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.