Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Children Are Our Future (Even Of Television)...

It's almost summer, and you know what that means: the kids will be home from school soon, and even the most athletic ones sometimes can't resist just slumping down on the couch in a nice air conditioned living room to watch a few straight hours of television. With so much free time about to be on their hands and access not just to the remote but also to hundreds of shows streaming on the Internet, the programming options are wide open... though not always acceptable for their age group. Most parents nowadays just turn the channel to Nickelodeon or Disney and let their kids sit there for hours; in fact, most parents admit that their kids often do the channel turning themselves. Sure, the amount of age-appropriate programming on those two channels alone can keep a child occupied for the better part of the day, but the level of quality still varies. Here is a look at the best (the most creative but also with the most important messages).

Nickelodeon premiered their newest cartoon, The Mighty B!, last month to rave reviews-- predominately due to the Amy Poehler-helmed cast of comedic geniuses behind the pre-pubescent characters’ voices. Revolving on an over-achieving young girl who wants nothing more than to earn the most Brownie badges in the history of the troupes, B may have her dorky moments, but she is extremely self-assured and comfortable in her own skin, offering a solid and quirky role model, befitting any modern little girl.

Also on Nick, iCarly focuses on another driven and determined young woman, but this one is also an entrepreneur despite still being in high school. Carly (Miranda Cosgrove) and her two best friends film and broadcast a web show from her bedroom, becoming instant (and overnight) celebrities with kids their own age but from all around the world. The show is unique for its Internet tie-ins, being the first of its kind to invite their fans to submit videos of their own through its companion site. The Internet—and the Internet generation—is our future, and iCarly is the first program to really embrace that.

Over on the Disney Channel, Phineas and Ferb is an animated throwback to the importance of good old-fashioned imagination. Disappointed by spending summer vacation stuck in their backyard, young brothers Phineas (Vincent Martella) and Ferb (Thomas Sangster) scheme and plot (but in a creative, productive, non-threatening way) to have all kinds of exciting adventures. With the help of their secret agent pet platypus (the writers must be true kids at heart!), they even manage to outsmart their older sister (High School Musical’s Ashley Tisdale). Even in cel form, Phineas and Ferb makes viewers feel like they can do anything they set their minds to (whether it be win a race or visit outer space), and perhaps more importantly it energizes them to the point where they want to do it all. It is no small accomplishment when a television show makes kids want to get off the couch.

Life With Derek is a new millennium Brady Bunch or even Step By Step, focusing on the gentle rivalry between Casey (Ashley Leggat) and Derek (Michael Seater), who were both the oldest in their family (and therefore used to getting their way) until their parents met each other and got married. While the kids adjust to their new lives and new families, their banter induces laughs but their ever-growing affection for each other induces warm smiles. Life With Derek teaches the importance of embracing family in just a subtle, slightly sarcastic enough way that modern audiences won’t roll their eyes at the cheese factor.

Despite being a bit dated, reruns of modern classic favorites like Full House and new installments of Power Rangers get the seal of approval, too, especially from parents who are young enough to have grown up with those shows themselves. It's a bit of the nostalgia factor, sure, but it's also just nice for them to know something intrinsically about the shows towards which their kids are gravitating. It’s so hard to keep up nowadays, this way just makes it easier to bonding to ensue. :)

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