I divide children’s television shows into four categories:
1) Shows I have a philosophical objection to the kids watching.
2) Shows I have no philosophical objection to, but can’t stand to have on because they make me feel as if sharing my house with children has made my whole life unrecognizably lame and sad.
3) Shows I feel indifferent about: they’re fine for the kids to watch, and I don’t mind having them on.
4) Shows I really like: I’m glad when the kids like them, and I might start shushing so I don’t miss the dialogue.
Most of the shows in the fourth category are the ones I liked in my own childhood.
Current episodes of Sesame Street are fine (although they seem to be almost entirely Elmo’s World and Journey to Ernie), but I prefer seeing the very same episodes I watched as a child. Grover and that guy in the restaurant! Kermit and the on-the-scene reporting! The typewriter, typing on itself! Oscar being genuinely rude and mean! Adults openly mocking Big Bird for saying Mr. Snuffleupagus was real!
I own Volume 1, which covers 1969-1974, and Volume 2, which covers 1974-1979. I like Volume 2 a little better (Volume 1 has a “starting up a new show and fumbling around for footing” feeling; also, more of the Volume 2 segments are familiar to me), but they’re both awesome. Even more awesome: NO ELMO and NO BABY BEAR. I’m hoping for a Volume 3.
I grew up in a “PBS only” kind of household, but Paul grew up normal with Saturday morning cartoons so he has a soft spot for Schoolhouse Rock. These little educational songs evidently played between cartoons, NOT THAT I’D KNOW. Watching these DVDs with the kids, I’ve finally understood a few grammar and government rules that had previously escaped me; plus, now I can sing you the preamble to the Constitution. Beat THAT, PBS. This anniversary collection contains every single Schoolhouse Rock song—in case you have some catching up to do from YOUR deprived childhood.
The Electric Company! Watching it now is bizarre: all these way-groovy actors doing kid-level variety-show stuff and reciting the alphabet and so forth. MORGAN FREEMAN, for pete’s sake! We sing “Silent E” around here all the time (”Who can turn a CUB into a CUBE? Who can turn a TUB into a TUBE?”) (okay, I won’t leave you in suspense: it’s Silent E). There’s also volume 2.
On one hand, I wish there were bigger sets of Mr. Rogers available—something more like the big sets they’ve come out with for Sesame Street and Electric Company. On the other hand, we still get reruns on PBS and can watch it that way. Also, this is one show my kids don’t like quite as much as I do. I’m sitting there weeping into a hankie, saying, “Mr. Rogers was so ni-i-i-i-i-ice! *sob* *honk*” and they’re wandering off unless it’s The Land of Make-Believe or Picture-Picture. Those were the only parts I liked when I was a child, too; it’s only now that I want to listen to Mr. Rogers talking about how special and important and loved we all are. (*honk*)