I have two children, a boy, 11, and a girl, 6, so you may well imagine the TV is on quite a lot at my house. And of course we have the Disney Channel.
Once upon a time you could assume cartoons were OK for kids to watch and Disney was always a safe bet.
Alas, autres temps – autres moeurs. These days cartoons are definitely not a safe bet if they are on much after dinner. I try, often in vain, to keep my kids away from “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” and have been known to throw a fit if I come in and find “South Park” on.
I enjoy them myself, but I don’t want my kids picking up the language, and I don’t think it’s time for them to learn what some mommies and daddies do with those funny leather costumes yet.
My youngest loves the Disney Channel, but I’ve paid closer attention to Disney after a single mother friend warned me “Hannah Montana” set an example of vain self-absorption.
Currently the industry seems to have ceded the family sitcom genre to Disney. So perhaps those of us whose family situation is less than ideal should see what they’re showing our kids about families.
My daughter likes two Disney family sitcoms: “Good Luck Charlie” now in it’s third season, and “Jessie” now in it’s second.
Both have much to recommend them for children’s entertainment. Both feature strong female leads for your daughters’ edification, and are absent prime time staples such as drug problems, unwanted pregnancies etc.
“Jessie” is about a 19-year-old Texas military brat who in an act of rebellion moves to New York, and instead of failure and loss of innocence lands a cushy job as nanny to an international brood of adopted kids.
High-powered film director Morgan Ross (Charles Esten) and his supermodel-turned businesswoman wife Christina (Christina Moore), have one natural child Emma (Peyton List), and adopted Ravi (Karan Brar) from India, Zuri (Skai Jackson) from Uganda, and Luke (Cameron Boyce) from Detroit. (They told him he was from Krypton.)
That’s a lot for a power couple who are seldom home and their child-hating butler Bertram (Kevin Chamberlin) to handle, so they hired Jessie (Debbie Ryan).
Ryan as Jessie is a delight to watch. She’s animated, energetic, and acts with her face and body language, a natural physical comic. Zuri is a delightful little smart-mouth who dishes out the sass like a pro, and Ravi is often hilarious doing the comic Indian-accented shtick, evidently one of the last ethnic stereotypes you can safely mine for comedy.
In spite of the title, Charlotte “Charlie” Duncan (Mia Talerico) is not the main protagonist of “Good Luck Charlie.” That honor belongs to her sister Teddy Duncan (Bridgit Mendler).
Teddy is the second oldest of Amy (Leigh-Allyn Baker) and Bob Duncan’s (Eric Allan Kramer) five children. Teenaged Teddy, big brother PJ (Jason Dolley), and middle child Gabe (Bradley Steven Perry) are still getting used to having barely post-toddler Charlie around when Amy gets pregnant with
Toby, who is born in the back of an ice cream truck with Teddy’s help in the third season.
The hook in this series is Teddy realizes she’ll have left home while Charlie is still very young, and so she keeps a video diary for her, because she wants to help her be good. Each entry ends with a variation of “Good luck Charlie.”
This is a delightful premise, and I’m happy my daughter has an example of a big girl who is responsible and seriously concerned about the example she’s setting her adored little sister.
Mom Amy is often a ditz, but is fiercely protective of her brood. Dad Bob is sometimes clueless that not everybody shares his passionate interest in his business, exterminating bugs, but a stand-up dad for sure.
Both series show kids looking out for each other. In “Jessie” a brood of biologically unrelated kids are brought together by flighty parents who love them, but can’t be bothered to raise them. That responsibility is laid on Jessie, scarcely out of childhood herself. Sorry, that’s probably not the message Disney wanted to send… unless they’re making a point very subtly.
In “Good luck Charlie” the elder children of philoprogenitive parents pitch in to help raise their younger siblings, often to comic effect, but they are doing their bit, and their parents are very involved.
“Jessie” gets comedy out of children left to their own devices a little too much. “Charlie” gets the laughs out of family members a little too much into each others’ business.
“Jessie” portrays an upside to what might be a sad situation. “Charlie” shows the funny downside to a loving but exasperating family.
Both are funny, upbeat, optimistic, and not a bad way for your kids to spend a half-hour.
You can hope they’ll take it to heart so you can sing with Bridgit Mendler in the “Charlie” theme song, “You’re going to love how you turn out to be.”