Archive for October, 2015

Don’t we deserve better?

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

You’d think with all the new ways we have to view content that content would be getting better. And overall, it is. Netflix and Amazon now regularly come up with Emmy-winning original programming to compete with previous standard-bearers HBO and Showtime.

But our plethora of platforms and the pressure to stand out this fall season seems to mean that envelope-pushing and shocking shows are what are rising to the top.

Scream-queens_teaserTake Scream Queens, for example. There has been a lot of buzz about the Fox series, starring Emma Roberts as a sorority girl on a campus where sorority girls are getting murdered.

Yes, it’s a spoof, a satire, a send-up of slasher movies, but I didn’t think it was funny. Calling girls “sluts” and “bitches” and making vulgar sex talk set to a backdrop of bloody killing just doesn’t make for healthy viewing for our teens – or for anyone.

The series is rated TV-14, and it’s from edgy Ryan Murphy – who gave us Glee, but if teens in your house are watching this, you need to watch it too. There’s nothing gleeful about it.

oscar_s-hotel-for-fantastical-creatures2Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures is another example. This new Vimeo series came highly touted. Lots of anticipation on the web.

It stars Chris Kendall, a U.K.-based YouTube comedian with a big following. YouTube star Grace Helbig is also part of the cast. Patrick Stewart and Alfred Molina voice two of the characters. But getting the most buzz were the “fantastical creatures” made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

I invite you to watch the first episode. It’s just plain weird. Titled “The Party Nightmare,” it’s all about Oliver trying to get more business into his uncle’s hotel. He hires a “demon horse clown” to get a party started. The horse clown starts shooting people with a gun that explodes with glitter, until – spoiler alert! – he reveals himself to be an alien. Oliver grabs the gun and shoots the horse clown, reducing him to a sugar cube. A write-up of the party in a local magazine the new morning deems the hotel “cool” and Oscar’s uncle is pleased. He hands Oscar a name badge that says “Oscar’s Ass” – which he says is short for “assistant.”

It all had the vibe of some kind of strange, psychedelic drug trip. Worth your tween’s time? Nope.

Is it too much to ask that no matter what the platform, the programming should enlighten, entertain and engage with underlying positive messages for everyone in your family?

We don’t think so.

The 2015 Fall Parents’ Choice Toy Awards!

Thursday, October 15th, 2015


homeimage_toyawards_f13What a day!

The sun is out, the weather is cool and crisp, and the Fall 2015 Parents’ Choice Toy Awards have just been announced.

There are space movies to be made, bears on a mission, and mysteries to be solved. Check out the remote control machine-building sets and kits for engineers as young as three. A videogame spawned a playset, walls have stories to tell, and a pogo stick bounces on air.

There are games for all ages and puppets and experiments for young scientists to conduct on a kitchen counter lab. Uh oh. Bugs in the Kitchen? No worries here. Take this scooter for a ride and get a bite to eat in a diner.

There are building sets for architects and those who gravitate to more organic structures. A kit of LED light stickers makes working circuits. You’ll see why the Android-based EPIC is true to its name, and how GenDX-ers are learning to tell time.

The extra-long Fun Stuff winners list includes plenty of craft kits for making snow globes or bracelets or puzzles or customizing crayons.

We hope you’ll enjoy browsing this list even half as much as we did creating it.

So are the new Muppets too adult?

Thursday, October 1st, 2015




Before the premiere of the new Muppets show last week on ABC, a conservative family group called for a boycott of the primetime comedy.


The One Million Moms organization was worried that this updated version of the old favorite gang would not be appropriate because it is “aimed at a mature, modern audience and addresses subjects not suitable for family viewing.” The group worried about the “perverted nature” of the series.

Are they right? Is it not suitable for family viewing? To be sure, this is not a preschool show. Rated as TV-PG, it’s more for those who grew up with the Muppets than for those who are growing up now.

We tuned in to the first episode and we can tell you that, yes, it is a more adult-themed Muppet show. But perverted? Please. There is nothing “abnormal, wicked, evil, deviant or unnatural – or any other definition of the term” about it.

The storyline is that Kermit is the producer of Miss Piggy’s late-night talk show. And we’re let in on the behind-the-scenes action as a documentary crew is filming the filming. (Think The Office.) Piggy’s a diva, throwing insults at her makeup person and other staffers, and denouncing guest Elizabeth Banks saying, “I hate her stupid face.” Kermit’s trying to hold the show together in his humble frog way. And he’s dating Denise, a pig who works in marketing. “What can I say? I’m attracted to pigs,” he explains as an aside. And Fozzie Bear is dating too. He’s fallen for a human and her parents have serious doubts about the unconventional pairing – an obvious metaphor for any kind of unconventional pairing in the world today.

There are topics that are targeted to an older crowd, such as a reference to Internet dating and a band member’s reference to being in a 12-step program. But there are also plenty of puns that are family-friendly. Our favorite old guys – Statler and Waldorf – provide the best comic relief as they make simple wisecracks on the goings-on from Miss Piggy’s show audience.

Twitter reaction ranged across the board, as it often does, from those who grew up with the original Muppet Show and Muppet Babies finding this a “sad imitation” and not liking the “reality show” aspect of it – to many who simply “loved” it.

For me, seeing Miss Piggy as mean and our favorite green guy dating another woman was definitely different—and a little strange. The storylines are more adult than the pre-school and after-school Muppet material that has entertained and enlightened us for decades. The only ABCs being taught here, so far, are about the heartache of relationships and the challenges of managing a diverse staff.  And maybe the difficulties of booking celebrities on a talk show. But there is humor and emotion. You feel for Kermit – just as you always have, and the many supporting characters will make you laugh at least once during the 30-minute show, if not more.

If you wind up not watching, it isn’t because it’s so racy (believe me, there are far worse things your kids can watch on TV and online), but because you don’t like the concept. You should check it out and see what the true judges – the tweens and teens in your family – think of it.