One of the weird things about being a parent is getting used to children's television, how things work differently and how it helps a child develop. Of course for someone like me it is more fun to watch it and criticise. Here's what I've learnt about some of these shows in the past few years.
The Idea: Stephanie is a young girl moves to a town to live with her uncle. She becomes friends with the other children and with the help of their friend Sportacus they live active lives, eat the right foods (with fruit and vegetables grouped under the category sports candy) and do the right things (from brushing their teeth to tidying their rooms) against the influence of Robbie Rotten. Rotten is the incompetant villain who makes Dick Dastardly look like Pol Pot.
What I thought: Sportacus' headgear, accent and iffy moustache look suspicously gallic. I couldn't have been more wrong. Just when I was gearing up for a rant about him being another smug Frenchman I learnt the show was actually made in Iceland.
Getting the wrong idea: I heard somewhere that Stephanie is meant to be eight years-old. In real-life Magnus Scheving (the actor who plays Sportacus) is in his 40s. Stephanie's uncle is mayor of the town and yet he has no problem with his niece spending most of her time with a man thirty years older than her. Has he never heard of Bill Wyman and Mandy Smith?
(Inside joke for the friend of mine who ruined the Roobard and Custard theme music forever: "Get in the car, get in the car, get, get in the car...")
Did you know: According to Wikipedia two series of LazyTown have been made, and there is talk about making a third. The problem is that Julianna Rose Mauriello, the actress who plays Stephanie, is now 16 years old. Obviously I now desperately hope they make a third series, and I'll even volunteer to write the episode where Stephanie sits at home eating a lot of ice cream and tells Sportacus where to go when he suggests she do some exercise and eat some sports candy instead of all that junk food. At this point Stephanie points out that Sportacus is a man and that he "wouldn't understand".
Dora the Explorer
The idea: Young Dora and her friend, Boots the monkey, wander around and help various creatures solve their problems with the help of Dora's backpack and her map. Dora teaches us about different forms of transport and a few useful snippets of Spanish.
What I thought: Dora is such a shade of orange that we really need an episode where she shouts, "You're not my Mother," and Jessie Wallace shouts back, "Yes, I am!"
Getting the wrong idea: Dora does like to wander a long way from home. Do I really want my daughter to learn to walk for miles at a time and consult a map who sounds more camp than Dale Winton? In addition to that do I want my daughter to think that things just happen because you speak to inanimate objects in Spanish? It's ludicrous.
Fun extra: At the end of each episode (after the compulsory singing of "We did it!") Dora asks the viewers what was their favourite part of the show was. In the period of silence I like to say something like, "I liked the part when Dora looked nervous taking her backpack through security at Changi Airport," before Dora confirms "I liked that too." The possibilities for this are endless, and whatever you say Dora will agree to it. This might never grow old.
Go Diego, Go
The idea: Young boy and his older sister help animals in trouble.
What I thought: Let's have some cross-promotion! Wouldn't you know it, Diego is Dora's cousin. Therefore the two pop up in the other's cartoon and seek to get children addicted to both shows.
In addition to this Diego has an amazingly annoying camera which repeats the words "Click. Take a pic!" ad infinitum. It makes me want to rebuild the old Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, just so I could drop the stupid camera from the top of it. On the postive side, Diego's rescue pack is marginally cooler than Dora's backpack. He can do it, nothing to it! Oddly neither Dora or Diego ever complain about the weight of their respective packs.
Getting the wrong idea: I can't watch much of this show after the starting credits, when we're told about Diego's baby Jagwire. Arrrrgggghhhh! Why on earth can't Americans say Jaguar? As a nation they've pioneered building skyscrapers and sophisticated weaponry (among other things) and yet they can't say this one simple word correctly? How did this even start? And if I put in one more question mark does this become a GCSE history question? I want answers.
A father writes: My daughter loves Diego. I don't fully understand it, but then I don't expect to understand how any future boyfriends will be good enough for her either. I wouldn't be surprised if I end up with a son-in-law called Diego, which I'm sure you can imagine doesn't sit well with an Englishman. If you see a link on the BBC website's magazine section in about three decades time that says, "The name is still synonomous with Maradona, but how do these Englishmen cope with having a son-in-law called Diego?" there's a very good chance I'll be featured.
Have a good week!