I know you’re not supposed to let TV babysit your kid, but Nick Jr. came with really excellent references. It’s pre-school on television, right? So technically, when my four-year-old son, Boogie, gets home from school and heads straight for the TV, he's really just going into an extended learning program provided by Moose & Zee.
Frankly, I think if we all adopted this "dual school" method, we wouldn’t be lagging behind Japan in technology and amazing boy bands.
OK, fine, I read What To Expect The First Year, too. Well, I meant to read it. It’s really long and boring. What I'm saying is, I need TV TIME! It gives me a chance to take a breather, work on some articles and practice my Beyonce choreography in peace while Boogie is watching something constructive. I appreciate Nick Jr and Sprout. They do good work!
Because my boy can’t really sit still or keep quiet, everything with him is an interactive experience. But there is one magical program. One hypnotic creation that keeps Boogie entranced for 30 minutes straight: "The Fresh Beat Band." Sure he’ll sing along. He’ll get up and dance. But when the band is quiet, Boogie's quiet. It’s amazing.
On top of being nothing short of amazing, "The Fresh Beat Band" is also quite possibly the worst show I’ve ever seen in my life and I kind of love it. OK, I used to hate it. Yes. HATE. I know, I know, as Boogie says, "hate" is a bad word. But I don't care. I hated them. If you've ever been subjected to "The Fresh Beat Band," then you understand. If you haven't well, congratulations, I'm about to ruin your entire life. It's only fair.
"The Fresh Beat Band" is a Nick Jr. show about four diverse friends that live in an apartment or a dorm or a youth hostel. Their names are Shout, Twist, Marina and KiKi. I’m not sure how Kiki And Marina made it, but Shout and Twist were saddled with... (oh wait, I totally just got it. Twist and Shout. Oh, Nick Jr., you’re so clever!).
Anyway, Shout, Twist, Marina and Kiki are these four friends that... (well, I’m not sure if we’re not supposed to notice that grown-ass 20-somethings are acting like pre-schoolers. Or if we're supposed to know that they are grown-ups and then we just pretend that adults would spend half an hour figuring out what “cooperation” means). Where was I?
Boogie LOVES this show. He loves it in the most frighteningly cult-like way. My son knows all the songs almost immediately. He knows all the dances. And he LOVES Twist, the 7-foot-tall white man who likes to beatbox and plays the “turntables.” Do you know where my son, spawn of my hip hop-loving loins, learned about beatboxing and DJing? From a giant white man who does it in the goofiest way possible!
Then there's Shout. The black guy. I hate to call someone corny, but let's say that if Shout were an R&B song by Trey Songz he'd be called, "I Invented Corny" and it would be autotuned. You can tell the casting directors wanted the safest black man ever, so they moved him as far from hip hop as you could get without ending up wherever Josh Groban comes from.
Marina, the redheaded woman/child, plays the drums. She is so boring that she was recently replaced. I didn’t notice until Boogie freaked out and forced me to investigate. KiKi is Latina. She plays the guitar or the tambourines. I’m honestly not sure but she loves to sing. They all sing. They all sing a lot of catchy songs about bananas and wall paper and friendship and The devil. I want to kill them.
My son refuses "Sesame Street" because he doesn’t understand why people spend so much time talking to a bunch of puppets. He watches "Yo Gabba Gabba" sometimes, but he's definitely not as transfixed as when "The Fresh Beats" are on.
Boogie can't buy Big Bird or DJ Lance as viable characters, but "The Fresh Beat Band" is somehow legit. Where did I go wrong?
I tried watching an entire episode with him, to, you know, bond and whatnot. And just to see if maybe I was missing something. It was all very bright and cheerful and sing-y and dance-y. It was annoying, but my boy, who won't sit still long enough to change his mind, stands in front of the TV, his eyes wide, and sings and dances along to everything these people do.
I don't hate all children's programming. I'm a fan of Olivia the Pig. That's my homie. She's sassy and smart and rambunctious and imaginative. She's like a pig version of Willow Smith. I don't like Caillou's ole whiny behind. I love the theme song to "Kipper the Dog,"but I have never actually watched any of it.
I consider myself pretty savvy in the world of entertainment. I understand that children’s programming provides a very intricate and detailed peek into the sociology of children and blah blah blah. Whatever. Why is "Little Bear" allowed to run around naked while his parents and friends have on clothes? Why does "Franklin," a turtle, have a pet dog? Why is his name Franklin but his friends are named Beaver, Rabbit and Snail? What makes him so special? Why is Clifford the Big Red Dog so fucking Big and RED?! Where are Dora’s parents?! I HAVE QUESTIONS!
Circque Du Soleil would have problems suspending that much disbelief. Yet, Boogie does it. The same boy that quizzed me endlessly about the logistics of this “so-called Santa Claus” has no problem buying any of this.
So that means I have to buy stuff.
Case in point: A year ago, I took my son to see "Toy Story 3 ON ICE.
Now, think of all the things you loved about that movie, remove those things, replace them with a headache and then put skates on it: That's "Toy Story 3 On Ice." I won't even discuss the $10 tub of popcorn, the $5 lemonade or the $10 bag of cotton candy. I spent $25 before the show even started! And when it did, I would have gladly paid another $25 for a cocktail.
During intermission, I tried to tell tell Boogie that the show was over. I guess we have to go home now. Boogie is way too smart for that. Nobody else is leaving. Oh, can you buy me a hat?!
Ushers were walking by with flashing things, light-up things and spinning things. Boogie wanted EVERYTHING. I finally just told him that the only people who could buy them were blind children. Then Boogie told me he wanted to buy a "light-up thing" for a blind child.
Between this and "The Fresh Beat Band," I think I'm done entering Boogie's world. We're going to have to find some nice middle ground to stand on, ground that is preferable not ice and not shaking from too much beat-boxing. We both enjoy Justin Bieber, so we’ll start there.