Last week, the Boston Globe ran an article about the cross-generational appeal of a new show on Nick Jr. called Yo Gabba Gabba. I like to think I’m on the cutting edge of things like this, so I was surprised I’d never heard of it. I made a mental note to check it out, and today, with my 3-year old home with Strep throat, I had the perfect opportunity.
Sensing that I was showing more interest than I usually do when, say, Dora the Explorer comes on, my daughter snuggled up next to me on a chair and watched closely. After the first five minutes, I wasn’t impressed. The singing was mediocre, the music and lyrics were, well, childish, and the message seemed way too simplistic, even for my preschooler. Don’t be scared of worms? O-kaaaay.
But as the show wore on, it held her attention, even as mine wandered away. There was one great, high-energy musical number that delighted her, and an animated story with comic-book style illustrations that she asked to watch a second time. At the end, she asked to see another episode. So I set the TiVo for a season pass. I’m curious to see what my 5-year old thinks.
The show was developed by two hipster dads in their mid-thirties who wanted to create a show for their kids that was also tolerable for adults. There’s a New York Times article that tells the whole story, so I won’t rehash it. But on paper, it’s a great concept. Each episode features guest artists – musicians, composers, animators, etc, drawn largely from outside the children’s sphere. There are indy rock bands and even, on one occasion, Elijah Wood. Their website contradicts itself regarding the target age group. In one place, it says ages 1-6 and in the FAQ, it says 2-6. I’m not sure what accounts for the discrepancy, but there are definitely portions of the show that would appeal to even the youngest of viewers. But the episode I saw had wild variations in style and tempo, reminding me a bit of Sesame Street. As much as I love Sesame Street, my kids always want to fast-forward through certain bits. I imagine Yo Gabba Gabba would pose the same problem, though the segments are generally very short, regardless of the pace.
For now, they’re generating a lot of buzz. As it happens, the production company behind the show also owns Kidrobot, a manufacturer of design-y toys and apparel. So rest assured, there will be merchandise to support the craze.
My jury is out. I’m a die-hard Backyardigans fan, and I just can’t see this supplanting my loyalty any time soon. But I’ll give it another chance. Meanwhile, if you’ve seen it, what do you think?