Thomas The Tank Engine OF LIES

If you're like me you have a toddler in the house. And like me you have come to tolerate at least a few of the big names in children's media such as your Mickey Mice and your Curious Georges. TV is a rare treat in our house, but last week Eddie was sick and we were in survival mode. So we drove to the local media dispensary to purchase a distracting video disc.

I don't know about you, but when I make DVD purchasing decisions I rely on specialists to find quality: the critics. I don't have to watch hundreds of hours of children's programming when the voice of critics can be distilled down to their essence on the DVD packaging itself. And what better review is there than, "A Roller Coaster Ride of a Movie!" Faced with all possible choices, we picked up what the critics lead us to believe was an action packed adventure with Thomas the Tank Engine called The Great Discovery, containing that very blurb at the bottom:



I was looking forward to sharing an afternoon of singing British children and roller coaster-like adventure with my son until I got a closer look at that packaging at home:



You might be thinking, "Oh! I wonder what well-respected children's magazine this critic Topham Hatt writes for?" Let me burst your media bubble: "SIR" TOPHAM HATT IS A CHARACTER IN THE SHOW! It's like quoting Yoda to sell The Phantom Menace: "Like this movie, you will!"

We haven't watched The Great Discovery yet, but I'm sure it'll be just fine. Maybe Sir Topham Hatt keeps his acting hat walled off from his editorial hat. Seems like a fairly blatant conflict of interest to me though.

Comments

Like you we watch very little "TV" with Ollie, which I place in quotes because we watch no broadcast television. He's seen "Wall-E" on DVD about 6 times and 10 minutes of "Finding Nemo" before he got too scared and we had to turn it off. But recently we had a similar day and so I put in Sesame Street Old School Vol 2. (http://www.amazon.com/Sesame-Street-Vol-School-1974-1979/dp/B000UNYJTK/) which I'd gotten a while ago with a gift certificate. It was a huge hit and ever since Ollie's been asking to watch it again. If you're looking for something to have on hand for Eddie, this could be good.
Thanks for the recommendation--it's tough to know what to watch. I know Sesame Street is great, but then I have the words of Neil Postman in the back of my head who said that Sesame Street teaches kids how to watch TV more than anything else. I was being jokey in this post, but it is difficult to know what to watch with Eddie and how much. Someone should write a guide to children's TV for parents who aren't thrilled with TV. There must be a good middle ground between none and too much.
I'd never heard that about Sesame Street. In what way does it teach that? And how more than other tv? When I was little we were only allowed to watch PBS so all I saw was SS, Electric Company, Zoom, and 321 Contact for years. So maybe I like Ollie's watching simply because of my happy memories of the show.
I won't do Postman's arguments justice here, but if you're curious check out Chapter 10 of his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. (http://www.amazon.com/o/asin/0140094385/) The gist of his entire argument is that the content of television doesn't matter at all. The medium itself is damaging, and any time spent with any content whatsoever is damaging. He singles out Sesame Street as an example because in his words it "pretends" to be an ally of the classroom. But in Postman's analysis the classroom must become more like television to be as interesting as Sesame Street. And that means compromises that he doesn't approve of such as less depth/time spent on any given topic, less social interaction, and many problems that people have associated with TV.

It's a harsh critique, here was my take when I read the book several years ago (http://www.onfocus.com/2003/12/3374). I couldn't discount him as a crank and the pain of that book has stuck with me. It's probably so painful because I have happy memories of those shows too.
Wait a minute. This post was supposed to be funny! Now I'm depressed.
I will check it out, thanks! Sorry to depress you and your funny thread!
I absolutely loathe Thomas in any of his forms. The books are so awful that I won't let my kid go anywhere near the videos (even though he actually really likes the books--they're his guilty pleasure we allow him to browse through at the bookstore but never take home).

He doesn't watch TV and, like you, we're always on the lookout for the occasional DVD treat. Somehow he got hooked early on the incredibly boring and saccharine (though benign) Max and Ruby, but thankfully, he's grown into more of a Pixar fan and the excellent Walking with Dinosaurs stuff.

In terms of episodic animation, I've found Charlie and Lola to be bearable.
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