How often do you come accross a photo-puppet animated operetta? Each episode of this visually stunning show is accompanied by music from a live orchestra. Yes, it’s about animals solving the problems of other animals, but these classroom pets zoom through a show packed with whimsical, thematic nods to an older audience.
2. The Backyardigans
Some brightly colored animals share adjoining backyards and have adventures (just like Big Love!). A reminder of the pleasures of pure imagination in a technologically hypersaturated world. Also each episode has awesome original music from a different genre. Don’t you wish you’d heard Motown AND Bollywood AND Gilbert and Sullivan songs as a child?
3. Between the Lions
BTL follows the adventures of literary lions living in a library. The show, like its title, is chock-full of Parental Bonuses - sly puns and references meant to sail over the heads of the young audience and entertain watching parents. That’s probably why it was canceled in 2010 (although still available in reruns.)
4. Super WHY?
Think about it this way: The faster this show teaches your kids to read, the sooner you won’t have to suffer through their TV. Plus it does so with fairytales you’ll recognize.
5. Miffy and Friends
Miffy, based on children’s books from the 1950s, is beautifully, refreshingly simple. Gone are the screeching voices and buzzy, busy animation that are the bane of children’s television worldwide. Instead, unadorned claymation figures enact simple stories narrated by a soothing female voice. You may not laugh along with your toddler, but at least you won’t have cover your ears and eyes.
6. Phineas and Ferb
Phineas and Ferb strikes the rare balance between child and adult humor. You’ll find yourself laughing along with your child as Perry the Platypus foils the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz and saves the day for the enterprising titular characters. But it’s the non-grating, non-moralistic celebration of childhood creativity and craft that really sets this show apart.
7. Charlie and Lola
A winsome show from across the pond, Charlie and Lola chronicles the day-to-day adventures of an eight-year-old boy and his five-year-old sister. Unlike many TV siblings (and even more real ones), Charlie and Lola are loving and thoughtful companions for one another, setting a great example for their younger viewers. And their British accents make everything more charming. Tally-ho!
8. Sesame Street
Make new friends but keep the old. Cookie Monster may now be Veggie Monster, and Bert and Ernie may now be married, but Sesame Street is the same show that has been delighting parents and kids since 1969. Ignore the Elmo’s World section at the end (although it will be your toddler’s favorite), the joy of this show lies in the rich, adult wit and humor that it brings to basic childhood concepts.