Friends, it’s been fun over the past three weeks as we’ve looked at some excellent children’s television, but now it’s time to visit the dark side. The kids’ shows that can have a negative influence on your children in regard to sarcasm, materialism, or whining. The shows they (and you) may have to undertake therapy to get over. Unfortunately, it was difficult to whittle this list down to only eight, but we feel justified that we’ve already listed 24 awesome shows to counteract them.
Maybe back in the dark ages (actually, you’d have to go all the way back to the ’70s), there were few viewing options for children other than Sesame Street. Happily, we are now in a golden TV viewing age with so many excellent options, there are more than we even had room to list. And desperation is the only possible reason to watch something like Caillou on purpose. (Caillou gets a lot of mentions in the list below, but that’s because that little cue-ball-headed goof is the poster child for everything wrong about kids’ TV.) We’re not even going to list where these shows are available, that’s how much we don’t want you to watch them. The video clips are merely for morbid curiosity purposes only. Enjoy.
1. Caillou (1997-)
When people say that they hate children’s television (or even children), this is what they’re talking about. Caillou speaks exclusively in whining. You may not think it would be impossible for your kid to get even whinier, but if they have Caillou for a model, all bets are off. His saccharine PBS Kids show is stuffed with adult voice actors pretending to be children, giggling for absolutely no reason, and a Grandma Brimley who tries her hardest to tie it all together. The “songs” may inspire you to rip your ears right off your body. Check out our pre-K list for a variety of better options.
2. Barney & Friends (1992-2009)
Thankfully, that hideous purple dinosaur has now been put out to pasture, but for a while in the deceptively safe public television lineup, Barney would pop up right around lunchtime. The dinosaur from the kids’ “imagination” led a team of the most mealymouthed rag-tag bunch of children this side of a live-action Caillou. But none of them were as bad as the title character, and his companion, Baby Bop, who fumbled around in giant costumes and managed to ruin the melodies of simple songs like “This Old Man” for all eternity. Compare the natural conversations in Sesame Street and even Blue’s Clues against the Body Snatcher-artificial plastered smiles in this show, and recoil in horror appropriately.
3. Dora The Explorer (2000-)
If Caillou is the king of obnoxiousness, Dora is the queen. Caillou may blankly stare out of the TV screen to ask your kid inane questions: Nick Jr. staple Dora will scream at them to raise their hands in the air or twirl around to help get her out of some stupid scenario, like losing her way in a unicorn village or finding out why a giant chicken has “the sneezes.” It’s too bad, because the bilingual portion of the show is valuable, but the rest of it is unforgivable. Although you can while away countless hours pondering who is more annoying, Boots or Map. Dora’s cousin Diego has some redeeming factors on his show, Go, Diego, Go!, as his mission is usually to help endangered animals and his voice isn’t quite so grating. No such luck for Dora, however. Saturday Night Live perfectly skewered the show for a TV Funhouse short a few years back:
4. Obnoxious Disney sitcoms (2005-present)
If your previously polite child suddenly turns into a disrespectful smart aleck, check your Disney level. Studies have shown (based on an informal survey among The A.V. Club’s immediate circle of parent friends) that Disney-sitcom viewings can result in a rise in attitudinal behavior as your kids mimic what they see on the screen. An overarching element of all these shows is an idiot adult figure that the kids feel free to make fun of, usually in a servile or authority position like doorman or manager. We pin the start of this juvenile downfall to The Suite Life Of Zack And Cody, a grating pair of twins who ran roughshod over an entire luxury hotel (and later a cruise ship with The Suite Life On Deck). Today’s Disney shows, from Lab Rats (let’s make fun of the principal!) to Jessie (let’s make fun of the butler!) have kept this tradition alive. Out of the entire batch, only one Disney series really resonates: Good Luck Charlie offered a realistic family show as the eldest daughter tried to warn her baby sister about their crazy family. Even then, the middle kid was kind of a wiseacre. The rest, explore at your peril. Although our own Pilot Viruet will defend Dog With A Blog to her death.
5. Chuggington (2008-)
Chuggington is a case of why would you X, when there’s Y? Why would you drink RC Cola when there’s Pepsi? Why would you watch Chuggington when there’s Thomas & Friends? WHY? Chuggington’s Wilson is the Caillou of trains (last time, honest), his childish voice whining as he gets caught in all sorts of mishaps. His CGI village has nothing on the delightful stop-motion animation of Thomas The Tank Engine’s Sodor, where Thomas & Friends’ adventures are poignantly narrated by the likes of Ringo Starr, George Carlin, and Alec Baldwin. Sure, you have to make a decision between starting your kid’s college fund and watching Thomas, because all of those trains and settings are available for purchase and your kid will want all of them. But many kids are going to get into trains no matter what, so toss Chuggington for the Thomas option. (Note: this only applies to the Thomas live-action shows, because once his CGI mouth starts moving in season 12, a lot of the charm gets lost.)
6. Casper’s Scare School (2009)
A reboot of Casper The Friendly Ghost probably sounded like a good idea, but the execution of Casper’s Scare School on Cartoon Network failed miserably. The main problem was the title character: Casper in 3-D format just looked freakishly unsettling. Although the show did continue Casper’s constant struggle to befriend humans (or “fleshies,” as this show disgustedly called them), its dark, dingy setting wasn’t scary, just depressing. If you really want to get your kids familiar with Casper, best to go all the back to the charming Harvey-comics-based cartoon from about 50 years previous (below). Or just check out our list of shows for K-1st graders.
7. Uncle Grandpa (2010-)
Series like Adventure Time and Regular Show and The Amazing World Of Gumball make the bizarre look easy. The disturbingly named Uncle Grandpa on Cartoon Network shows what happens when you just throw in weirdness for weirdness’ sake. Just picture the corporate brainstorming meeting that could have spawned it, not unlike the Simpsons boardroom that brought us Poochie: “What about a tiger? No, a live-action tiger!” “Oh man, that’s great! Bob, can we do that?” “I’ll check with animation.” “Now, one more… I know, let’s add a talking piece of pizza!” “Tom, that’s crazy! How much coffee have you had?” “Ha ha, I know. And let’s add sunglasses to give it more of an edge!” All to back up the most unappealing main character in possibly all of animation history. Why would anyone want to look and/or hear Uncle Grandpa for longer than a nanosecond? Save yourself the trouble, and don’t even bother checking it out.
8. Lalaloopsy (2013-)
Do you hate money? Would you like your offspring to become pink-obsessed materialistic monsters? Then, by all means, turn on this extended toy commercial on Nick Jr. This series offers nothing except a disturbing button-eyed landscape (called Lalaloopsy Land, natch) with inane dialogue and simplistic plots that will make My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic seem downright Shakespearian. See also: Strawberry Shortcake, Littlest Pet Shop, and anything Barbie-related. Yes, MLP has toys available, but it also has a heart, which is more than you can say for the sad, soulless creatures of Lalaloopsy.