Television is a goldmine for parents, and not just because it takes our minds off of our 24/7 gig.
It’s an essential tool for getting things done. Deposit your child in front of Mr. TV for half an hour, and suddenly you’ve got a block of time to fold laundry, make dinner or sometimes just slowly … exhale.
Other times you don’t mind snuggling in with the kiddos to watch their favorite shows. But let’s face it. Their favorites can be a chore to watch.
“Barney & Friends?” “Caillou?” “Dora the Explorer?”
Yet not every children’s show will make an adult’s teeth hurt. In fact, a few programs are actually fun for both children and their parents.
It’s not “Breaking Bad” or “The Walking Dead” level fun, mind you. It’s still a great way to soak in your son or daughter’s entertainment and maybe have a meaningful discussion later. Being a father has made me enjoy the following three shows a bit more than I expected.
“Crash & Bernstein” – Was this TV’s most subversive show? In an age where gender confusion often trumps all, here’s the story of a pre-teen who longs for a male role model. Dad is MIA (he does appear sporadically in season 2) which leaves Wyatt Bernstein (Cole Jensen) with his overworked mom (Mary Birdsong) and three sisters. Who is he gonna break stuff with … the postman?
Enter Crash, a puppet brought to life in the show’s first episode. Crash is blunt and barbaric, Wyatt’s Id brought to glorious life. Together, they navigate friendships, homework and more, with the occasional bowel-related joke to remind us this is a guy’s affair.
The show packs plenty of eye-rolling jokes and strained setups, but the concept alone is refreshing and raw. And Tim Lagasse, who brings Crash to life, has a rapid-fire approach adults will love.
“Gravity Falls” – This sweet ode to summer vacation just wrapped its second and final season on Disney XD. “Falls” follows siblings Mabel and Dipper as they spend a rather momentous few weeks at a tourist trap run by their “Grunkle Stan.” He’s sketchy, no doubt, and so is what happens in this wooded hamlet. It’s a bucolic “Twilight Zone” anchored by two sweet kids who are utterly relatable.
The animation is crisp and eye-pleasing, and the vocal work of Jason Ritter (Dipper) and Kristen Schaal (Mabel) makes it even better. Add even more charming guest voices (T.J. Miller, Linda Cardellini, J.K. Simmons) and you’re watching a show with a serious adult sensibility.
“Clarence” – The title character is a mess, what with his horrible teeth and extreme lack of self-awareness. He doesn’t care. He’s the most positive, loyal friend a cartoon kid could have. That makes this Cartoon Network series an unexpected treat. The stories tend to be old-school over the surreal. One episode was set in a fast food restaurant’s play area. That means adults can buy into the small stakes as easily as their young ones.
Christian Toto is a freelance writer and editor of HollywoodInToto.com.