Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Nick Jr. TV Critic's Corner: The Fresh Beat Band.
As a former music reviewer for Tiny Mix Tapes (read by dozens!) and a connoisseur of television, as well as a horribly negligent monster of a parent, I am uniquely qualifed to offer up an insightful, irreverent view on the countless Nick Jr. programs that my child watches in lieu of having a dad. Today's fare: The Fresh Beat Band.
The Fresh Beat Band is a simple premise: 4 age-ambiguous, carefully-crafted-to-be-ethnically-diverse students at "Music School" live and play music together in a 4-bedroom apartment without parental supervision. They face such dramatic conflicts as "Shout's tap-shoes are in the tree, but the big tap dance show is TODAY! ZOMG WHATTAWEGONNADO?!?!" The tension is broken up with musical interludes: "Zoop dooby do-wah/Get into the groove-ah!" They interact with roughly two other people; a bookish "Music School Teacher" and an Australian shopkeep in an argyle sweater. Life is simple in Fresh Beat Land; with hip-hop and pop, the music party won't stop.
For a parent, this is the worst kind of children's show. The show is live action, with no puppets, so for an adult, the horrific fake smiling takes on a perverse quality. In one of the great ironies of children's television, it is the flesh-and-blood nature of show's like The Fresh Beat Band that makes them so hard for a parent to suspend disbelief and go along with their child. The "band" very clearly does not actually play their instruments in any meaningul sense. Show me a cartoon tiger, and it's actually easier for me to ignore my nagging issues and accept that this is not meant to be realistic in any way. Heck, give me a guy in an orange monster suit and I can deal. Make me look at human beings, and my tolerance for the asinine drops dramatically. Actually, that last sentence can pretty much sum up my feelings about everything, come to think of it.
Visually, the show is like eating circus peanuts with your eyeballs. The bright coloration of everything just screams "Mickey Mouse Club," as envisioned by people who earnestly think that the Mickey Mouse Club is a good thing. Look, it's fine for children to get a sterilized, happy viewing experience. But Crayola makes grey and brown crayons too, and our pictures can look nicer with those colors thrown in with the reds and yellows. Shows like Yo Gabba Gabba and Sesame Street use earthier hues, unhappy moments and HONEST TO GOODNESS TEARS to make the sugar a little less, well, sugary. Which makes it easier for a parent to watch with their child, and helps TV serve as a jumping off point for playing together, rather than an escape from it.
All of these are reasons enough for parents to skip this program when considering how to allot a little one's TV time, but they are not as serious as this:
Meet Marina: the single worst thing on television. How did you get this (or any) job? Of all the fake laughs on all of the bad children's shows in all of the history of the medium, yours is in the running for the worst. Further, on a show that puts bad fake instrument playing at the fore, your "drumming" is still so painfully terrible that one almost doesn't notice the 6 foot 6 wrinkly-foreheaded white guy at the turntables, or the Hispanic girl with the guitar that isn't plugged in. I know that you don't play drums. But do you have to look so wooden when you don't? Also, your facial expressions are just mind-shattering to watch. Your "really into this jam" face is comparable to my son's "just poopin' my pants here!" face. Finally, your dancing is just awful. Obviously you have some dance background. So why don't you ever MOVE YOUR SHOULDERS, LADY!!! MOVE THEM, MRS. FRANKENSTEIN! MOOOOOOVE THEEEEM! All in all, you are just the worst. I would seriously rather subject my son to the insanity-fueled, spittle-charged rantings of Glenn Beck than to another half-hour of you being bad at being on TV.
One thing the show does really well, though, is make a toddler dance. They've got this formula down, and while they won't get a tot busting a move like DJ Lance can, it's still fun to get moving with your child. Maybe one can Netflix a Fresh Beat "video" collection, to get the good without the GOD AWFUL.
Verdict: Not safe for parents, and of little worth for children. Skip it.