I’m spoiled. #Blessed, if you will. Why, you ask? Well, I have never had the misfortune of watching Caillou, which, from all reports, is enough to make you want to abandon your family and go live in a teepee in the woods, pooping in a hole you dug by hand and communing with the squirrels. Still, though, kids’ TV shows leave a little something to be desired.
[Also, mama who is about to helpfully chime in that your kids don’t want TV because screen time can delay verbal development? I’m happy for you, and I’ma let you finish..but...bruh.]
Peppa Pig is super-sassy and assertive, a family of pigs flopping onto their backs everytime they laugh like just-reeled-in fish, and Daddy Pig is the exact porcine equivalent of literally every husband ever [“Don’t get lost in the blackberry bush, Daddy Pig!” “I won’t get lost, Peppa; I know this brush like the back of my hand!” *Daddy Pig immediately gets irrevocably and hopelessly lost in weirdly dense blackberry thicket*], but after a few episodes I want to scream.
Children’s TV is decidedly not intended to entertain parents on the DL anymore the way it was when millennial moms were young [this isn’t just me being nostalgic for the good ol’ 90s; rewatch an episode of Rugrats and tell me some of those jokes weren’t snuck in there just so your parents wouldn’t want to blow the television set up]; every line, character, and conflict is intended solely for your kid’s consumption, and while that’s great and all that, how many of our kids are consuming television without forcing a parent to watch it with them? How many of us stick our kids in front of the screen as a distraction while we’re desperately trying to get dinner made or the laundry folded, and thus end up absentmindedly watching, or at least listening to, an entire season of Bubble Guppies? And how much of it plain old sucks?
So what can we put on for our kids tonight that will alleviate some of that classic too-much-screen-time mommy guilt while also at least being passively entertaining for its inevitable adult viewers, too? We’re breaking it down for you.
True + the Rainbow Kingdom
Everybody knows that Netflix just knocks it out of the park with every original series it introduces, and this one is no exception. True is a little girl who has a weirdly personal relationship with the princess and king of the Rainbow Kingdom where she and her talking cat Bartleby live, despite not holding any special rank or status and apparently having no parents. Inexplicably, she also has a best friend named Zee who lives in a tree where he watches over the Wishes, which he whores out to True whenever she finds herself in a bind. So what’s redeeming about this show?
- Problem solving: Yes, True has a bit of supernatural assistance from the three Wishes she gets every episode in solving her mostly-menial kiddie problems. BUT. Every time she goes running to Zee in need of some “wish help”, the first thing he says is, “Let’s sit and have a think about this.” The two [three, including Bartleby] of them take a deep breath, and think through the situation as True outlines the kinds of wishes she’ll need to solve her problem. Even if the Wishes are the ones saving the day, True isn’t a passive recipient of their help; she has to identify the problem and the best ways to solve it for herself first.
- The Grizmos: The Grizmos are weird royal servants that are constantly at Princess Grizelda’s beck and call that look like a cross between the Minions and a Xanax pill and act like Seth Rogan’s stoner squad from Knocked Up. Hilariously low-key and perennially unexcitable [imagine the motley crew exclaiming “Yayyyy…” in a completely unmoved deadpan], the Grizmos are the closest to comic relief for the Big Kids as most shows dare to eke out these days.
Ben + Holly’s Little Kingdom
Holly is a fairy princess in a magical tiny kingdom in what we can only presume is your actual backyard [seriously, tell your kids this and you’ve just bought yourself a free afternoon while they crawl around in dog poop with a magnifying glass looking for fairies], and Ben is her elfin best friend. This show not-so-delicately explores class differences as Ben and Holly try to navigate the differences between things elves do and things fairies do, and TBH, it’s a show that makes you actually do some follow-up parenting on that front because of the overt racism shown by the ruling [fairy] family towards the elves. However, typically when the fairies are ignorant, classist meanies, the elves prove themselves just as capable and valuable in some way or another and teach the fairies that just because they do things differently doesn’t mean it’s wrong, and this is a great teaching opportunity for parents to talk about how silly it is to judge people by how they look or where they’re from. Other than that, you’ve got these gems going for you:
- Daisy + Poppy: Daisy and Poppy are Holly’s younger twin sisters, and they are the tiniest, most hellacious demon spawn of all time. Watching Holly’s parents, King and Queen Thistle, try to keep some sense of order as the twins attempt to destroy everything in their path will have you sitting on your ass right next to your little one, shoveling popcorn in your mouth, saying, “Same.”
- Nanny Plum: Nanny Plum, as you may have guessed, is Holly’s royal nanny. She’s more of a governess, because in addition to making sure everything runs in tip top shape at the Little Castle, she’s also tasked with Holly’s fairy education and, y’know, raising Holly while her parents are preoccupied with ruling the Little Kingdom and keeping the chaos wrought by the aforementioned siblings at bay. Nanny Plum has gotten real comfortable being the big dog in the Little Castle, and is so effing sassy it hurts. She tells it like it is, no matter whether she’s speaking to Holly, the King, or the Wise Old Elf. Always quick with a comeback, she also speaks Ladybug, which is further evidence of her general badassery.
What are your favorite kids' shows?