The Wonder Pets is a show on Noggin about 3 classroom pets: a hamster, a duck, and a turtle. After the kids go home, the pets start to speak and answer the call to save baby animals all around the world. They go to places like Venice, Africa, Australia and Coney Island. The teach lessons about sharing, teamwork, and helping others. There is also a sub-text in each show as a shout out to older viewers. The gerbil says, "Go Brooklyn! Go brooklyn!" when they say Coney Island.
Now, they are going to Save the Beetles. Lilah is going to learn about my favorite band in an environment she understands and can relate. Playing her Sgt. Pepper just didn't work. She doesn't even like me singing to her with my guitar, except for a few verses of wheels on the bus. These shows are brands in the most meaningful sense. She trusts these characters, pays attention to them, and focuses her attention (which ain't easy). TV should never be a babysitter, just a part of a balanced media diet.
Academia has grabbed hold of this new trend in children's programming. Volumes have been written about Sponge Bob as a post-modern expression of anxiety under the guise of a kids' show. There are also university programs dedicated to the use of technology (and tv specifically) as an educational tool. There's always been the optimists and pessimists on TV. I feel that since TV is such an important part of today's world, shielding your child is both futile and counterproductive.
I'm thinking about writing my Master's thesis on children's programming to help me answer some of these questions. What is the objective for Nickelodeon: money or youth development? I'm a little afraid of what I find. My guess is that the younger the kids, the less advertising in the shows (Noggin has no commercials during the programs). But when the kids get older, it's marketing warfare. Maybe the want to get them early and make a buttload on licensing and merchandise.
P.S. Lilah loves books, so much so that we can't read before night time because they wake her up!