As the father of a small TV-watching thing, I see, or at least half-hear, a fair amount of shows aimed at the preschool set. Should you find yourself approaching such a situation, I offer you the following brief reviews to guide your decision-making process. I'll start with one I actually like.
Peg + Cat: There must be adults somewhere who don't have kids, but sit around watching this show. Maybe stoned. It's a nearly perfect piece of television. It ostensibly teaches math skills, and maybe it does. I don't know; I'm not sold on the concept of educational television. But one thing it definitely teaches is perfect comic timing. The voice of Cat should win an Emmy. And since they sing, a Grammy. And a movie version would net him an Oscar. And then I'll see it on Broadway so he can get an EGOT.
Speaking of EGOTs:
Wonder Pets: Just let me die. Well, no. Death shouldn't be on the line. But if I could avoid a future encounter with this show just by accepting a week of intense, unpredictable diarrhea, I would choose the diarrhea. Yes, the guy won an EGOT. 1/4 of it was for Wonder Pets, though, so as far as I'm concerned, he's on the opposing team's 25 yard line. Damn, I just made a football metaphor, and I don't care about football outside of Friday Night Lights. This is spiraling to a bad place. Let's change course.
Wild Kratts: I fucking love this show. I thought I had a good childhood, and then I discovered that it didn't include Wild Kratts, so now I'm not sure. Maybe it was all a lie. (You ever go back an watch an episode of a show you loved when you were 10? They always suck. They all sucked. All of them. G.I. Joe? Sucked. Aside from the "Cold Slither" episode, naturally. Bionic Six? I missed the bus for that show, and no, it doesn't hold up. Wild Kratts? This one's going to hold up.) Basically, it's got a theme song you love, followed by an animation style that's actually pretty great, plotlines and secondary characters that are magnificently, willfully goofy, and live action stuff that's pretty entertaining and teaches me shit about gila monsters and lions.
Dora the Explorer and Go, Diego Go: Since they're related, I'm going to treat these as conjoined turds. I could make the argument that one show is worse than the other, and I'd probably watch Diego if I had to choose. But the fact is, both of these shows are horrible, and if I had to choose, that would mean I'd reached a point in my life that is darker than anything I've ever imagined. These shows are repetitive and stupid and if they're teaching anything, they're teaching slow-wittedness and poor reflexes. The physics of Dora's and Diego's world is a fucking mess. And I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, but the shifting line between magical realism and legitimate zoology on display in these shows... man, I don't know if my kids are going to get into college after this.
Bo On the Go: I'm not a violent person. I dislike conflict. But if I find a) the person responsible for this show, or b) the person at Netflix responsible for recommending it for my daughter, I'm going to jail. This show is a fucking disgrace. I'm dumber just for being aware of it. Sure, its goals are laudible: "We're going to get kids to exercise while watching TV!" No you're not. You're not. You're just not. People don't do that. It's a fool's errand, and you went about it terribly, assholes. Now my daughter wants to watch an unintelligible, repetitive, humorless wreck of a show about a mysterious, needy, manipulative, no-personality magic girl and her boring, powerless, useless dragon pal, who consult a weak, uninformed, and ineffective wizard to solve problems that always have the same illogical solution: FIND THREE DOORS. FIND THREE FUCKING DOORS. MAKE THE KIDS JUMP AND SHIT. LOOK, A KEY. OH, A KEY! OH BOY! I FORGOT WHY WE WANT TO OPEN THE DOOR BECAUSE EVERY EPISODE IS THE SAME. I HOPE THERE'S A GUN BEHIND THAT DOOR SO I CAN END IT ALL.
Backyardigans: I'm a fan. Basically, you have five friends of unclear species living in a standard American McMansion suburb imagining pretty great scenarios, all set to everything from classic showtune to beatboxing to Caribbean steel drum music. I tend to break into song around the house (my kids think musicals are documentaries, and the world is going to break their hearts), and the style of my improvised songs is very Backyardiganian. I don't claim the musical range the Backyardigans writers have, but they're my people. I just wish my daughter liked it more.
I'd like to make a show about a boring child doing what boring children do every day, and let's make it more boring by not finishing the illustrations or letting the actors convey emotions with their voices.
That fits the Canadian Public Television budget. We'll buy fifteen seasons.
The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That: I'm quite fond of Dr. Seuss. We never met, but I consider him a pal. And as a friend of the late Doctor, I'l like to speak on his behalf: "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!? WHAT.... WHAT.... WHAT.... Oxygen...." (and then he dies all over again). I hope you're happy, TV people. You killed my friend Dr. Seuss for a second time.
No, seriously. As my wife observed, brilliantly, the Cat in the Hat is an agent of chaos. And in this show he tells the kids to ask for parental permission. The Cat is dead. Long live The Cat.