Let's just start with me saying yes I know how bad TV is for kids and yes we shouldn't watch it. I personally don't allow any TV in my house unless it's sports, prime time comedy, reality, HGTV, or a movie. Other than that we go hard core poetry and classical music. However, if you have a child and you're a new dad, let me share with you my thoughts on the current slate of cartoons. The good, the bad, the Caillou.
Let me share a bit of my CV. I've been at the cartoon game now for almost forty years and yes, some of that time I was without child. It can be scary, I know. Like if your wife ever asks you to go buy her shoes or other stuff wives use. There are a lot of choices. When I was a kid cartoons were for Saturday morning or the 3:00 to 4:30 GI Joe/Transformers sweet spot. No more.
Men there are now entire channels that pump out cartoons 24/7. As you can imagine, much of this production is bad, even terrible, but there are some glimmers of hope. Let's do the bad news first.
The Aforementioned Caillou
Let's start with the wikipedia entry on this one. "Caillou (pronounciation: /ˈkaɪjuː/) is an educational Canadian children's television series..." Stop it right there. That sentence is like saying, this NBA prospect is a Finish power forward with a great set shot and a fear of basketball. No hope.
Now I've moved beyond the Wiki page because that's how much I love you all and I've watched Caillou. About 94 seconds of it. Yep it's that bad.
Do we need to have this discussion? Let me be brief. There are few cartoons that will inspire me to openly lie to my children, this is one of them. "Dad is Barney on?" "No son, it's not. That show never existed. Now let's promise that we'll never discuss it again."
Gaspard and Lisa
Two "animals" living in Paris and having a wonderful time. I say animals because my wife and I have engaged in a lengthy debate as to what they are. I assumed, as she did initially that they are rabbits given their giant ears. But then I noticed the tails. That's a dog's tail. It appears they are French, but then they speak English. Also they are dog-rabbits living among humans. This one brings out more questions than answers. Stay away.
Max and Ruby
Let's consult the Wiki again for this one "...the episodes present stories about Max, a rambunctious and determined three-year-old rabbit, and his big sister, Ruby, a patient, goal-oriented, sometimes restrictive seven-year-old rabbit." Goal-oriented? There are other, big boy words for Ruby and I can't say them because that would mean I have a potty mouth. Basically Ruby is a buzz kill for Max, who seems like a pretty decent guy. This one is slower than Caillou, which is saying something.
Now that you know what to avoid, here are my thoughts on what to partake of.
This is like an entry level Johnny Quest. An undersea mobile laboratory inhabited by various animals including a cat that wears an eye patch purely for effect and a Hispanic penguin named Peso. Extremely tolerable. If you child loves the ocean, they'll dig this and you won't wish the TV had never been invented by Alexander Graham Bell or Booker T. Washington. Whatever.
These are dogs, no doubt Gaspard. What mayhem is the gang from Shelter 17 going to get into next? There's a puppy for everyone to identify with...is it Cookie the boxer mix with the no-nonsense stare or Squirt, the Chihuahua the who can get you anything you want for a price.
This is real life stuff here people. Skills your kids will want, nay need to know to survive in either elementary school or prison.
Controversial but I'm going to stand up and say I enjoy the Umizoomi. I've learned more math watching Umizoomi that I ever did in all those years of trying not to learn math. Get this, there's a shape bandit who is constantly stealing triangles and circles. Yep, he's a jerk. Don't worry though, there's a character who can make shapes out of his belt. TWIST!
Phineas and Ferb
Ok this may be a bit advanced for some of the younger tots, but I'd watch this on my own if I didn't fear the shaming that would come if anyone ever found out. Let me rephrase. I've watched this show on my own and have endured the shaming.
Bowling for Soup provides the theme song and plays the part of a rock band called Love Handle. Are there really 104 days of summer vacation? I have no idea. There should be. Riddle me this, what show would dare trot out a platypus who's also a secret agent saving the world from an evil villain who deep down is neither evil nor particularly villainous? Not me, not in a million years, but it works.
So there you go: things to avoid, things to watch, ways to learn math, and a Bowling for Soup update. Now in between poetry readings and Mandarin lessons you can enjoy TV with your kids.