Posted by: Mark Nielsen | November 1, 2007

“Extreme” Youth & Lame Oldsters Rock Out on Kids TV


It’s a Thursday morning, my son woke up unconscionably early (5:30am), and we’re watching Playhouse Disney. (Okay, he’s watching it on the TV next to the computer, while I struggle to concentrate on this blog.)

Not surprisingly, I’m multitasking again: supervising the kid, writing a simple desire blog in addition to this one, considering how to adjust the lesson plans I’ll be working with in class later this morning, and watching this silly, un-ignorable kids’ TV station.

First up on tv: Higglytown Heroes (6:30am, CST). This episode features the main characters snowboarding. The main characters are four or five Weeble-like legless kids, a talking squirrel, and Pizza Guy. Pizza Guy’s the town’s only teenager, who seems to show up everywhere, and sometimes eats the pizzas he’s supposed to be delivering (real responsible, dude…) . Today they’re doing some very difficult freestyle snowboard moves, all while singing a catchy song.

Are they trying to kill my child? They make a fakey (or  is it bakey?… hell, I dunno, I’m not a snowboarder!) look like a walk in the park. The squirrel does a front somersault, errantly calls it a “360” (I do know the difference between horizontal spins and vertical flips), and doesn’t miss her cue on the catchy song. The bottom line: they’re doing preliminary training, prepping my kid to participate in Generation Z — a life of setting unrealistic expections, taking dangerous or unneccessary risks lightly, and generally being a misinformed and irresponsible moron.

I’m teaching a few members of Generation Z these days. I can see it coming. I’m glad I will be dead by the time they’re running the world. And of course, it’s all our own fault: we middle-aged, imitation hip powerbrokers are the ones presenting this crap to them, warping their impressionable minds in the name of the almighty buck! (Did I mention Playhouse Disney is sponsored in part by Baked Cheetos and their adorable little animated tiger mascot, and their Backstreet-Boys-inspired teen streetdancers? Blecch!)

Of course, I’m partly kidding. There are some really smart, really sweet kids in my classes, and the Playhouse Disney shows are not all bad. Nevertheless, I could not let this stupid episode of Higglytown Heroes go unnoticed and unpunished. Why can’t they ever acknowledge the thousands of regular janes working in cubicles as heroes, too? Why isn’t the international development worker providing a safe water source for an entire tsunami-ravaged village ever put out front, spotlighted as a hero, for my kid?

After the Higglytown show, here’s kids’ music star Dan Zanes in a bright red suit singing a sorta roots-rock song. He’s teaching some kind of dance to kids and their grandparents. The grandparents they show look legitimately old, all sweatered up, wearing skirts or glasses (probably with chains, hanging from their necks).

There’s just one problem: Dan Zanes is old, too!  Despite his wild, spiky hairdo and red suit, he’s mostly gray-haired, wrinkled (probably from all the hard living, bar brawls and orgies he indulged in before being “reborn” as a kids’ artist). He can’t be a day under fifty, so what’s he doing going on national television posing as a hip thirty-year-old? Why’s he talking down to dusty, creaky “grandparents” when he probably is one himself?

I’m only 42, but that already makes me old enough to be one. I don’t think I have any friends my age who are grandparents yet, but I do have one or two who are getting close. Why is there this undignified nether region between age 38 and 65, where a guy’s gotta wear a ridiculous red suit, spend an hour on his hairdo, and act twenty years old, just to get noticed? Why can’t I say “funky” anymore without my junior-higher’s automatically thinking that I’m hopelessly out of it? I know who Fall Out Boy is, dammit! I even like them! And I can cook a great Thanksgiving turkey, to boot! So don’t go calling my generation stale and irrelevant, unless you want cereal for supper the next time a big holiday rolls around.

And my fellow middle-aged blogger, Alternadad Neal Pollack, was right:

Dan Zanes blows!


  1. i’m annoyed every time sparkle’s reality-defying ideas are dismissed on a technicality rather than actually addressed. but maybe thats just me.

    and i wonder…. does the message that these kids can never seem to accomplish anything on their own correctly outweigh the benefit of teaching that there are various people who help other people?

    and why is it never someone completely and totally unqualified? why can’t the person saving the kid from the too tall slide be some random caring person who is there with their kid rather than a “playground monitor”? not everyone who helps someone is someone who does that as a career… in fact, maybe even most arent.

  2. Wow… some great grammar happening here. Nice work. Yikes.

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