Someday when I have children, I’m going to let them watch nothing but my old VHS and DVD collection. That’s right. My future children will be more accustomed to Ghostbusters and Power Rangers than anything on a Viacom station.
On occasion, I’ve left on a pre-school program called Yo Gabba Gabba. It’s a mindless show that isn’t so bad when you’re selecting a DVD. They routinely hold live shows, but most of their fans are in my age group. After reading this, you might understand why. The show has been featured on E! Network’s “The Soup” and the characters have been popular enough to find their way into adult commercials for cars and credit cards.
On paper, it’s a simple show. It’s about a man (DJ Lance Rock) who daily brings his action figures to life, in a diagram of the seasons. This is one of Nick Jr’s educational shows. I want you to hang onto that word, we’ll be visiting it again shortly. The Gabba gang have to learn valuable life lessons amid playtime, exercising and dancing.
And while the concept of staying active is shoved down Junior’s throat faster and with more fury than a PMSing Jillian Michaels DVD, this is the first program I’ve seen that tells kids it’s ok to eat food once in a while. I applaud them for that. I’m so sick of seeing parents starving their kids into an early grave, just to make them look runway ready. News flash moms and dads, lunch for a growing child is NOT a carrot stick, dry toast and a glass of water. Carbohydrates and a full piece of chicken won’t make your little Tammy or Chris morbidly obese. So it’s nice that Muno and Brobee are able to enjoy a chicken leg without dealing with any teasing. And that’s food for thought that puts a yummy in my tummy.
But there are a few issues I have with some of it, and I’m curious to see if there are any parents out there that might have the same questions I do.
For starters, in this internet heavy age, where the average parent is letting his or her kid play with tablets, laptops and smart phones before they’re old enough for pre-school, is it okay to have more (let’s say) mature acts make guest appearances?
Maybe it’s silly, but I just don’t think that most of these celebrities need to be on children’s programming. I’m sure you all got sick of it quick a while back, when there was controversy over Katy Perry being on Sesame Street. And while it’s not fair to blame her for what happened (I actually point a finger at the costume designer, script team and director, who thought that a kiddy version of Hot & Cold was somehow appropriate) it does make me question who keeps deciding to add these people to the shows.
Think about it. Think really hard. It’s Friday afternoon and Yo Gabba Gabba is on. You’ve just finished shoving the latest “Your Baby can READ” book down Junior’s throat and now it’s time to DANCE. Plex introduces us to our new Dancey-Dance friend, who shyly appears out from behind a motorcycle. It’s Jack Black, and you have already handed Junior a tablet with internet access. If Junior can figure out how to spell “Google” then it’s likely he can find Jack Black’s Master Exploder, which while is an epic song, is not Gabba friendly. And if you think those parental locks are worth the time and frustration of setting up, think again. YouTube and Google are just two out of thousands of websites that have blasted right through every parental lock imaginable. Now if Junior is “baby can read” smart enough to Google Jack Black, then he’s also smart enough to start asking a ton of questions while blasting Tenacious D’s Beelzeboss. I highly recommend that you listen to that one before you have to explain to Junior how this guy wound up with the Gabba Gang.
Another celebrity that has been seen on Yo Gabba Gabba is Paul Williams. Now for those who don’t know, Williams wrote a ton of songs in the 1970’s and has even been featured in an episode of Dexter’s Laboratory. I’ll just let the video speak for itself:
Trippy enough?? Yeah it’s no wonder most of the viewers are above the age of 20.
Aiding this idea are the main characters themselves.
Foofa is a disarmingly nice bubble monster, but some people have called her some less than charming names. I once heard a teenager at a store calling her “pink turd with a flower”.
Plex is a robot, who serves as a semi-educational, parental figure to the monsters. (Keep hanging onto that E word for me.)
Toodee is a hyper active half cat, half dragon monster who is supremely aggressive. In some episodes she can be seen pushing Brobee into doing things he doesn’t want to.
Brobee is manic depressive. Everything hurts his feelings and many episodes revolve around making him feel like the world isn’t out to get him. He’s so negative! I’m not really sure if I’m comfortable with the idea of kids seeing this character go from happy to sobbing over the slightest things.
… And then there’s Muno.
If you’re a fan of Mike Mozart, you already know about Muno. Even if you see the above picture, you can see what all the fuss is about. And no, it isn’t because Muno has a nasty habit of biting people, knocking things over and being a more manic cross between Toodee and Brobee:
It’s about his design.
Muno… looks like… an adult toy.
And he gets it honestly. Take a look at Muno’s mom, dad, sister and brother.
Generally, you expect to see characters like these on one of those late-night “Shop Erotic” programs. Not on Nick Jr.
And Muno isn’t alone. You see, like most television shows, the Gabba Gang often find recurring characters in the form of distant friends. Muno has one such friend, a bizarre monster named Gooble:
Now, I understand that Gooble’s creator swears that he is based on an earlier drawing for The Aquabats, and the charming story of his accidental birth can be read here: http://brobee.blogspot.com/2008/10/goobles-origin.html but speaking aesthetically as an artist myself, I’m afraid I must be blunt. There’s no nice, PC way to say this either.
Gooble is a leaking prophylactic.
Gooble occasionally appears on Yo Gabba Gabba, sobbing uncontrollably. Plex stated in one episode that nobody ever knows why Gooble cries, just that he does. All the time. He is always sad. It may be because his character was originally a ghost named Obakemon, (Ghost man, by the way, this is one letter off from a Digimon name) who was sad because well… he’s dead. Nothing quite says “kid friendly” like the wandering corpse of a leaking condom. And just where are standards and practices??
Yo Gabba Gabba is an “educational” program that teaches kids to accept people for their differences. It teaches about staying healthy and active and it’s supposed to be educational in other areas too. Skip ahead to 1:36 of this video, for an educational scene:
Now here is where I’m flustered. This is supposed to be an educational show, and yet Plex has just said something that the common school book would disagree with.
“All the stars are really just planets and suns”
For those of you without a kindergarten education, suns and stars are THE SAME THING. Our sun is a star. It’s a great, big, honkin’ ball of gas on fire. When planets surround a certain star, we call it a sun, but nothing actually changes about it. It’s still a STAR. To tell kids that there are no actual stars is scientifically unsound. Again, who is watching this? When you have an educational program, you’re supposed to check your facts before the episode goes to air. It’s a fairly simple practice that for a pre-school show, should take no time at all. And this should have been an easy episode to write.
With all of the ideas that the writing team has, it might not be a good idea to make this an educational show for toddlers anymore. Instead, it might be a wise idea for Nickelodeon to capitalize on the 20+ year old audience they already have by making another series of Yo Gabba Gabba, just for adults.