Our parents and television retrospectives have long tried to convince us that Sesame Street was, at one point, hip, and that adults reveled in watching the show with their children, presumably chuckling along whenever U2 showed up and did a “Where The Streets Have No Garbage” song or something. While Big Bird et al will always seem a little floppy and, well, PBSish to me, the point is certainly valid for a handful of kids’ shows: sometimes it can be fun for both kids and adults.
College brought about a healthy resurgence of Pee Wee’s popularity for my circle of jaded hipster friends when I got a DVD box set for Christmas. We’d get high and giggle uncontrollably as Paul Reubens extended the realm of acceptability of children’s television to ridiculous lengths, engaging in uncomfortable innuendo, holding the most absurd shots, or simply daring to be absolutely anarchically silly. We’d turn to each other, incredulous, asking “Was this supposed to be for kids?” or exclaiming “I can’t believe my parents let us watch this.”
Of course, the magic with children’s television is that most of the subversion goes over our young little heads. What’s left for the ‘intended’ audience is an abundance of energy, of color, of music.
But what happens when that’s all there is? A number of recent children’s shows have used computer animation and puppetry to dumb down TV into a near acid-trip with lame repeated platitudes or even non-linguistic nonsense. (Here I’m thinking Teletubbies and Boohbah)
Now, much in the same vein, Yo Gabba Gabba is a violently colored, puppets and silly voices kind of show. But it’s also enjoyable for both children and adults, yada yada yada. But here’s the thing: it’s enjoyable on exactly the same level. It is a ludicrous assault on the senses, taking the manifesto “Singing and Dancing to Music is AWESOME” to heart. I wish I were a kid when this came out, so I could have little seizures and flip out in footie pyjamas. And a quick Youtube search will actually yield a bunch of videos shot by parents delighted by the fact that their toddlers are, in fact, rocking the fuck out to YGG.
When they bring on the Aquabats to sing a sweet song in their sweet costumes, my joy is pure and unadulterated. When Elijah Wood teaches us his Puppet Master dance, it doesn’t come off as lame or condescending. It’s just so well done. The show even has Biz Markie, teaching Biz’s beat of the day!
Where I always thought Sesame Street’s attempts at relevance bordered on the pandering and obvious (alright, maybe not this REM joint Furry Happy Monsters), Yo Gabba Gabba’s cultural references are pretty hip–from the frenetic electronic/glitch-pop soundtrack to their 8-bit video game references. And the absolute best thing about the show? Every episode ends with a complete remix of the preceding show. But not just a fast-forward! It’s a full-on, well-orchestrated, often brilliant remix.
Somehow, this is a shiny happy kid’s show made for Portland hipsters. And so every morning I find myself, a 21 year old college student, cereal bowl cradled in my lap, genuinely engaged by Yo Gabba Gabba.