The TV choices for the under three set in our house are limited to Handy Manny, Caillou, and Little Bear, and of the three Little Bear is def my go-to show. Even though I feel mommy-guilt about putting Tenzin in front of the TV, sometimes I just have to get a break, and that's when I offer up the on-demand episodes of Little Bear. I always get an ecstatic reaction. Tenzin wants to know if he can watch Little Bear in bed, if he can have grape juice and a snack while watching, and whether one, two, or all three of his piggies can watch with him.
I say yes to all, grateful that he's not begging for Handy Manny, a good enough show that I like more than most (it's bilingual!), but sometimes no matter how smart and nice and great at fixing things Handy Manny is, the show still seems to rely on the noble savage trope a bit too much. And then there's the white guy on Handy Manny, Mr. Lophart, a caricature of the uptight white person and the butt of all of the jokes in each episode. It's some kind of strange revenge/reversal thing in which the white guy always looks like an idiot. Not so into that.
But even that's better than Caillou, the PBS show that makes me NUTS. Tenzin loves it but the kid is kind of whiny, the mom wears some kind of shapeless sack, and no matter what Caillou does --drop his sister, kick the dog, scream at the top of his lungs at his parents (okay I'm exaggerating)--his mom and dad just say, Oh Caillou, you're so silly. It's great that Caillou has a black friend, Clementine, and a deaf friend who comes over to play, but on the holiday episode I put on for Tenzin the other day, there were cursory cuts to Clementine celebrating Kwanzaa, and another kid celebrating Chanukah, and then it was all Santa, complete with snow and chimneys and of course, the ultimate lure: PRESENTS. There's nothing wrong with Christmas, but if Tenzin wants to be Christian when he grows up, I'd rather it not be because he wants presents at Christmas like "all the other kids".
Now Little Bear is, in my humble opinion, a gem of a show. It's about a bear, his immediate bear family, and all of his animal friends, including duck, owl, hen, and my personal favorite, Frog, who is Buddha'd out on his lily pad and says Om a lot. The show is paced pretty slow, and the animals are all nice and treat each other with respect. There's not a lot conflict and story lines revolve around something imaginative and benign, like Little Bear trying to find a dandelion fluff so he can make a wish (he wishes for a piece of chocolate cake), and Duck losing her quack and trying to find it all over the forest.
But the best indication of the show's value is Tenzin's face after he's seen it. He comes running to me, giggling and happy. Can I watch another Little Bear, he asks, looking into my eyes with his mischievous grin. Please?
What are your kids watching, and what do you think about it?