As it turns out, half may be an overstatement
This essay was originally intended for Mindless Diversions but, as you can probably tell, it veered off into dangerous territory fairly quickly… so I’m putting it here.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, there was all sorts of a scare about “children’s programming” and the horrors of violence that kids might be subjected to by watching all of these cowboys shooting each other or cartoon cat/mice hitting each other in the face with frying pans or any number of stooges poking each other in the eyes. On top of that, the non-violent programming such as Romper Room had an issue when they had branded toys associated with their show and the hostess of the show helped pitch for them. (The Action for Children’s Television advocacy group was created to take on such underhanded acts on the part of kid’s programming.)
So. In response to this, there was a huge push for much more appropriate Children’s Programming (coming, in part, from PBS) and, well, I won’t say it as well as Mr. Rogers here will (and, for the record, John Pastore (D) was generally considered to be a pretty grumpy guy):
That was in 1969. At the same time, Sesame Street was being produced and shown and talking about such things as numbers, letters, and how to properly spit out gum when you are done chewing it (among other important skills that might fall through the cracks). The show was specially made to appeal to kids and adults at the same time by having little kid things like a song about the counting to four but to use, say, a popular singing artist who has modified the lyrics from one of her popular songs as the medium… so Mom can enjoy it too without going nuts.
Well, of course, as time went on there was a pushback to the pushback and loopholes within loopholes were found, Schoolhouse Rock found a way to make Saturday Morning television “educational” (at the low, low cost of having 50% of Saturday Morning cartoons be sponsored by breakfast cereals) and it’s not *TOO* far from there to get to the little PSAs given during GI Joe cartoons:
Hey, it’s educational, right?
Anyway, in 1990, there was finally a law passed. The Children’s Television Act pretty much said that, now, there are *STANDARDS* and you have to have three hours per week dedicated to shows that meet these standards.
And, if’n you ask me, we’re in an entirely different universe for kid’s television today than we were back then. Is there *ANY* post-CTA programming that compares to Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood or Sesame Street? I’m going through my databanks and seeing Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Out of the Box, The Wiggles, The Doodlebops, and, of course, The Teletubbies. Now, being childless, my experience of kids’ programming is less than exhaustive but I’m not finding anything that comes close to what was accomplished in the 1970’s.
More than that, I’m seeing what they’ve done to the shows from the 1970’s, specifically Sesame Street, and how they’ve turned the Snuffleupagus into a creature that the adults know is real too, Roosevelt Franklin got dropped quietly, and they’ve turned Cookie Monster into a “Cookies are a sometimes food” singing guy… which, it seems to me, misapprehends the show’s relationship to children.
My first question would be “is this accurate? Is childrens’ programming getting less good?” (and, I imagine, the childed can tell me that, no, I’ve completely missed this, or that, or the other show).
My second question is a follow-up to the first: If it is the case that it’s getting less good, *WHY*?