World’s okayest mom’s list of tolerable kid’s TV shows

Last week, we chatted about some children’s TV shows that are so good, I’ll sit and watch them myself, rather than just let a glowing screen raise my kids while I shoot up in the kitchen, or whatever it is I do all day.

Here, now, is the B list: shows my kids enjoy, which don’t make my gnash my teeth with guilt. But I won’t sit and watch it, not with both eyeballs. So my reviews may be a slightly on the useless side, since I haven’t exactly seen them.

As with the A-listers, these are all either on Netflix Streaming or Amazon Prime Streaming.


Masha’s Tales (Netflix)
This seems to be a Russian show dubbed into English, and it’s a spinoff from a show called Masha and the Bear, which we haven’t seen.

I think it’s a sort of fractured fairy tales thing, with a nutty little girl narrating the action. I like it because the narrator is an actual little girl, who occasionally endearingly stumbles over words, but who is very naturally dramatic and witty in her delivery. The music is often taken from great classical composers, too, so that’s excellent. It’s somewhat frenetic, but not too loud or obnoxious.

Wonder Pets (Amazon)
Popular for a reason. Whoever came up with the concept (I heard it was opera lovers) really was brilliant. Three kid animals who go on adventures all over the world in their homemade Flyboat to save baby animals in danger, and they sing lots of songs (and recitatives) along the way. This show is really quite dear to me, even if I won’t quite sit and watch it myself. One time, one of the kids asked the toddler what a sheep says, and she said, “Oh sheepy-hoo?”

They’ve locked down all the clips online, so this video is a clip of the game, not the actual show. Gives you the general idea:

It’s mildly witty and sweet, not screamy, not sassy, and the “photo-puppetry” animation, which imitates a child’s scissor-and-paste job, does not induce seizures. Lots of songs I don’t mind having in my head. I also enjoy the real kid voices, not supertrained America’s Kidz Got Singing-type voices.

Octonauts (Netflix)
This one violates a bunch of my “standards,” such as they are. I guess there are some animals and maybe some vegetables who go down in a submarine and have adventures, and also learn about the ocean? I am not sure. The animation is a big nothingburger, and I none of the characters seems especially interesting. I think they may learn a thing or two about the ocean.

However, for reasons I can’t explain, I LOVE the “Creature Report” song.

Creature report!!! I sing it to myself all the time. It’s just a good song!

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Amazon)

When a bunch of my kids requested handmade costumes of these characters for Halloween, I thought I was really gonna have to watch it, but I just fumbled through. It’s one of those shows that is just completely exhausting to me. First there is some teen drama and moping, and a few wisecracks and martial arts and sad parts, and then, in almost every episode, there is some version of a mystical volcano of light exploding and turning the mountain inside out, which triggers a lava of sound which causes the air to vibrate until it rains fire which makes everybody’s eyeballs turn into mirrors and unlocks the key to the mystery of the giant doors of ultimate power; and then, things start to get cuh-razy. Or so it seems to me. Here is a clip I chose at random:

All of my kids love this show (they are ages 18 to almost 2). I hear them laughing their heads off, and getting all somber together, gasping and shouting at the exciting parts. So, that’s why I let them watch it.

Martha Speaks (Netflix)

Pretty cute. It’s based on the books by Susan Meddaugh, which are funny and a little weird, and the cartoon seems to have preserved the spirit of the books pretty well. I like the theme music. I think it’s educational in some way, I guess for vocabulary or something.

I like how Martha is a smart dog who can talk and make jokes, but then Skits is just a regular old dumb dog.

Word Girl (Netflix)

The kids haven’t actually seen this show in a while, but I always tolerated it very well. It has some funny side characters, like Lady Redundant Woman and Sid the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy.

Someone put some effort into this one. It’s very PBS.

Barbie: Life In the Dreamhouse (Netflix)

I come pretty close to actually watching this show, which is genuinely entertaining. Barbie, Ken and their friends and frenemies go about their busy life, going on plastic camping trips, solving fashion and friendship problems, and throwing parties. The humor comes in because they are actual dolls, and they know it, so there’s no end of jokes about their articulated joints, their ability to make bake by flipping a stovetop over, Barbie’s agelessness and inexplicable number of careers, etc.

There are lots of references to other movies, and it’s very silly, but devoid of sexiness. My only objection to this show is that, being about Barbie and her friends, it is screeeeeeamy. Someone is always screaming or squealing or shrieking. It makes sense for the plot, but I can only deal with hearing a few episodes at a time.

