Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This show is about what?

The TV screen was blue. Really blue. The kind of television blue that only comes from computer graphics or a complete breakdown of satellite communication.

A biplane zipped across the screen. Cool. Either everything’s fine with the world, or I’ve gone back in time.

“What is this?” I asked, sitting on the couch, leaning toward my wife and whispering like a man giving evidence to the CIA … evidence that may get him shot.

“(Jerry, Jeffery, Jasmine, whatever) the Jet Plane,” she said softly. This covert intelligence exchange was vital to Happy Home Security – if the toddler ever discovered Mom and Dad didn’t like ‘Whatever the Jet Plane,’ he might want to watch it more often.

“Does it matter?” she asked.

No, it really didn’t. But something about the show bothered me. Was it the dialogue? The obvious socialism that would have sent Sen. Joseph McCarthy screaming through the halls of Congress? The unicorns?

“The planes have faces,” I said, but that couldn’t be it. In my son’s movies trains, busses and construction equipment all have human faces. I’ve learned to deal with that. No, it was something else.

As I watched, the airplanes, and one sad little helicopter were all gathered in the hanger taking orders from a young woman.

Wait. That’s it. That’s what bothered me … well, that and the kid-movie music that wedges itself so far into my skull it only surfaces when I’m at work and really have to concentrate.

“Why is it acceptable for kids to watch obviously sentient beings in a subservient role, eagerly bending to the whims of their cruel human masters?” I asked. Yeah, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, Speed Buggy – they’re all guilty of promoting the serfdom of medieval France.

My wife shrugged.

What? Had the Kids TV Programming Medieval French monarchy gotten to her?

“This is how ‘Conquest of the Planet of the Apes’ started,” I said, standing only to be pulled back down and shushed. “It didn’t end well for us. If the revolution begins tomorrow, for the record I’ve always been nice to Chryslers and monkeys.”

I’ve learned a lot since that day. I’ve learned monkeys won’t take over America until at least 2035. And I’ve learned that children’s TV programming is so bizarrely annoying my wife and I have turned each show into a soap opera just to keep our brains from crawling out our ears and beating us unconscious with sticks.

Did you know Thomas and Friends’ Sir Topham Hatt is really a mob boss. Hired goons escort him everywhere, so don’t look at him funny … I’m serious.

Or that Curious George has a serious cracker habit (rumor has it, it’s graham)?

Or the fact that Bob the Builder … no, that story’s just too tragic.

Turning our kid’s shows into soap operas may be sad, but it makes watching them just a little bit easier.

Copyright 2007 by Jason Offutt