Hello from North Haven!
Time for Part 2 of my “every show on the PBS Kids app (except Caillou)” series! This one will first review a favorite that I forgot two days ago, and then look at some shows with very short episodes, for when you’re trying to a) distract your child for a few minutes or b) you’ve reached the limit of your tolerance for children’s television but the beast must be appeased (or c) you’re trying to do the right thing and limit screen time, but let’s be real.)
First, Peg + Cat. Shouty, problem-driven math lessons that are none-the-less clever and appealing. So yes, Peg yells a lot. And “totally freaks out” all the time. But, Penrose and I still love the show for its music (I genuinely enjoy the songs most of the time, and Penrose performs the theme song with choreography), math literacy (Pen seems to genuinely understand greater than and less than, so…thanks, Peg!), and age-appropriate introduction of challenging issues (the Chanukah episode featured squirrels and birds fighting for real estate on a cardboard box, and the episode featuring Misty Copeland discussed how a dancer doesn’t look like any one thing). Racial representation: ok, human, animal and alien characters often featuring historical figures of color; Gender representation: good, female-led, supporting characters slightly skewed towards male; Annoyance factor: enjoyable; Penrose review: <3 <3 <3 <3
And now…Selected Shorts!
Plum Landing: Natural science explorations at the behest of a plum-like alien. Plum Landing’s 2 – 5 minute episodes more or less add up to a complete lesson about a habitat and how animals adapt to life there. There are some ok songs, and it’s not a bad way to fill a few minutes here and there. I’m a little weirded out by the premise, wherein children are basically abducted by a floating purple blob and thrown around the globe in bubbles for the purpose of edu-taining her comrades on the floating blob home world. But Pen doesn’t seem to be worried about it. Racial representation: good, human and alien characters; Gender representation: good, female led, 50/50 supporting characters; Annoyance factor: tolerable; Penrose review: <3 <3 <3
Oh, Noah!: Mini Spanish-lessons with catchy songs thrown in. There’s nothing especially thrilling about Oh, Noah!, but it’s not a bad way for Penrose to pick up a few Spanish phrases. The animation’s cute, and one of the songs is still stuck in my head. The immersion scenario makes for some good teaching moments, too. Racial representation: ok, most characters Latinx; Gender representation: good, male-led but many female supporting characters; Annoyance factor: tolerable; Penrose review: <3 <3
Wilson and Ditch: Digging America: Terrifying rodents fulfill the worst stereotypes of tourists. The image of these two hell-gophers was enough to make me never want to watch this show, but Penrose wanted to check it out. My first impressions were correct. These bug-eyed rodents visit cities and landmarks and gorge themselves on pizza, while managing to impart little to no information about any of the places they visit. The Henson Studios digital puppetry thing is straight out of the uncanny valley, and made me actually uncomfortable. The only good thing I can think of is that the episodes are really short. Racial representation: N/A, mutant animals superimposed over stock footage; Gender representation: Poor, male-led with no supporting characters; Annoyance factor: run away!; Penrose review: <3 <3
Chuck Vanderchuck’s Something Something Explosion: Short music history explorations with a high entertainment factor. I had no idea what to expect with this show, which alternates between songs, music history lessons, and entertaining asides, presented by Chuck, his bass player Ramona, and Zeppelin the dog/drummer. I appreciate the inclusion of all forms of music, from classical to rap, although two white characters telling the history of rap feels a little off. Blues, jazz and rock also get coverage in the episodes currently posted in the streaming app. There seems to be some sort of game component, although I haven’t figured out how to interact with it on the television in my limited attempts. Penrose likes it, and it’s encouraging her natural tendency to rock out. Racial representation: poor; Gender representation: ok, it’d be nice to see a female guitar player for a change; Annoyance factor: enjoyable; Penrose review: <3 <3 <3