Monday, September 10, 2007

What's On YOUR Tube?

I have no problem with allowing children to watch television. I had never intended to let my daughter sit in front of the screen as a baby, but that lasted all of about four months - the need to make solo, uninterrupted trips to the washroom overcame my desire to shield her from the cathode rays before she was a toddler. In any case, I was none too fussed about breaking that particular rule because, as I said, I don't have a problem with television (or, as was/is more usually the case, DVDs). Television is part of our culture - a big part - and part of becoming culturally literate in our society involves become literate in and critical of the narratives of television (and, of course, film.)

Good television, that is. What I do have a problem with is bad television, and with mindless channel-surfing and TVs just being left on as background-filler. Becoming literate in media like television and film requires engage with their content, and I'm simply not interested in a) having my children be unengaged, and b) having them be engaged with bad content. So I've been picky about what goes in our DVD player, or what channel gets flicked on, when Wonderbaby is in the room.

We're lucky, in Canada, to have a cable channel - Treehouse - that is devoted entirely to programming for younger children and that is almost entirely commercial-free (I say almost, because although they air no commercials, they occasionally flash an brief and unobtrusive message stating that a certain company has sponsored a certain show.) I luuuurve Treehouse. LUUURVE. While it does air some shows (*cough*Wonderpets*cough*) that make me want to tear out my own eyeballs and/or eardrums, it has a fairly good roster of shows, many of which are Canadian, that more or less insures that if I need ten minutes in the bathroom, sola, I can turn it on and be secure in the knowledge that Wonderbaby will be distracted and will not be exposed to any Bratz commercials.

Among the very good shows - among the very Canadian shows - featured on Treehouse: Farzzle's World. Farzzle's World tells, in very short animated segments, the story of baby Farzzle and his adventures as he explores his world, all from his imagined point-of-view. So it is that toys become real (a stuffed dinosaur growls ferociously but affectionately), pots and pans become an orchestra, and the world, literally and figuratively, becomes a playground. It's a brilliant little show, remarkable in its simplicity and touching in its sweetness.

It's not, I should say, a show that Wonderbaby asks for (she rarely asks, and when she does, it's for Teletubbies or the crazy Your Baby Can Read dvd). But it is a show that she'll slow down for, and one that holds her attention for at least a few minutes. The real appeal of the show is that I like it. There's no dialogue, just lovely animation and the occasional Farzzle giggle. On days when I have a headache or am tired or over-stimulated, it's something that is a pleasure to have playing on the television. I can sit on the floor and narrate the story - which is, after all, just visual - in whispers to Wonderbaby ('look -Farzzle's dino is real!') while we snuggle, with no danger of high-pitched singing ('The phone! The phone is ringing!') breaking our revery and making my ears bleed. It's almost zen.

(Another piece of children's Canadiana that has the same effect on me - Co Hoedeman's Ludovic series. Seriously zen.)

The lovely people behind Farzzle sent me some DVDs - obviously, in the hopes that I'd write about it and recommend it to you. Which I am - because I love Farzzle. I selfishly love Farzzle. There is no end of DVDs that are effective in distracting children (Barney, after all, will do the trick for many kids, as will the execrable Wonderpets) - but there aren't so many DVDs/shows that are really a pleasure for parents to watch, too (if only for the sweet, simple animation that harkens to a time when animation was just drawings come to life.)

You can find an excellent example of Farzzle animation here, or you can check him out at the Farzzle website or at Treehouse. Or, you could write a post about what children's shows or DVDs you like (not your kids - YOU) and link to Her Bad Mother and this site and I'll randomly draw two names and send those folks Farzzle DVDs. And, I'll make a list of the posts for the sidebar, as a running list of kid's stuff that has some aesthetic or intellectual appeal to grown-ups, or that simply doesn't make us want to poke ourselves with sticks.

I'm telling you: you'll like Farzzle. Now tell me about something you like.

(This is, FYI, my very first give-away. I get lots of offers to give stuff away, but because I won't give anything away that I wouldn't actually buy, myself, to give as gifts, it hasn't happened. 'Til now. Woo hoo.)


Katherine said...

I am a big fan of Yo Gabba Gabba down here in the states. It is a fun little show with disco-ish music with little life lessons. It reminds me of old 70's shows like SchoolHouse Rock.

kittenpie said...

OMG I totally love Farzzle. And I have a DVD of Ludovic. Ahem.

But? I have to admit to loving the early-CGI and retro-cool combo of Rolie Polie Olie. And the language-free claymation weirdness of Pingu. Which actually reminds me a bit of Farzzle, but, you know, all artic and clay and with flightless waterfowl.

moosh in indy. said...

I'm of the belief that Yo Gabba Gabba was sent to drive me back into the sweet loving arms of alcohol abuse.
Wonderpets? The damn duck has a lisp. Not that we shouldn't embrace foibles but for a kid learning words to learn from a duck with a lisp? Oy vey.
I love the Backyardigans.
Love love love.

crazymumma said...

We are so far over into the darkside it hurts.

I miss the innocent days. Having an older child, we are deep into Harry Potter movies and the forbidden but much coveted teletoons.

sigh. I soooo miss Little Bear.

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

We're starting to watch a little bit of TV. Never seen Farzzle.

I really like the simple backgrounds of Pocoyo. For some reason, my son likes Big Comfy Couch. Oh, and he loves him some cooking shows. Seriously - asks for the cooking guy.

~Kat~ said...

I heart Charlie and Lola SO much... of course we started with the wonderful the books but now that there is a series, I just think those two Brit kids who do the voices are so sugary sweet.

Karen Rani said...

Oh that giggle! It slows everyone here down too. So cute.
We all love Lazy Town - as warped and weird as it is with it's skippy frames and half play-doh faces, we all enjoy it.

MomOnTheGo said...

Good tips for shows to check out. Farzle is a good quick hit of happiness.I had to write about Pocoyo, though. To see what I had to say, see: