Produced by Gary Drevitch
GREAT CONCEPT, BUT CAN WE RENEGOTIATE? WHAT IF THEY WENT DARK DURING "THE BACKYARDIGANS" FOR SIX STRAIGHT DAYS INSTEAD?
In support of the "Worldwide Day of Play" (which meant something totally different when we were in college) Nickelodeon (and Noggin) will go dark for three hours tomorrow, during the highly-rated 12-3 pm Saturday block. Instead of watching TV during that time, Nickelodeon hopes kids will go outside and play. We hope so, too. But if the networks are really serious about getting kids to turn off the set and run outside, they should start running daily, concurrent, four-hour blocks of "The Upside-Down Show."
BUT THEY ALSO SHOULD HAVE ASKED HER WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE MARRIED TO PAUL BUNYAN (NO, SERIOUSLY: LOOK AT THIS GUY!)
"Today" show co-host Ann Curry is interviewed about balancing work and family while traveling the world reporting on global crises. For example:
". . . . we have a rule at our table. No matter how late it is, we sit down together and eat. Sometimes dinner is cold. Sometimes it's not exactly as I would've wished in terms of the food. But that's not what matters. It's the conversation."
Conversation like, "Mom, you just got home, it's almost midnight and we haven't eaten yet! Can't we PLEASE just go to bed?"
Also: " I made it very clear to them why fame doesn't matter. Because in the end, we're all forgotten. What is remembered, is what we've done." Um, like, becoming famous?
THIS IS A HOT-BUTTON ISSUE, BUT LIKE TINY GIRL SAID TO US WHEN WE EMERGED FROM THE SHOWER THIS MORNING, "I DON'T WANT TO TOUCH IT"
Slate looks at the sensitive issue of whether and at what age kids should see their parents naked, in response to complaints that Britney Spears regularly parades around in the nude in front of her two young children. The experts play it safe, insisting that there's no damage to kids 3 and under from seeing mom or dad in the buff, but that parents should expect that at some point between 4 and 8, kids will begin having problems with viewing them in the altogether. We know several families who disagree, and either restrict their own nudity right from toddlerhood, or let it all to hang out until the kids hit their teen years.
Here at FD headquarters, each parent occasionally showers with their same-sex child, but as the kids have grown a bit older, it feels like we've unconsciously stopped being naked in front of at least the opposite-sex offspring. They, on the other hand, run around starkers all the time . . . .
(PS: As for Spears, she may have some serious problems as a parent, but surely no one's going to take her one- and two-year-old kids away from her because she walks around nude in front of them. After all, many moms breastfeed until kids are 2 or even later. . .)
SCIENCE SAYS APPLE JUICE CALORIES NOW 50% LESS EMPTY
Are you one of those parents who rejects the preschool-standard eight boxes of apple juice a day because it'll fatten up your kids? If so, good for you. But watch out: fellow moms and dads armed with this article from the Wall Street Journal are likely to start singing the praises of the ubiquitous juice because of its illness-fighting phytonutrients. Apparently, apple juice can retard tumor growth, improve cognitive function, and make your floors sparkle.
Still, the Journal notes, for all the apparent benefits, parents still ought to limit apple juice intake to about 6 ounces a day for pre-schoolers, and 12 ounces for bigger kids. And if anyone is giving their kids apple juice with added sugar, several medical authorities reported, "Well, then, we just can't help you, can we?"
THE FD.COM COUCH CRITIC: "KID NATION"
felt obligated to tune into "Kid Nation" on CBS because, really, how
often does one get an opportunity to see (alleged) child labor on
national TV? The show promised us that 40 children were going to build
their own society—and make their own rules. Which, despite all the
pre-broadcast controversy, was a pretty intriguing concept. What if
kids had their own town to run their own way? Would they immediately
make it socialist? (Most likely.) Would they elect one, several, or no
leaders?(Hard to say; maybe a rotation of leaders?) As it happens,
we're not going to find out during this show's 13-week season, because producers don't actually give the kids a chance to make those kinds of
decisions. They don't even come close.
"Kid Nation" turns out to be a strictly by-the-numbers reality show, with the kids (at least to this point) having about all the power of a particularly earnest middle-school student council whose well-entrenched principal lets them decide the theme of the spring dance, as opposed to whether or not they should have one at all. (Note: Spoilers ahead.)
Producers chose four kids to be the "town council" before they
even started taping and unlike the rest of the group, which arrived on a
school bus, they descended, Trump-like, in a helicopter. The crew
deposited all the kids in a remote a spot a few miles away from
"Bonanza City," and, inexplicably, demanded that the kids haul several
wagons full of supplies down the road to the town, just like the
pioneers did—well, except that the pioneers had horses. Whatever.
When the kids got to town, they found barren bunkhouses and little
guidance. The town council flailed away for about a day and a half
before locating an old leather-bound guidebook to the town, which told
them to divide their population into four groups: Red, Yellow, Green,
and Blue—again, um, just like the pioneers did . . . ? So right off the
bat, the kids are divided into four groups without having any say in
the matter. (You can see where this is heading.) Then the show's
host—let's call him "Adultus ex Machina"—arrived to tell the kids that
it was time for a bogus teamwork challenge (he actually said it would
be a true, Old West-style "Showdown," but, you know, without the paces,
the pistols, or a point). The Showdown would decide which of the four
groups would be the "upper class," which would be the "merchant class,"
(some of whom would man the town's root-beer saloon) which would be the
cooks, and which would be the laborers. (So much for the kids
establishing an economy and establishing a division of labor.)
It was at this point that the show lost all interest for us. There
are some intriguing kids, to be sure, some likable, some not so
much—and clearly some very bright kids. There's also like the gal with
a heavy Boston accent. (Our favorite kid, though, was the truly
adorable homesick 8-year-old who took advantage of a window of
opportunity at the first "town meeting"—called not by the town council
but, you guessed it, the host—to, quite literally, get the Hell out of
Dodge and go home. The spring in his step as he bounded past the other
kids was the episode's clear highlight for us.) It would have been
truly interesting to have found out how they'd have made the town work.
(Even on their first night in Bonanza City, with no direct
"supervision"—though there's obviously a large, omnipresent production
crew—they did figure out how to prepare dinner for 40.*) The kids
almost certainly would NOT have created a society with a
non-contributing upper class, an only marginally useful merchant class,
and a small, distinct labor class, made up of the exact 10 kids who
came in LAST in a physical challenge! The kids would never have divided
themselves up in a way that the only girl who seems to have cooking
skill would end up in any other work group. That would be stupid, and
these kids are definitely not stupid.
They also have integrity. The town council has the power to give a
major cash reward at each town meeting to the kid who they felt made
the biggest contribution, and they gave it to the girl who led that
first night's cooking crew, even though she had been the only kid who
criticized the council during the town meeting. A lesser council—like
Congress—would have immediately dropped her for someone who didn't
challenge them. At every turn in the first episode when the kids had a
chance to make a tough call—few as those opportunities were—they made
decisions worthy of respect.
We would have readily accepted two or three ever-present on-camera
adults helping to guide the kids through their big decisions about
leadership, economy, and division of labor, as long as the kids had
final say. But that's not the show CBS wanted. Alternately, the network
could have produced a show in which kids actually had to live like gold
rush pioneers, literally following all the rules of that society. That
would have been a different, but still interesting exercise. In the
end, the show is just a missed opportunity.
Elsewhere in Kid Nation:
* Tom Shales raised some other good questions about the show in the Post today.
* You can see clips from the first show on CBS' site.
* The network reported yesterday that it had screened the first episode for select school groups nationwide (though not critics), and that those kids liked it just fine.
* Here's something the show will surely ignore: The on-site production crew must have electricity, they must have cell phones and they must have canteen tables set up around the periphery of the town. How are the kids dealing with watching the crew eat delicious sandwiches while they struggle to cook grits? It's simply not possible that the kids are simply ignoring the crew, as might happen on, say, a "Big Brother." These kids miss their parents and there are adults surrounding them all day. Mustn't they be trying to bond with them at all?
THANKS FOR THE UPDATE, NAIR
According to hair-removal giant Nair, which is now making an all-out marketing assault on tweens with leg twine,
Tiny Girl could begin shaving her legs inside of five years (and, we
presume, cease talking to us altogether). Also, if she's anything like the role
models in Nair's new ads for the target audience (see left), she'll also apparently be some sort of underage exotic dancer.
