I was so mad at the Bubble Guppies today.
In general I don't mind them. They are not a favorite in our house so we don't watch them as often as, say, Mickey's Clubhouse or Dora (gag), but they're cheerful, and not overly sugary, and their whole theme is school. There are worse things.
Today they did an episode about going to the dentist. The dental fish checked them over, told them they'd eventually lose their baby teeth so grown-up teeth could grow in, told them all about brushing and caring for their teeth, etc. So far so good. I guess.
But then the Bubble Guppies left the dentist and got all preachy with the other sea creatures. They came upon a crocodile and were all "Pardon us, but when's the last time you brushed your teeth? You've never brushed your teeth?! OH, let us tell you all about it!" And then something about clearing trash out of the water so he'd have better things to eat. And I got confused because I thought the Bubble Guppies lived out in the open ocean, or maybe near a reef or something--how on earth did they even come upon a crocodile? Plus, oral care and environmentalism? Just how many agendas are the Bubble Guppies trying to cover within a single episode??
And I was all, "This is so incorrect! The Nile has the birds who come and eat the stuff from between crocodiles' teeth, which keeps them clean(ish)! I learned this from my real dentist when I was a kid--my dentist even handed out crocodile-shaped toothbrushes! Knock it off, you judgemental little mer-kids! What the heck are you teaching my children here?! Stupid, stupid NickJr!"
This was all in my head, by the way. I didn't want to upset the Littler One. But I was seriously concerned for his wellbeing. I am not in favor of advocating for changing entire ecosystems just so the ad companies can sell more toothbrushes. Brushing crocodiles' teeth, my eye.
But I dialed it back a bit when I remembered that the Bubble Guppies, to begin with, are talking cartoon mer-people. Children of mermaids and mermen (presumably). So, you know, I'm dealing with mer-children and worried about real-life reptilian biology. It just doesn't mix.
This has happened before with Kipper. And I love Kipper. I'm all in favor of suspending disbelief, but it gets a little murky for me sometimes as to how much disbelief I need to suspend. There should be some sort of baseline rule book on children's/family programming--
Level 1: Live people in live situations. Plot lines can be exaggerated or unrealistic, but not magic or gravity-defying. Examples: iCarly, Silver Spoons, Parent Trap.
Level 1b: Space Camp (the movie)
Level 2: Live people who are in fantasy situations and/or delusional. Magic permitted. Examples: Kratt Brothers/Zoboomafoo, The Wiggles, Fresh Beat Band, Wizards of Waverly Place, Imagination Movers, Dino Dan, Small Wonder, Alf, Flight of the Navigator.
Level 2.5: Sesame Street
Level 3: Fantasy/animated characters in situations depicting or imitating real life or some semblance thereof. Some grey areas or rule-breaking possible, but generally discernible, if not believable. Sort of. Examples: Caillou (aka Cry-You), Charlie & Lola, Peppa Pig, Wallace & Gromit, Toy Story/Pixar (because they are deliberate and thorough about setting/sticking to rules, even in their fantasy universes).
Level 4: The purgatory of family programming. Where were the test groups when the setting and rules were being established here? Because grown-ups are losing sleep trying to fit these into their mental structure and it isn't working. Stop judging crocodiles' oral hygiene and go back to your reef, kids. Examples: Bubble Guppies, Max & Ruby, Gaspard & Lisa, Kipper.
Level 5: Fantasy/animated characters in blatantly fantastic situations. Some aspects may seem "real," but all rules are arbitrary and all bets are off. Even gravity. Examples: Octonauts, Jake & the Neverland Pirates, Shaun the Sheep, Agent Oso, Ni Hao Kai Lan, Pixar (because, really. Talking cars??).
To me, the disturbing part of all of this is that I have countless other programs queued up in my head, just waiting to be categorized.
How about you? What programming would you place into which categories, and why?