Backyardigans – Believing is Seeing

Age Levels targeted:
2-7

Background:
The American-Canadian series Backyardigans ran on TV from its 2004 autumn debut till mid-spring of 2010. It then continued to air as reruns on various US channels up till 2015. The show is based on a rejected 1998 pilot entitled “Me and My Friends.” The show’s computer graphics animated format was the result of a joint collaboration by the talented CGI artists of the Nicolodeon and Nelvana animation studios

Overview of the show:

Backyardigans stars five CGI animal characters that get into wildly varied adventures built entirely within a colourful and vibrant imaginative world they create for themselves in their shared backyard. The plot of each show involves them creating a new reality based on things happening in their backyard (hence the name) and these are always interesting and engaging. What is better still is that there is a significant portion of the show devoted to singing and dancing – this makes for a wider appeal to a larger audience of kids – the plot for older kids and the singing and dancing for the younger ones.

The Main Characters
Austin – The easy going everybody’s buddy Austin is a purple kangaroo who starts off the series bashfully having recently moved to the area. As the series progresses he grows more comfortable while remaining ever affable. While there are isolated episodes in which he plays a bad guy in the backyardigans adventures, on the whole he’s more a follower than a leader and tends to stay on good terms with everyone.
Pablo – this blue propeller-hatted penguin is Tyrone’s best friend and the eager beaver (or eager penguin at any rate) of the backyardigans group, always rushing around trying to assure his friends that everything’s going to be fine – regardless of whether they’d thought otherwise to begin with
Tasha – this yellow tomboy (or perhaps tomhippo) hippopotamus is very decisive and tends to try and take charge during the backyardigans exploits. She’s friendly and sweet to her friends but best not to get into an argument with her or chances are you’ll lose.
Tyrone – If anyone needs support from Pablo when he goes into one of his reassuring frenzies it’s most likely to be his apprehensive best pal Tyrone. On the other hand, this easy going, somewhat sarcastic moose is perhaps the most levelheaded of the backyardigans gang and for all his apprehension during the adventure is generally the one who’ll comment at adventures end on what a great adventure it had been.
Uniqua – this pink polka dotted “unique” (hence the name) girl creature of a made-up species is even more strong-willed than her friend Tasha and considers herself the leader and brains of the group. While generally nice, her strong willed obstinacy at times damages her friendships with other backyardigans characters during their adventures.

Lesser but repeating characters – while the backyardigan group themselves are by far and away the most important in the show, there are a number of supporting characters that appear at various times throughout the series. These include the Wormins, a type of imaginary wormlike being that speaks to them in a squeaky language – their best friend among the Wormins being Sherman. Being an imaginative series they draw from both fantasy and sci-fi for their adventures and thus interact with both aliens and dragons as well as Austin’s robot Roscoe.

Types of skills the show teaches:
The themes of the show are simple but positive; friendship, imagination, creativity and activity – while younger kids may not understand these concepts entirely, it’s never too soon to encourage these traits.

Site review:
Overall the show is a good choice for children’s viewing. The stories are fun and enjoyable but what will keep your kids coming back will be the dances and the songs – watching chubby animals perform a variety of multicultural tunes while pirouetting is wonderfully silly and amusing.

My kids review:
This was one of my kids’ favorite shows for a lengthy period of time and there were quite a number of songs and catchphrases from the show that became repeated around the house. The songs were so catchy even my wife and I were singing them.

Anecdotal:
My daughter is now an award winning teen baker of fancy cakes and makes many other yummy baked goods but when she first started out one of the things she most enjoyed making was pies (especially lemon meringue). It became a regular thing that when she would say “I’m going to make a pie but I don’t know which kind to make” that someone would inevitably suggest she make “the great pie” from the Backyardigans “Samurai Pie” episode.

 

Similar shows: Little Einsteins, Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego, Animaniacs, Hysteria

Site’s Rating:
9

Faerie Tale Theatre – Imagining Anew

Age Levels targeted:
3-9


Overview of the show: Faerie Tale Theatre is a show that re-tells classic fairy tales but with a twist – each episode tells the stories faithfully but does so with affectionate parody or satire. The target audience is for children 3 and up; as fairy tales they are moral stories that are invaluable lessons for children but will most likely be too complicated for toddlers.

FTT was made in the 1980’s and features some fantastic costumes and sets – many of the stories compete with Disney animated features of the same name (e.g. Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, etc). The cast is packed with A-list celebrities, and although this will mean little to children, it does endear parents and keep them interested.

As fairy tales, the value in this show is in its morality; children will enjoy the battles of good and evil along with the foibles of tragic heroes.

Lamb Chop – a lamb to love

Overview of the show: Lamb Chop is a precocious female lamb; a sock puppet character made by Shari Lewis. Together the two have discussions, sing songs and get into mischief. On her own, Lamb Chop is often a character in other puppet shows and is curious, inquisitive and generally naughty.

This show is primarily for entertainment; Shari Lewis will often teach the puppets lessons about manners or life (such as chores, responsibility and the like) but most watch it for its good-natured humour and funny puppetry.

There are several iterations of Lamb Chop including “The Shari Lewis Show”, “Play Along”, “Charlie Horse Music Pizza” and a number of specials; all are variety shows filled with comedy, singing, skits and sketches.

The Doodlebops – social lessons through songs

Overview of the show: The Doodlebops is a children’s band that performs musical acts and dances. The primary characters are Deedee Doodle; who plays the keyboard and does vocals, Moe Doodle; who plays the drums and is rambunctious, and Rooney Doodle; guitarist.
The Doodlebops could be characterized as a children’s variety show as they act in skits and comedy routines; these performances, while entertaining, also have the aim of teaching social lessons. The target audience is for children 1 and up.
The characters dress up in interesting costumes and encourage the audience to join in the dancing and singing. The show teaches good lessons but the primary value in the show is in its entertainment.


Reading Rainbow – Because Reading is fun

Overview of the show: Reading Rainbow is a series whose primary purpose is to encourage young children to read. Each episode features a theme that is prominent in all of books read by the host.

There are no overall storylines or characters as the show is purely educational though the hosts are generally celebrities. The format of each episode is identical – the narration of a book, followed by the interviewing of a contributor to society and finally a book review.

Reading Rainbow is one of the longest running children’s shows of all time – more than 25 years. It has also won dozens of awards including a Peabody.