Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Good Luck Gabba Gabba

I've often wondered how nostalgia can so easily turn into misplaced disdain.

Now, this is a pretty sweeping statement. If you don't know the context - which at this point you don't - then it probably means nothing, but hear me out.

In the earliest years of my life I was a crazed maniac for all children's entertainment sources. I knew all the lyrics to the songs from the films of Disney's Golden Age of Animation. I could tell you all the names of the characters on Hey Arnold!. I went out of my way to know the titles of Lindsay Lohan's and Hilary Duff's upcoming feature films. The channels I most frequented on television were Disney and Nickelodeon, followed closely by FOX Family, Toon Disney, Noggin and the like.

As I said, those were the earliest years of my life. Say, ages four to about twelve or so, right? Actually, no.

The earliest years of my life are not so far gone. This can be easily evidenced by a little glimpse into my bedroom at home.

My room has posters of the Jonas Brothers on the walls. Above the television that sits at the foot of my bed is a print of a painting of Peter Pan. Hung on the frame to its left is a purse in the shape of Marie, the little girl cat from Aristocats. In the corner next to my TV is a plush version of Cinderella's mouse Jaq and on my dresser is a plush version of Pascal, Mickey Mouse and various other characters.

And on my television is the Disney Channel.

Admittedly, I've branched out over the years. Now instead of allowing my personal DISH Network menu to host only Disney, Nickelodeon and their affiliates, I've included the History Channel and Turner Classic Movies, MSNBC and Comedy Central, among other supposedly "grown up" stations.

But I don't just keep stations like Disney Channel just a click away with the hope that Don't Look Under the Bed or So Weird might randomly pop back up on the TV listing. Yes, my head may be somewhat in the past. In fact, it most definitely is and I would hesitate to claim otherwise (see: the description I just gave you of my room). But I'd like to make the case for why children's entertainment is still something worth tolerating, examining, even perhaps enjoying.

We did it a decade ago, so why not now?

For many of us, there is this belief that what we had is in some way superior to what exists nowadays. Admittedly, shows like Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire are welcome alternatives to terribly staged newer Disney sitcoms like Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana, but among the stinkers there are still entertaining kiddie television choices.

Since I tried the show on for size last summer, I've grown to love Good Luck Charlie. While it's performed on a sound stage like the other newer Disney shows, it has just an ounce of credibility that draws it back in comparison with the earlier shows that we still deem better.

And this is true of television for even younger audiences as well.

For a while, I wouldn't believe that there was anything worth watching for toddlers anymore. I'd turn on The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and lament over the loss of Bear in the Big Blue House for the newer computer-generated shows.

But in the past year, while babysitting my now just over a year old niece, I've seen enough recorded Nick Jr. that I can recognize the strength of even the most infantile television. For anyone who hasn't seen an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba, it's time to open your hearts up again to children's television.

Not only to that show, but to the genre in general.

I'm a biased viewer, that I recognize, but I've always felt that there is something inherently wonderful about kid entertainment that so many of us go from appreciating to bashing as if we never recognized its merit.

We grasp onto our newer shows that reek of immaturity, things like Family Guy and South Park that take the poop joke to a new level, but then throw in a hearty pop culture reference to make us feel smarter as well, and then laugh and ignore the television that can be as much for adults as it is for kids.

Yo Gabba Gabba!
Good Luck Charlie is about a family of four (coming on five) children and their parents. The kids carry their own tropes, as is true in any sitcom, but there's something pleasant about their interactions and the silliness of their parents that is intelligent and entertaining. It's not a show just for kids, and neither are shows like Yo Gabba Gabba, which features guests that most of us would know much better than our infant counterparts.

In the past few months, my fascination with children's entertainment has brought me closer to my sister, a recent mother who has just broken into the genre herself. But I wish it weren't only her who had an affinity for these things.

Having a child isn't the only way you can enjoy kiddie TV. And it shouldn't be. Because as often as there are immaturities in these shows, there are immensities too. With reflexivity of writing, quality of animation and just plain old stupid fun, it's clear that the reason we loved what we did as kids was not simply because we were kids, but because children's entertainment reaches something intrinsically human in all of us.

We all hunger for lighthearted entertainment every once in a while. To watch television or films or listen to music and not hear curse words or news about how the stock market is tanking and the world is ending.

And you know what? All that we need is sitting just a few channel clicks away. As I sit here watching The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl with the sound off, I can't express that obvious fact enough.

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