I’m reluctantly including My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (Netflix) for that reason. They did actually bother to write it, and the messages of cooperation, flexibility, teamwork, and friendship are perfectly fine. Some of the plots are witty or bizarre, with funny cameos and unexpected subplots. Here’s one of the songs from one of my kids’ favorite episodes:

But the screeeeeeaming, squeeeeeeealing, and shrieeeeeeeeking. Yikes. This one gets limited play time.

Teen Titans (oops, it turns out this isn’t available for free streaming after all!)
This show is so dang stupid. I don’t know what the appeal is; but, like Avatar, my kids all love it and get along when they’re watching it (and occasionally ask for Halloween costumes based on it), so I don’t object.

It is a flashy, silly “band of superheroes” cartoon of some kind, and some of the characters have emotional problems. One is purple and sad, and one is goofy and green. The theme song gets stuck in my head for this one, too, but I’m less thrilled about that. Sometimes the theme song is in Japanese, I guess.

The Adventure of Tintin (Amazon)
If you like the Tintin books by Hergé — and, oh, we do — there is no reason on heaven or earth that you would dislike these cartoons,

except that they have this marvellous Canadian veneer of dullness that helps you just zo-o-o-o-o-o-o-one out. Wooah! Wooah!

Welp, that’s my list. Hope you were able to get something done while you read it with one eyeball. What do you tolerate at your house?

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11 thoughts on “World’s okayest mom’s list of tolerable kid’s TV shows”

  1. I still have episodes of Tintin on VHS that we taped in the 90s. I can play the theme song in my head whenever I want. Oh the nostalgia! That was our favourite show, and yes, I’m Canadian. I can’t wait for my kids to be old enough to watch it.

  2. Watch Masha and the Bear! It’s hilarious, I always end up watching it with my kids. Like Shaun the sheep it is mostly silent because Masha is the only one that talks. We have loved every single one of them much more than the tales.

  3. You should give Avatar: The Last Airbender a decent shot. It’s a show my husband and I both watched with the kids. We all loved it.

  4. I didn’t want to watch Avatar The Last Airbender but my kids really wanted me to watch it with them. I really grew to love the show and my husband did, too. Lots of good discussions about religion, friendship, loyalty to family, and how the path to virtue is generally not a straight one, but has plenty of forwards and backs. I would highly recommend. My children who started me on it are 10 and 13, but my college kids all enjoyed it over Christmas break, too.

  5. A lot of these choices air on PBS and are available in PBS apps (if you lack Netflix). Also, important to note the difference between “Teen Titans” (solid) and “Teen Titans Go!” (deplorable).

  6. Shows (animated and live action) I let my kids (ages 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2) watch:

    Garfield and Friends
    Super Why
    Goldie and Bear
    Batman the Animated series
    Star Trek: TNG, VOY, DS9, TOS (some episodes are avoided depending on who is watching)
    Star Trek the Animated Series
    Star Was Rebels
    The Dick van Dyke Show
    I Love Lucy
    Wild Kratts
    Phineas and Ferb
    Odd Squad (I will also watch this, as it is like watching X-Files Jr.)

    I actually want to get them into Samurai Jack, but t is not available to stream. I think the older ones would like Avatar, so maybe I ill through that in there. I have also contemplated moving on to the new animated Superman Adventures, as well as the Justice League and Justice League unlimited. Time will tell 🙂

    One standard that we hold to fairly firmly is avoiding shows that are all about teen drama and dating or portray the adults as imbeciles (basically my kids do not watch any live action Disney show)

  7. Avatar: The Last Airbender is exactly as you describe, which is what makes it so wonderful! I sit and half-watch it with my 20 year old. Sometimes we’re joined by the 23 and 55 year old.

  8. Simcha, you have definitely expanded my horizons. Under no other circumstances would I have ever clicked on an episode of Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse. That particular episode was so funny, and today was the sort of day when I needed a shot of exactly that sort of humor.

  9. I was hoping from way back when you posted the A list, that you would give Wonder Pets it’s due praise. As a mom of two toddlers and two babies and one 6 yo at the same time, this show is the only reason I’m still sane. Sweet show. “What’s gonna work? Teeeemwork!”

    Haven’t seen any of the rest except for Word Girl, which is one the oldest likes. I have no opinion.

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