Saturday, April 14, 2007

1970s Kid TV vs 2000s Kid TV

Elliot loves Star Wars, Captain Jack disco songs, grass green crocs and long red satin basketball shorts. He's never seen Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers, yet he thinks they're super cool. His cultural references are heavily influenced by other kids.

He's seen plenty of Disney movies (we learned long ago that Pinnochio, Dumbo and Sleeping Beauty are brutal and not for kids under 7), but in terms of TV influences, he's been bred completely on PBS thus far. Luckily, Asher still doesn't really care about TV, it's on for an hour in the morning, but he walks away and busies himself with mischievious projects such as transfering the shoes in my closet to under our couch.

GenXers suffer from 70s and 80s nostalgia, it's baked into our culture. Of course I'm going to idealize my childhood pop culture references. Did the 70s offer superior television for kids? In terms of PBS shows, I will say hands down yes. The Electric Company taught intitial sounds, letter recognition and all kinds of beginning reading skills that are not present in any of the cartoons my boys watch.

As a younger kid in the 1970s, I watched the classic golden age of educational television programming:

Electric Company
Big Blue Marble
Vie Allegra
Seasame Street
Captain Kangaroo
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

As I got older, my brother and I spent hours on the floor of our den two feet away from the TV watching endless cartoons that had little educational value.

Schoolhouse Rock
Fat Albert
Scooby Doo
Tom Slick
Super Chicken
Rocky and Bullwinkle
Wait Till Your Father Gets Home

I did have brutal nail scratching fights with Michael over how long he could watch unsavory violent shows such as Popeye, Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry. Violence breeds violence?

The live action shows with surreal themes were like candy. These shows are always mentioned when you get a few 30+ year olds together talking about their childhoods.

Land of the Lost
HR Puffnstuf
Sigmund and the Seamonsters
The Monkees
Brady Bunch
Partridge Family

Kid TV in the 2000s
PBS Kids shows are for the most part, just plain terrible. I trained Elliot to despise Barney, so that was never a problem. He's always disliked Jakers for some reason, maybe it's the accents. He's dissed Seasame Street, It's a Big Big World, Mustard Pancakes and Berenstain Bears (which I like). We don't have cable and he doesn't watch after school TV so that restriction has limited his exposure thus far.

His TV diet consists of mostly insipid whiny cartoons, where the emphasis is on social emotional navigation. He's bored of them all, unfortunately that doesn't mean Elliot won't watch them anyway. Arthur is the only PBS show that is bearable. We rented a few Magic School Bus and Time Warp Trio videos recently both of which were well written, educational and funny. The current line up on PBS is truly awful:

Bob the Builder (the Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. This message does stay with the kids)
Curious George
Arthur (I love Arthur, sharp writing, it nails kid culture)

I'm not saying that I feel bad for his generation for not having good cartoons or TV shows. Maybe we're just out of the loop. I'm sure if we had cable it would be a different story. Or maybe it's a sign that kids are watching less TV or place less value on TV than my generation.

1 comment:

Bessie said...

Ahhh, you remember all the great shows! I loved them all, but loved Lawrence Welk and Hee Haw more. What can I say? Total geek.

I have one minor correction. The show, if I'm not mistaken was "Big Blue Marble" not "Big Blue World." I loved that show, too. I'm sorry it's not around for kids these days.