Also: Really, Stacey Feldman, vice president for marketing at the women’s health and
personal care division of the Church & Dwight Company? “When a girl removes hair for the first time, it’s a life-changing moment”? Really? Because, we're not a girl or anything ourselves, but we can think of some others. . .
SORRY, WE TOTALLY MISREAD THIS AOL NEWS HEADLINE
"Teacher Expelled From 'Flat Buns' Ad" does not, as we initially assumed, refer to an overweight teacher who was rejected from an audition for a fitness center commercial and is now suing. No, it's much worse: Carl's Jr., the fast-food chain that once tried to sell you burgers via the medium of Paris Hilton washing a car foisted on an unsuspecting public a new ad, for its new "Flat Buns" sandwich (served between a pair of hamburger bun bottoms) featuring, inexplicably, an underage schoolteacher gyrating on her desk in front of a class full of suburban wannabe gangsta rappers. Shockingly, some educators took offense when they saw the spot:
"It is unbelievably demeaning to every [teacher] to promote a television advertisement showing a young teacher gyrating on top of her desk while boys in the class rap about her body in order to sell hamburgers!" Tennessee Education Association president Earl Wiman said. . .
All true. In Carl Jr's defense, however, it did work for Van Halen. . .
AND WE REALLY, REALLY MISREAD THIS WALL STREET JOURNAL HEADLINE
This article was not at all what we thought it was going to be. It's
not even a lifestyle article—it's something about picking stocks.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE LEGITIMATE FAST-FOOD WORLD
Sometime in 2008, Burger King will unveil a new, healthier Kids Meal
featuring flame-broiled chicken tenders (with less fat than the regular, fried tenders) and french-fry-shaped apple slices instead of actual
french fries. (The "Apple Fries" have 35 calories; a kid's order of
original-recipe fries has 230 calories and 13 grams of fat.)
"It's a good trend," New York City dietitian Miriam Pappo told the AP before deadpanning, "The actual ultimate solution is still to eat less fast food."
As for Freelance Dad, we give it six months.
GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES! NO, NOT YOU, AMERICAN PIG DOGS!
you be making a baby right now? Absolutely, if you live in the central
Russian province of Ulyanovsk, which on September 13 celebrated a
regional Day of Conception,
encouraging employers to give workers the day off to impregnate their
wives, and offering a fabulous prize, rumored to be a new home, to any
woman who gives birth exactly nine months after the official get-it-on
date. Slate explored various government methods for encouraging citizens to get their funk on last wee. It also ran a piece piece by Daniel Engber asking if American couples shouldn't maybe stop having children as soon as they have one.
The case, on paper, is strong: We would greatly reduce humanity's
carbon footprint by helping the planet's population dwindle to about
1.6 billion people, and we could do it over five generations:
We're obsessed with our green lifestyles—eating local, driving hybrids, paying off our excess carbon-dioxide emissions. From that perspective, voluntary familial extinction . . . might not be such a bad idea. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, cutting back on kids is the best choice you can possibly make . . . .
Our other green lifestyle choices can't even begin to offset the cost of adding a brand-new CO2-emitter to the population. . . . I'd have to do quite a bit of driving around in a Hummer H3 to mimic the environmental impact of creating another version of me. Not to mention the fact that my children might eventually decide to have their own children, who would emit even more carbon dioxide down the line . . . .
Fair enough. Still, we're not so sure Americans should be acting unilaterally on this. All the other countries in the world ought to sign binding agreements to stop doing the unprotected deed as well, maybe pledging to send any excess children floating down the Sea of Reeds or some such.
YOU SEE, BUT HERE'S THE REAL PROBLEM WITH HAVING THREE LITTLE
CO2-EMITTERS AROUND THE HOUSE: THEY SEE THIS COMMERCIAL AND THEN
DEMAND THAT YOU BUY THEM AN SUV
Volvo enlisted hipster band the Magnetic Fields
to record a new version of "The Wheels on the Bus," praising its new
XC70, for a new commercial now in heavy rotation on basic cable. ("The
hill-descent control goes nice and slow," etc.)
We should not have to note, but will do so for the record, that we have now decided never to buy a Volvo.
