The arrival of my first spawn six months ago brought with it a change in the viewing habits of myself and my wife. If the TV is on, there is a good chance it’s tuned to a kid’s TV show. The last six months have meant that I am also watching way too much TV intended for young minds. Some would think it might make me dumber. On the contrary. It’s made me smarter. Well, at least smarter in the ways of kid’s TV.
It’s obvious he doesn’t get what the hell is going on but there is some odd connection between the child and the screen that I can’t quite put into words. It’s not just the shapes, colors and sounds. Something is going on that adults can’t see. It’s rather frightening to parent but the writer in me finds it fascinating because I only wish people read my words the way my six month old son sits mesmerized in front of the boob tube. (It’s only for short periods of time, don’t get all preachy on me super parents).
From what I’ve gathered, and from the things I’ve seen and heard, there are six things a person must do to create a popular kids show.
Massive Amounts of Drugs
Programming for the little buggers is on a whole other level of thinking than the normal, sane adult can fathom. In this one cartoon my boy loves, a random real picture will appear in the background for no reason. For example, a character will walk through a room and on the wall in the background will be an actual framed picture of a cat wearing a bow tie. While the entire program is a cartoon, here is this once piece that is real. It’s the work of the insane or the heavily drugged. So, for the first step, do massive amounts of drugs (your choice, though hallucinogens are recommended for this exercise) and write down all the crazy thoughts that pop into your head. Congrats, you’ve got the plot for a show.
An Adorable, or Several Adorable, Characters
It shouldn’t be a surprise that cute sells but in many of these shows the main star is so damn cute even a parent can’t help but go “awwww” and run out and buy ever single product involved with the show. How do you think Hello Kitty has remained relevant all these years? Conjure up an adorable character, give him or her a funny name like “Captain Dinkleberry” or “Pooty Tooty McFruity” and throw in a lisp or perpetually sad eyes to really wrap the whole package together.
In regular writing, this would be known as the antagonist, but in the world of kiddie shows it’s basically your garden variety idiot. This is the character that moves the story along by either getting into trouble, doing something bad, breaking something or just not being as quick on the uptake as the adorable main characters. While this character is extremely frustrating to adults (there is one girl on a show my kid watches that I refer to as ‘that dumb whore’) the moron gets the gang going into action. If the moron wasn’t around to cause drama, all the adorable characters would have to do all episode is stand around and sing cutesy songs. That brings us to the next topic.
Honestly, it’s the song that ultimately gets to me and pushes me just a step closer to insane. It is, however, one of the key components to a successful show. Kids learn by repetition. The song is sung every episode. At least once. Sometimes twice. In some instances, more than a few times. “Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets we’re on our way. To find the (insert animal that needs help this episode) and save the day. We’re not too big, and we’re not too tough, but when we work together we’ve got the right stuff. GO WONDER PETS!” Ugh. I’m cringing.
Ability To Tell A Story In Ten Minutes
It takes me forever to get to the end of a story. Hell, look how long this blog has taken. Kid shows wrap up an entire story in ten minutes (two stories per episode) and do so pretty efficiently. It’s start/problem/solution/finish. Of course, how long can a show babble on about the proper way to cross the street? Well, have you got twenty minutes because I’d be happy to explain.
Even More Drugs
These drugs are much different than the drugs I mentioned in part one of this blog. While those drugs opened your mind to ideas, these drugs will help numb the pain that comes with writing a show that will be interesting to kids under the age of three. For most parents, there is a light at the end of tunnel, because the kid will eventually grow out of the preschool shows. For the people creating the show, they could use a whole heaping helping of junk to numb it all. Wait! Wait! Don’t do all that blow. Didn’t you learn anything about sharing?