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Yo Gabba Gabba

MunoLast 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?


  1. The first time I saw this show, I was a bit horrified. But it is oddly compelling! My toddler isn’t very interested – she prefers Wow Wow Wubbzy (talk about horrifying) or my favorite, the Wonder Pets.

  2. My kids all LOVE Yo Gabba Gabba!! My 3 1/2 year old started watching it when it first came out and my 1 year old was immediately hooked! It is the only show he will watch. I have to keep episodes on my TiVo so when I need to change his diaper and he’s being to crazy I can just pop it on. In fact, when I was reading your post he wandered by and saw the picture of Muno and wouldn’t let me scroll down! He sat on my lap and yelled at the computer screen for about 10 minutes until I finally put the computer away!!

    I admit at first I didn’t understand the appeal, but the more we watch, the more we love it! My older kids (7, 10, 13) all have their favorite episodes. We all giggle every time we watch Elijah Woods’ dancey dance. We sing Gabba songs all the time during the day. All the families I know that have toddlers or preschoolers love Gabba once they have seen it.

    We bought some of the Kidrobot characters for Christmas, seeing the “ages 3 and up” and not the “this is a piece of art, not a toy” so they were both broken within the week. I can’t wait for a toy company to license Gabba so we can get real toys!

  3. Thankfully, my 5yo and 1.5yo disliked it as much as I did.

    Musically, we dig on the Backyardigans for entertainment. While both my kids choose Between the Lions when it comes to educational (even though it’s well beyond the little one, she still loves it).

  4. Long live the Backyardigans.

    By way of an update, my 5.5 yo loved it, which completely surprised me. I’m starting to come around, but not all the way. There are still certain things I find intolerable. But my husband walked by while the Salteens were performing, and stopped, watched and then asked if we could book them to do a local concert. I had to explain that they aren’t a kids’ group.

    I’m sad to hear that the toys don’t last. That’s a bummer.

  5. Although my daughter’s all time favorite is the Backyardigans, she really gets into Yo Gabba Gabba. It really holds her attention (at 14 months old) and she loves the music…It’s hit or miss for me, but, hey, if she loves it, then I’m a fan!

  6. OK, I love YGG for myself (it cracks me up, and I really, really love Biz’s Beat of the Day :P), and it’s the only show my 13-month-old will watch. Not that I really want him watching TV, which is part of the allure of this show for me. I like that there are slow bits that don’t interest him, because he wanders away from the TV for those, then comes back and dances and laughs for the high-energy stuff. Which means that he watches less than 20 minutes of TV on the days I manage to catch YGG. Also, the songs are really catchy, and my husband and I use them all the time to lighten up those frustrating toddler moments, which makes our kid relax, too, so this show is a winner for us. 🙂

  7. My 3 year old son is OBSESSED with YGG. As is my husband. I do like the idea of a hip, contemporary spin on children’s programming – definitely not Raffi – although some of it is pretty inane. The little guy is desperate for the merchandise – any idea when they will come out with something?

  8. Our kids have loved yo gabba for several years, pushing out Elmo and Bob the builder. At that time there was no merchandise so we made wooden characters, and boombox and land. My kids would play along and it was a very interactive show for us. The lyrics spilled over into our lives,and now when the lights go out we sing”Dont be afraid, its
    o. k. …

  9. So almost three years since I wrote this post, Yo Gabba Gabba has endured, and my 2yo son adores it. His preschool teachers said that all the kids in his class were imitating Zev’s energetic “Yooooooooo Gabba GABBA” after the first week of school. His favorite song is The Roots singing “Lovely Love My Family” from the Yo Gabba Gabba CD. Looking back, I don’t think I could have predicted how firmly this show would take hold.

  10. Yo Gabba Gabba is great. The lyrics are childish because they are for children. The music however is not. It would be a shame to write this show off, even as an adult. The art and music that varies from episode to episode is up there in terms of quality. You won’t find Red House Painters aka Sun Kil Moon overlapping imaginative animation anywhere else. Mark Mothersbaugh is teaching kids how to draw. It really does not get any cooler than that.

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