Sunday, March 18, 2018

UPDATED: Seven great children's shows you don't know about because you lack children

Note: This post has been updated.

In my spare time, I edit a fun podcast called TV 4 Vendetta. My insincere apologies for the bad pun, but it's a really fascinating conversation about great TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Flash, Westworld, and others. But the two co-hosts, Brian and Michael, do not have children, and as such, do not mention children's shows on their podcast.

I get it. If you don't have a child, there's no way you're willingly watching Bo on the Go or Paw Patrol. But I have two children, 4.5-year-old Lucy and Neil Flynn, who turns 2 on Thursday, and I have seen a great deal of shows aimed at children. Some of it is terrible, like Caillou. Heyvi Kabisa this show is terrible. The main character is mind-numbingly annoying, and the moral lessons the show imparts on the viewer are lacking a great deal. In a nutshell, Caillou teaches you that if you whine and throw a big enough tantrum, the grownups in your life will suddenly bow to your superior wisdom.

Thankfully, not every show is terrible. Some of them are actually quite good, with great production values, a wry sense of humor, and a finished product that shows how much fun the creators had making it. Here is a list of shows, mostly unranked, that make the cut. The criteria for including shows on this list is that I've either watched them when the children weren't watching, or kept watching long after they've started a different activity.

First, the honorable mentions
Lazytown. I love the production values but that's about it
Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. I LOVE watching this with the kids, but never continue watching after they've stopped.
Arthur. See Above. I really do enjoy this show, and the characters are great. But I clock out when the kids do.
Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse: Super self-aware comedic take on Barbie and her friends.

And here's the list.

The Lion Guard

Episodes to watch: The Return of the Roar (Pilot-movie) and The Rise of Scar
I've always admired Disney for making sure that their products had the better production values than nearly everything. True, some of their direct-to-video stuff leaves something to be desired (well, used to: their new DTV stuff is really good), and they churn out their share of obnoxiously bad programming (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is at the top of my list, despite my love of Mickey Mouse), but when they want something to be truly great, it will hit that mark.

Kion demonstrates The Roar, which channels roars from his ancestors.

Disney has a storied history of great TV programming. Duck Tales, Goof Troop, Gargoyles, to name a few. And while Lion Guard is aimed at a younger crowd than those aforementioned shows were, it is not short on fun. It's a spin-off of The Lion King (my second-favorite Disney film and probably, you could argue, their best film) featuring Simba's son Kion, who leads a group of animals, including a cheetah and hippo, called The Lion Guard. Simba has the power of the roar (think dragon shouts from Skyrim), which overpowers foes due to its strength.Their job is to protect The Circle of Life, which leads to run-ins with greedy Hyenas, crocodiles, and jackals, among other foes.

I've seen the show described as Avengers meets Lion King. Fitting since each character has their own power (Fuli the cheetah is fast, Beshte the hippo is strong, Ono the egret who has great vision, and Bunga the Honey Badger, who is fearless and is immune to venom and bee stings). Lion King meets Teen Titans is probably a better example, as the Lion Guard, like the TT, are fairly young and just starting to learn about their abilities.

The show has fantastic artwork, very reminiscent of the film, and the songs have a movie-quality feel to them. Here's my favorite, Hero Inside, and my God that baby elephant is beyond cute.

The characters have a lot of depth, and the show really nails the superhero aspect, including some great fight scenes. The music from The Lion Guard was good enough that we ended up with the soundtrack. And despite my son watching every episode at least 26 times, I absolutely love this show and would put it in my top 10 of all TV shows, not just kids stuff.


Episodes to watch: Woo-oo (The Pilot).
I know some folks might be averse to updating classic shows, claiming that studios have run out of ideas and are "ruining their childhood."

But honestly, this is not the case at all with DuckTales. I absolutely love the voice cast they've assembled. David Tennant does a fantastic job as Scrooge McDuck, and giving each of the nephews their own distinct personality is a welcome change from the original versions, who might as well have been clones. 

It's the textbook example of nostalgia done right. 

Peg + Cat

Peg + Cat

Episodes to Watch: The Pizza Problem/The Pirate Problem and Peg + Cat Save The World
A charming show on PBS with an elementary-level math focus, something I haven't seen since Square One Television went off the air. Peg and her friend Cat have such a wonderful personality, and I love that show is "animated" on graph paper. That little touch really makes this my favorite PBS show.

Elena of Avalor

Elena of Avalor

Episodes To Watch: Prince Too Charming and Spellbound
Disney does a great job with princesses, and this one isn't any different. I appreciate Elena's caring personality, and willingness to work hard to solve problems. A great role model for my daughter, and really great storylines. This should probably get the theatrical film treatment at some point.


Episode to Watch: Octonauts and the Snapping Shrimp
What if we made an undersea version of Star Trek for kids? That's the setting behind the book series by Vicki Wong and Michael C. Murphy and adapted into a BBC animated series. It's managed to teach me a thing or two about underwater life, and nobody is looking into the camera asking viewers at home to help.

Beat Bugs

Episode to Watch: Blackbird (featuring Sia)
A Netflix exclusive series with a focus on bugs who sing Beatles tunes. The characters, one of which voiced by Ashleigh Ball (Applejack and Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony) are charming in their own right, and the covers of Beatles tunes are really good. It had me and my daughter singing Carry That Weight for an entire week.

Spirit Riding Free

Episode to watch: Lucky and the Unbreakable Spirit
I had my doubts when I saw the same 3D artstyle that most shows use. But the theme song from this show alone earns it a spot on this list.

I totally dig it. Anyways, the show is a sequel series to the absolutely beautiful 2002 film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron. My daughter started watching it, and it's one of those things where you watch it out of the corner of your eye, then slowly make your way to the couch to sit down and watch it, whereupon you then count down the days until the new season debuts. The characters are likeable, and their isn't any annoying comic relief aspect that most kids shows shoehorn into their episodes.

UPDATE: This post has been updated. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse have been removed in favor of Ducktales and Spirit Riding Free. You can see the original here.


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