The dreaded idiot box: The children

Whatever happened to children’s’ TV  I’m not a huge fan of the digital babysitter, but there are some days and times we put it on for a little sanity. Things may well change when we move as we don’t plan to connect to an aerial so the only TV will be what we stream from ABC for kids. However, it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t think much of many of the programs that are on TV now.

I grew up on 80’s TV. He-Man and Sheera were heroes, always fighting for what’s right and good. Transformers and Voltron too. Super-Ted with his magic word, Astro Boy (still a favourite) and so many others. There was most often a message or a moral in each episode or program too. Then there were the programs I really loved. Raggy Dolls who loved everyone no matter what they looked like or what their faults were (this was a big one for me as I was bullied throughout a good portion of my school years), Smoggies (a wonderful environmentally focused program), Wombles, and of course, Captain Planet, the ultimate eco superhero!

Smoggies, or Stop the Smoggies as it was called elsewhere took place on or around the fictional Coral Island, and revolved around a group of island-dwelling people called Suntots and a trio of polluting treasure hunters called the Smoggies. The Suntots spent much of their time defending their island paradise from the Smoggies, who polluted everything around them and lived on a coal-fired steam ship, the SS Stinky Poo, which polluted the water and air around the island. The Smoggies constantly tried to destroy the Suntots’ home for their own benefits. Almost every episode had the environmentalist Suntots outsmarting the Smoggies latest scheme, after which the Smoggies invariably hatched another scheme. Thus, the show also explains the importance of protecting the environment. A recurring theme was their attempt to steal the island’s “magic coral” (which the Smoggies believed granted eternal youth), or find some alternative way to maintain youth. The show often implied that the magic coral did not actually exist, however, and were just manifestations of the Smoggies’ (mainly Emma’s) greed and vanity. [Taken from Wikipedia]

Captain Planet was the real environmental show though. I still remember bits of episodes years later. The story-line  Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, is awakened from a long sleep by Hoggish Greedly, who happens to be drilling above her resting chamber. Realizing that the damage is extensive, Gaia sends five magic rings, four with the power to control an element of nature and one controlling the element of Heart, to five chosen youths across the globe: Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from North America, Linka from the Soviet Union (changed to Eastern Europe after the Soviet Union’s collapse), Gi from Asia, and Ma-Ti from South America. These five are dubbed the Planeteers and are tasked with defending the Earth from the greatest of disasters and making efforts to educate mankind to keep others from happening. Gaia uses her “Planet Vision” to discover where the most devastating destruction is occurring and sends the Planeteers to help solve the problem. The Planeteers use transportation (usually a flying machine called a Geo-Cruiser) based on solar power to avoid causing pollution themselves. In situations that the Planeteers cannot resolve alone, they can combine their powers to summon Captain Planet, a magical entity who possesses all of their powers magnified, symbolizing the premise that the combined efforts of a team are stronger than its individual parts. Captain Planet only appears in his Captain Planet garb. These are not clothes but elements of the Earth that are integral to his composition. He is able to rearrange his molecular structure to transform himself into the various powers and elements of nature. Captain Planet’s outfit does not represent a specific culture. He has a grass-green proto-mullet, crystal skin, earthy brown eyes, a fire-red chest, gloves, trunks, and boots, and a sun-yellow globe insignia. The Planeteers cannot use their individual powers while Captain Planet has been summoned. Despite his vulnerability to pollution, Captain Planet is a formidable and valiant hero. Once his work is done, Captain Planet returns to the Earth, restoring the Planeteers’ powers. When he does this, Captain Planet reminds viewers of the message of the series with his catchphrase, “The Power Is Yours!” implying a duty and the ability of everyone to continue protecting the environment when he is gone. [Taken from Wikipedia]

Wombles is another wonderful program with a strong focus on cleaning up after oneself and recycling. Wombles are well-known in our house and going for a wander and coming home with stuff to use is known in this house as wombling. My husband is a great Womble and I have done my fair share of wombling in my time too. The Wombles are known for “making good use of the things that we find. Things that the every day folk leave behind” So many years before its time it’s hard to really process. It was aired on the BBC in the mid 70’s!

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I only wish these programs were shown on the telly now. My kids are still probably several years too young for Captain Planet at the moment although they are nearly of an age for Smoggies and Wombles are already a favourite but there just doesn’t seem to be programs of this same ilk shown any more. 😦

However, they’re not all bad. A favourite in our house is Milly, Molly, a show about best friends of different ethnic backgrounds and their adventures. I like Milly Molly and it’s Allegra’s ” fayvrit” show.

Jasper changes his favourites daily, sometimes hourly but there is one that is a confirmed and constant favourite of all 3 children; Thomas the Tank Engine. I hate the new animated series and much prefer the old model railway series but both Allegra and Jasper disagree with me. Orik couldn’t care less which one he watches, he just loves “Toh-tas”. Bob the Builder is another good program that has aired some episodes with distinctive environmental focus; building an Earthship office for the mayor, underground homes and solar panels etc too. Not all series have that focus but we love Bob here almost as much as the little blue engine. There isn’t an environmental message in either Milly Molly or Thomas but they usually have a fairly good story-line, promoting being useful and helpful and friendship and acceptance so I can deal with them both. I’m not saying the other programs are bad either, and there are others we do watch, depending upon the day, but generally I find the others lacking the substance I would like to see in children’s TV.


