Nickelodeon

The actually educational TV shows your kids should be watching and their hilarious shortcomings (pt 4 of 5)

Bubble Guppies

It’s difficult to recommend a show that simultaneously entertains and stimulates tiny minds, but this gets pretty close. Maths, language, international studies, life sciences, timekeeping, problem solving, shapes and even biology are dealt with in the underwater city of Bubbletucky.

The show follows the exploits of a school class of merpeople. Yes, the so-called Bubble Guppies are merpeople who live among fish and basically get treated like gods. Each episode starts off with Gill and Molly introducing the theme, which is followed by the exceptionally catchy theme song (parents proceed with caution because this tune will get stuck in your head for days). They then go to school and go through the daily routine of playtime, lunchtime and song time.

Topics range from farm trips to construction and are deeply woven into the episode story line. The Guppies act out stories relating to the topic with morals or lessons at the end of each. It’s like all the best bits of school packaged in a really engaging way. My favourite episode included Ballet Ninjas – a concept so radical that I’m still scraping bits of my blown mind off the lounge walls.

The shortcoming.
The Guppies’ teacher, Mr Grouper, is a fish. And we’re supposed to believe that a fish is infinitely smarter than the merpeople. Also, you never meet any of the Guppies’ parents or figure out the history of the city.

There’s also the uncomfortable situation where the role-playing is based on concepts that sea dwellers have no possible knowledge of. Like the Pyramids of Giza, for instance. What do merpeople know about that?

Even worse
Nonny is the nerdy Guppies, the audience knows this because he wears glasses and knows a lot about many things. Now I’m no expert on merperson anatomy, but I’m pretty sure his allergies (another stereotypical nerd trait, just so you know he isn’t the star quarterback) wouldn’t manifest in his nasal accent. Dude you breathe water, science says it isn’t possible.

Beyond that Nonny is also slight of build and appears inherently weaker than the other male Guppies. With society already conditioned to laugh at nerds and geeks (looking at you Big Bang Theory) and not embrace them for the heroes and leaders they truly are (Iron Man, for example), I find it disturbing that such a great kid’s show will reinforce the idea. Think I’m making mountains out of molehills? Do some research on the episodes Nonny stars in, they all highlight his weaknesses. The inspiration for my rage is an episode where his glasses break and then much fuss is made about how terrible his vision is — the lesson is about the 5 senses, but they could’ve used a different delivery.

I feel your pain Nonny.

Posted from the trenches

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The actually educational TV shows your kids should be watching and their hilarious shortcomings (pt. 1 of 5)

Let me kick things off with some full disclosure: I work from home at least two days a week and take an almost insane interest in my offspring’s media consumption. We have one of those PVR things and I think it’s annoyingly cute that she refers to her shows as movies. (Side note: because I’ve recorded a bunch of her favourite episodes and she can watch pretty much on demand, so it causes havoc when we’re in a setting where she is forced to wait for an episode of something).

Bottom line, I’m crazy enough to write an entire article on the best educational kids shows when I’m also fully aware that these things exist purely as a vehicle to sell merchandise through. And to take pressure off of competitive party parents, because kid’s birthday parties are now a contact sport played with money. So read on and see how far this rabbit hole has taken me.

Dora the Explorer
The feisty Latina with the comically over sized head goes on adventures solving problems with the magical powers of logic and Spanish. To assist in her heroism she has at her disposal a sentient map and backpack. So I’m not sure whether or not Dora can actually read because the map only communicates with the audience, prompting the children to deliver information to her. Which is strange because the map is hers and my kid is not stupid; she knows that the TV show doesn’t exist in the same universe as she does. Further more, if the backpack (named Backpack) is supposed to be so smart, why doesn’t it just spew out the correct item whenever Dora is in trouble?

What the show does well is teach problem solving and some basic maths and physics. Also there’s the Spanish bit, which kinda makes Dora a miniature version of Pitbull — on a crusade to teaching the world Espanyol, one hook at a time.

The shortcoming:
Dora is always accompanied by her friend Boots, a sentient monkey with a shoe fetish. My quarrel isn’t with the inappropriate nature of Boots’ adoration for Dora, but rather that I’ve neither see nor heard about his family. Like does his mom speak? Is he the result of some science experiment? Is he suddenly going to go ape and share the serum with his other primate pals and overthrow the government, claiming the planet for themselves?

What’s your deal Boots?

Also, I’m not a fan of primates as pets and now my daughter is thinking that it’s a natural thing. And she has no concept that monkeys are actually wild animals and are dangerously unpredictable when they come in contact with humans.

Even worse
So this Swiper the Fox character is a kleptomaniac fox who wears a bandit mask and instead of the show addressing his obvious problem and trying to find a root cause, kids are encouraged to just tell him to stop swiping. Now I suffer from junkie empathy and would hate for my kid to grow up ignoring the social issues that really contribute to criminal behaviour. Dora the Explorer’s ignorance to Swiper’s situation is deeply disturbing, but Spawn’s wellbeing seems to rely on a daily dose of the show so I let it slide.