** CORRECTION: OK, OK, so it's a Crossover, not an SUV. Still shouldn't oughtta be using that song . . .
OUR BRUSH WITH MADELEINE L'ENGLE
Madeleine L'Engle, author of "A Wrinkle in Time," among other classic children's books, passed away today
at 88 in her Connecticut home. Others will write glowing appreciations
of her work in the days ahead. We can, however, relate this story:
In a previous career, we attended a national teacher's convention
for our then employer, a certain children's book publisher that, after
our time, sold the American editions of a popular British series about
a boy wizard and his precocious pals. The company had arranged for Ms.
L'Engle to sign copies of her books at our booth one afternoon during
the event, but she was running more than an hour late. We were told
that rainstorms in New York had delayed her flight. When she finally
arrived, wearing a necklace covered with chunky, oversize charms and
medallions, she graciously apologized for having been held up by the
storms. To which we responded, "Wow, I thought you'd have been able to
control the weather with that necklace!" Fortunately, she smiled, and signed a copy of "A Wrinkle in Time" for us, writing, "Tesser Well! - Madeleine L'Engle."
WHY BUY THE COW WHEN HE'LL CLEAN UP THE MILK FOR FREE?
A new study has found that there's nothing women love more than a
live-in boyfriend who does the housework. (Except maybe a housekeeper?)
In a study spanning 28 countries, live-in boyfriends performed more household labor than married men,
across the board. The researchers speculated that when men actually get
married, they too easily fall into stereotypical gender roles, sitting
on recliners with their belts open rather than clearing the dinner
table. Our theory? The live-ins are staying on their best behavior
until they get married, at which point they give up the charade. But
according to this study, they'd be well-advised to keep up the good
work after they marry: Couples who divided chores most equally
reportedly have the best sex lives. It might be that those couples
complete their neatly-divided household tasks and arrive in bed at the
same time, ready for action, or, just maybe, there are a bunch of
couples in which neither spouse does a lick of housework and they just
spend all their evenings in the sack. . . .
"ATTENDING A FUNCTION"?!
An Oregon dad was arrested on charges of child neglect after leaving
his two-year-old in his car, in 95-degree heat, for two hours, while he
patronized a brothel.
A Mustang Ranch security guard is the hero in this story, spotting and
rescuing the toddler, then contacting authorities. As for the dad, he
told deputies he was "attending a function" at the brothel. Authorities
believe the function was "bodily."
IN SHORT, WE BLAME JENNIFER ANISTON, NOT ONLY FOR RUINING THE FAMILY HOUR, BUT FOR FAILING TO GIVE BRAD THE CHILD HE SO PASSIONATELY DESIRED
Parents Television Council is sending American society to Hell in a
hand basket without its supper for allowing our airwaves to become
polluted with sex and violence during the traditional "family hour"
from 8:00 - 9:00 pm, and, you want to know something? We agree with
The Parents Television Council studied 180 hours of original programming on six broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, MyNetworkTV and the CW) during three two-week periods in 2006-07. It found that instances of violence had soared 52.4% since a similar study in 2000-01 and that sexual content had increased 22.1%.
Use of foul language dropped by 25.4%, but Winter said the figure was misleading. Although milder words, such as "hell" and "damn," decreased, the use of bleeped words increased 40%. Those words are more offensive and often easy for children to figure out.
Our kids don't watch TV during prime time, other than annual
exemptions like the Westminster Dog Show and Red Sox and Patriot
playoff games. (Yeah, we said "annual". . .) But that's just because they're all still under 7.
Eventually, they'll be making their own decisions about what to watch
before bedtime, and we gotta tell you, we don't love their choices.
The networks will tell you it's OK that there's more adult content
on their stations than there used to be, because there are so many
wholesome, family-friendly basic-cable networks elsewhere on the dial for parents to tune in. And besides, they have
to compete with all those other basic-cable channels that are stealing their
ratings with adult fare. TV critics will tell you that reality TV is
the source of much of the family hour adult content, with its infinite
variety of machinations for hooking people up.
As for us? Actually, we have long blamed the deflowering of the family hour on
"Friends," which was recklessly aired at 8:00 by NBC for years, for
which we still haven't fully forgiven the network. That show, with its
unending stream of filthy-mouth sex talk, was certainly amusing. But
its ratings success with decidedly adult content gave every other network
the cover to run whatever the Hell they pleased at 8:00.