15 thoughts on “The dreaded idiot box: The children

  1. narf77 says:

    The first sign of getting old is saying “When I was a kid…” ;). Our dog Earl looks like a womble he spends his days stealing er “collecting” things from around our house and recycles them through his digestive tract. I am thinking of contacting the ABC to see if there might be some money available to make a children’s television show about him. It can’t be much worse than what the poor kids today have to choose from! I think that they should have cancelled Sesame Street when Jim Henson died. Today’s childrens programming is aimed at selling merchandise rather than giving our future generations pause for thought. That’s what books are for! 😉

    • When I was a kid… Absolutely! Definitely getting old and I sure feel it some days (usually Mondays after working hard on the new house).
      As for Earl, he sounds like a processing plant, for what I am not sure. Clearly, plarn is not safe, nor are soft toys, ornaments or eggs. Speaking of, how’s the gas crisis at yours? 😉

      • narf77 says:

        Don’t Ask! (but the cartons of eggs are starting to dwindle 😉 )

        • If you’d been local I would have dropped in and relieved you of some of them. I promised my kids custard ester day then had to reneg as had no eggs. 3 pekin bantams just don’t lay enough for us all since I started eating eggs again.

          • narf77 says:

            lol now my dogs are going to suffer high cholesterol 😉

            • Good cholesterol though. It ain’t all bad like the press touts. Have you ready nourishing traditions?

              • narf77 says:

                Nah…there are only so many books that Steve will let me have a quarter before he starts twitching and the moth eaten sock under the bed twitches in unison. I read if through the library and got the kids to buy me all of Sandor Elix Katz’s books for my birthday so I have a backlog of amazing fermentation books. I tried to make sourdough and ended up with “Herman”. Herman had an attitude problem. His attitude was I should feed him exponentially forever and he would occasionally rise up out of his jar and spill EVERYWHERE while I wailed and postulated and every time I would try to bake with him I got vinegar bricks. Herman is dehydrated and in the pantry where I can look at him smuggly as I remove useful ingredients and leave him there! I used to make kefir and bought grains back when I lived in WA from Dom’s site BUT I went vegan, stopped using milk and ended up flushing the grains down the loo feeling incredibly bad about it as I don’t like to kill ANYTHING. The only saving grace was that I imagined the grains living on in the sewer of our rental and rising up (like the phoenix) when we moved to take back their rightful place in the house (note I said AFTER we moved…;) ) so that assuaged my guilt a little bit. I made kimchi and it was delicious but smelled worse than both dogs combined after eating 4 dozen eggs so Steve frowns whenever I say “I think I might make some more kimchi babe…” I guess I have a ways to go 😉

                • I make sauerkraut which I never liked before but I love raw cultured sauerkraut, as do my kids and hubby. My sourdough needs 7 hours to do its rise thing and you can’t use tap water cos that kills the wild yeasts.
                  Nourishing traditions talks about cholesterol and how western medicine has made it out to be some evil evil thing but that a lot of what they tell us just isn’t true (who woulda thunk). It’s a great read and my poor hubby again had me exclaiming loudly at some of the information in it (at 4am when I couldn’t sleep).
                  I’d check your local library for it and bug them til they gets it. Is that worth it. Or maybe for xmas?

                  • And I tried water kefir too but was the only one who drank it.

                  • narf77 says:

                    I will let my fingers do the walking and will request it from the library :). I could be entirely nefarious and scan the entire book but who would do such a thing ;). I think that we have been lied to about a lot of things in order for some people to make a profit from the dieting industry. So many people are shunning fat in every form without realising that we NEED fat to metabolise! How ironic eh? Anyway, I use coconut cream in recipes without caring now. As a vegan I won’t be partaking in animal sources of fat any day now BUT I have always shunned chemicals for real and I never buy anything but the good stuff. I guess it’s just a matter of making sure that you source the good stuff…or learn to make your own. My gran made her own lard (well she didnt grow it, she rendered it) and dripping. Butter is quite easy and if you ferment the cream a bit first you get an approximation of that amazing French butter that costs a fortune. Saw it on Cheese slices the other night ;). I sometimes get up at 4am and read other peoples innovative and exciting blogs when my brain is racing. Otherwise it’s a 5am start for me 🙂

                    • We have most definitely been lied to and outrageously so. It’s been an eye opening book. Very much looking forward to making many of the recipes therein. It’s been challenging though to get my head around the fact info that I have grown up believing is simply not true, and in fact it’s polar opposite to truth. Cholesterol is just 1 example.

  2. I must admit that I use the digital babysitter a lot more than I should. Sometimes you just need a timeout though and the TV enables that to happen. I do try and stick to shows that I feel have some educational value though. Sienna (and I) like playschool. It’s a favourite of mine from when I was a kid. Good old Sesame Street is another favourite too.

    • We too use the digital babysitter more than I would like and for exactly the same reasons. I’m also a fan of Playschool although not Sesame Street so much. I go through stages where I switch the telly off at 8:30 so we don’t watch it but other times we watch it. Depends on my levels of crankiness (I am so not a morning person) and the kids behaviour as well as what we have planned for the day.

  3. leonefabre says:

    hahaha …. now I know where you live! Walking distance to us would you believe?

    We walk every morning for about 40 mins, rarely go in your direction, but far too early to call in for a cuppa anyway. 🙂

    Once you move up you can walk this way, stop for a cuppa and have a ‘mini break’.

  4. allagekids says:

    Fantastic Post. I agree with you, kids TV has become less about rules and morals, and more about how cost effective something is. Things tend to be imported too, which is not a good sign. Once again, great post and real refreshing to see someone with a similar view to my entire blog!

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