Franklin, which again has but one character with a name other than Bear, Fox, Skunk, Mr. and Mrs. Turtle and so on. She likes calling Franklin Frank; she thinks this is wildly hysterical. The theme song is by Bruce Cockburn of “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” (“some [s.o.b.] would die”) fame.; actually have a half dozen Cockburn LPs.
But she has branched out:
Angelina Ballerina: on once a week, has fueled her need to dance. Not to take lessons, mind you, just to twirl in front of the set.
Ni-Hao, Kai-lan, Blue’s Clues: doesn’t actually watch unless it’s on in real time.
Jack’s Big Music Show: a program I’d almost watch without her.
Dora the Explorer: she watches relatively little of this, but she has Dora pajamas, Dora Band-Aids, several Dora books and she got a Dora DVD for her birthday. Why does she, and her cousin Diego, seem to YELL all the time. “WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE STORY?” And they are so damn earnest, too.
Her upcoming favorite is the Wonder Pets. a hamster, a turtle and duck get in their flyboat and save other animals. There’s always a costume change relevant to the location and some difficulty before they get going that turns out to be useful later on.
It was my wife, though, who noted the operatic stylings of the introductory piece:
Imagine if you can that, instead of Linny, it is a basso profundo singing: “The phone, the phone is ringing.” That octave descent alone would be stunning. Then a tenor, not Tuck, singing the second, a non-lisping contralto, rather than Ming-Ming, on the third. There’s a certain drama in the presentation.
The rest of the music is tied to the situation or the geography. Recently, WP saved the Rat Pack (three rats, one named Blue Eyes), a fiddler crab on the roof and a bluesy Louisiana bullfrog. This is award-winning stuff against stiff competition.
I figure that I’d better record this stuff now before she heads for school, for while I think I’ll “always remember”, chances are that I won’t. ROG