Monday, November 30, 2015

What Happened to Kids TV?

Even though my girls are getting older, it seems that Disney and Nickelodeon are the most-watched television channels in our house. I can't complain too much; Lord knows they are better than a lot of the stuff out there that teens are watching.

But I have noticed over the last several years some interesting cycles in children's television. Here is a sample of some of the newest shows these channels offer kids these days.

"KC Undercover" -- a girl who is a secret spy, which all the required gadgets spies have
"Best Friends Whenever" -- two girls who can travel through time
"The Thundermans" -- a family of superheroes
"Henry Danger" -- a kid who becomes a superhero's sidekick
"Talia in the Kitchen" -- a girl who has magical spices she can use in her food
"Dog with a Blog" -- a family with a talking dog (this one was just cancelled, as was . . . )
"The Haunted Hathaways -- a family of ghosts living with another family (nevertheless . . . )

Notice a pattern here? These kids all have "powers", magical abilities that normal kids don't have. "Wizards of Waverly Place" probably kicked off this wave several years ago. Interesting . . .

Now, a few years ago, I was seeing a different trend (one that still is bleeding over a bit into today; some of these shows are still on):

"Austin and Ally" -- a couple of kids who become famous pop singers
"Liv and Maddie" -- a famous TV actress comes home to live with her family again
"Shake It Up" -- a couple of girls get gigs dancing on a TV show
"ANT Farm" -- a class of kids with unusual talents, led by a singer/musician
"Victorious" -- a school for the performing arts
"iCarly" -- a couple kids with a popular webshow
"Big Time Rush" -- a boys' band trying to make it big
"Sonny with a Chance" -- kids on a TV sketch comedy show
"Hannah Montana" -- which probably started this trend

Yep -- a bunch of shows about kids becoming famous performers.

So, where are the shows about regular kids living regular lives? There are a few, and they kind of stand out. "Girl Meets World" is probably the biggest one these days. Except for the fact that it is overtly and quite intentionally sappy and preachy, it may be one of the best shows on these channels right now.

Very likely, this isn't news to anyone. Kids shows have probably used these themes for years. But then I look at some of my girls' favorite kids' shows from the past:

"Drake and Josh" -- an all-time favorite, about two relatively normal kids (yes, Drake has a band, but it's not the center of the show)
"Zoey 101" -- bad acting and writing, but again, pretty regular (albeit rich) kids
"Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide" -- regular kids surviving middle school
"Lizzie McGuire" -- my eldest STILL watches old episodes of this at night and loves it because the characters are genuine and real.

I don't know that there is a particular point I want to make here. Just observations -- mainly that writing a good TV show for kids must be pretty difficult because it's not often done very well.

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