10. Dora the Explorer
Most of you probably know all about this show and what it's about. Next to Blue's Clues, it's one of Nick's most financially successful shows, with annual merchandise sales topping one billion dollars in 2004. A pudgy seven-year-old Hispanic girl named Dora and her monkey friend named Boots go on adventures, which usually involve following a path, solving puzzles, and being attacked randomly by a fox named Swiper.
Here's what bothers my about the show. It's not the monkey. It's not the fact Dora's parents need to be arrested for child neglect.
It's the map.
The talking map that lays out Dora's path at the beginning of every adventure. What is this thing, and who does it serve? Why is it always trying to kill her? I can see just by looking at the plan that she doesn't really have to go over that alligator-infested lake. She can walk right around it. She doesn't have to crawl right through the cave with the sleeping lion. Freakin' Isa always gets there on her own, and she doesn't have a talking map trying to kill her. Wtf?
If this were 1997, this show would be number one. Who by now doesn't know about the adventures of Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po? Who hasn't heard about the Tinky Winky purse scandal, where he was accused of being an evil, subversive homosexual teletubby out to turn your children into queers?
Still, this show is a regular of the PBS Kids lineup, and it's still creepy. What exactly are the teletubbies? Who is that voice on the mysterious megaphones that pop up out of the ground? Why do they worship the sun with the baby trapped inside? And why, exactly are these creatures so intent on spying on our children?
8. The Backyardigans
This creepy-as-hell CGI cartoon is one of Nick Jr.'s most popular shows. It features five creatures: a moose, a penguin, a hippo, a kangaroo, and ... an alien. The premise is these colorful little critters have a connecting back yard and they go back there and get into imaginative, musical adventures (ala Muppet Babies and Rugrats) where the backyard is turned into a desert, space, whatever.
I guess the most disturbing thing is the CGI itself. There's nothing really wrong with it, but I get a funny feeling in my stomach when I look at them.
7. Wonder Pets
This one is brand new on Nick Jr. It's a superhero show featuring three pets (Linny the Guinea Pig, Tuck the turtle, and Ming Ming Duckling) who live in an elementary school room and get called out to go on adventures, usually to save other animals from danger.
It has a very crude animation style, but apparently they go all out with the music, and a live orchestra performs each episode with original music.
6. Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.
Those of you calling out in protest, shut up. Mr. Rogers is dead, yes, but they still show his weird-ass show every single day on PBS. It's not so much the creepy, there-must-be-something-wrong-with-him smile. It's the Neighborhood of Make Believe, or whatever that town is called with the hand puppets and the humans who have to crawl underneath the tracks to go talk to King Friday the Thirteenth or Daniel the pussy tiger who's always whining about something absolutely ridiculous. And what's up with that floating museum run by the lady with the red nose?
The other day I was watching, and it featured a psychedelic purple panda bear that was really an alien who could teleport. If you don't think it should be on this list, there's something wrong with you.
5. Lazy Town
Okay, let me get this right. There's this town, Lazy Town. It's inhabited by about six or seven puppets and one guy who is half human/half puppet named Robbie Rotten who lives in an underground lair trying to cause trouble all the time. Enter Stephanie, a human, who comes to live with her uncle, a puppet. (Errr?) The hero of the show is an Icelandic superhero named Sportacus who floats over the town in a blimp and comes down whenever there is danger. Whenever Sportacus moves, horns herald each of his movements.
There's sort of a weird angel/demon thing going on with Robbie and Sportacus characters. It's also notable the Icelandic MagnÃºs Scheving, the guy who plays Sportacus is also the creator of the show.
You have to get the Noggin channel to see this one. It's about "Oobi," a four-year-old hand, his little sister, Uma, his grandfather, Grampu, and his best friend, Kako. (Kako, incidentally, is voiced by Noel McNeal, most well-known as the voice of Bear in Bear in the Big Blue House.)
I can't imagine how this show came about. "We only have twenty bucks in our budget, and we need another show! What do we do?" It has its moments. Really little kids seem to enjoy it. My favorite character in this one is one of Oobi's friends. I can't remember the name, but it's a foot. (edit 5/24/06. The name is "Freida." Thanks, anonymous!) The foot floats around with the hands playing ball and going to the park. I would give anything to see the human pretzel behind-the-scenes logistics on that one.
Still, there's something creepy about the whole thing. How do these hand creatures move around? How do they go to the bathroom? There's something they ain't telling us, and I don't like it one bit.
3. The Doodlebops
Disney Channel. They're clowns. They're a band. They're Canadian. The two male band members are so flaming, Richard Simmons asks them to tone it down. They play instruments whilst wearing those giant gloves, and I don't know how they do it.
"We want to eat your children."
They practice (and live?) in a space similar to PeeWee's Playhouse, but not as cool, and they're constantly playing concerts, but they never leave town.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. Have you seen this show? I repeat. WTF?
I almost didn't include this on the list because it's not currently aired in my local PBS Kids lineup, but it does still appear on the PBS Kids homepage, so I'm assuming it's still available to local affiliates to broadcast.
BooBah is Teletubbies on acid. (In fact, it was created by Anne Wood, the grandmamma of Teletubbies.) It features five colorful blob things with names like Zing Zing Zinbah and Jingbah. The show involves these creatures running around like they're having a seizure for a few minutes, and then it cuts to "Storyworld" where a multicultural family of six (and their little dog, too) stand there like zombies and do what they're told, all while they grin like they've just been slipped the date rape drug.
I don't like this show. It's weird, and it gives me nightmares. It's supposed to teach kids about movement and math, but I suspect it's secretly funded by a psychiatrist lobby trolling for future customers.
1. Higglytown Heroes.
I dare you to watch this show and not have it ruin your life with nightmares.
Another Disney Channel darling. The premise of this show scares the ever-loving crap out of me, and I want it off the air immediately. It's about a group of four friends and a squirrel, all of whom also happen to be Russian nesting dolls. You know, these things:
Only in the show, they're living, breathing creatures. Yet they still nest when they have to go someplace. First the crew cut kid opens up at the belly, and the squirrel climbs in, then the black girl does the same, all the way to the fat blonde kid who is in charge of taking them wherever they want to go.
I guess it's dumb luck that this particular group of friends all happen to stack perfectly with one another. And what if the fat kid decides he doesn't want to let the others out? How long can they live broken apart like that?
I don't think I want to know, but I can't help but ask myself these questions.
(edit) I just learned Jay Jay the Jet Plane is still shown in my area (on Saturday mornings at 4:30 am, but that still counts). If it were on this list, I'd put it between number 3 and number 2, but I'll leave it off for now. I'll eventually make a post about the PBS Kids Death Curse, and I'll include it then.
If you like this list, please consider bookmarking my blog.
Also, be sure to check out my books Trailer Park Fairy Tales and The Shivered Sky