The Town Talk from Alexandria, Louisiana on July 16, 1989 · Page 66
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The Town Talk from Alexandria, Louisiana · Page 66

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Alexandria, Louisiana
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Sunday, July 16, 1989
Page:
Page 66
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THIS MONTH'S N Cf Ft at ki bi m TV TV can be good for kids Entertainment critic Jeffrey Lyons tells why tuning into Tee-wee,' 'Double Dare' is OK in his book (and home) My mother called the other day to inquire when our son would be starting chess and French lessons. He, meanwhile, was getting ready for Little League practice. I politely put my mother off. I didn't feel like telling her we're simply letting 7-year-old Benjamin be a kid. And part of that is allowing him to watch some television; not a lot, mind you, but some carefully screened programs. In the late '40s, after we became one of the first families in New York to have a TV, my mother would try to steer us to more fruitful pastimes. She had a good reason: The medium was primitive with not a lot of quality programs for children. "But Mom," my brothers and I would wail, "Have Gun Will Travel is educational. It teaches you about the Old West, part of American history." Her efforts notwithstanding, I became part of the hrst TV generation and went on to make my living on TV. After we became parents, my wife and I decided to allow our son (and now our daughter, Hannah) to find programs that educate as well as entertain. This approach to child-rearing is viewed with some alarm by people whose opinions I respect. Marlene Barron, for instance, director of New York's West Side Montessori School, where our son spent four years, has absolutely nothing favorable to say about kids' TV. "Playing or learning to do something or even kicking a can in the back yard is better," she contends. On the flip side, some experts agree with me about the value of TV. "Excessive TV is not good for your children, of course," says Susan McDon-ough, a child development specialist in Providence, R.I. "But even young children can be stimulated by moving images on a screen. Television can help children respond to light and sound." So, Mother, don't get upset, but here is my selection of television shows that can be good for our children: Sesame Street: It just completed its 20th year with the arrival of a baby for Maria How kids' shows rate Top TV shows for kids from the point of view of critic Jeffrey Lyons, co-host of PBS's Sneak Previews with Michael Medved (who won't allow a TV at home): 1. Sesame Street 2. Reading Rainbow 3. 3-2-1 Contact 9. 10. 4. Mr. Wizard 5. The Magical World of Disney 6. National Geographic Specials 7. Full House 8. CBS Schoolbreak and ABC Afierschool Specials The Wonder Years PBS's WonderWorhs (Sonia Manzano) and stage husband Luis (Emilio Delgado). The Muppets and spinoffs: It seems you can't go wrong when Jim Henson is involved: The Muppets, in reruns on Turner Network Television; Emmy-winning Muppet Babies; and Fraggle Rock, mornings on TNT. But Fraggle Rock has some minor drawbacks. The actors doing the voices sometimes overact, and TNT interrupts with some amazingly inappropriate commercials, like the one I saw hawking a Dean Martin album. Henson's next venture is The Ghost of Faffner Hall, a 13-part weekly family series about music, to debut on HBO this fall. Nickelodeon: Another great source for kids is this 24-hour-a-day cable channel. With 44.3 million subscribers, this network has shows that appeal to all ages, but primarily to younger viewers. One word of caution: Nickelodeon is by no means commercial-free, and some ads, as with TNT, seem absurdly out of place. Unless, for instance, you have a young Conehead around the house, there seems no purpose for a hair replacement commercial during a children's program. Beyond the usual animation programs such as Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies (often too violent for my taste but still classic cartoons), we sometimes watch The Adventures Of The Little Prince. My 20-month-old daughter, a habitual early riser, adores this show. Based on An-toine de Saint-Exupery's classic, it tells . of the Little Prince's travels from his planet to Earth and elsewhere. Nickelodeon also has what it refers to as "interactive" programs, in which kids try to solve real-life problems. Kids' Court, for example, is filmed in a real courtroom setting with young actors as witnesses and jurors. Mr. Wizard is an updated version of the '50s series, starring that ageless scientific whiz, Don Herbert. He uses everyday household objects to investigate scientific and technological principles. I wouldn't dream of proclaiming that Super Sloppy Double Dare is good for your t C0! CHILDREN'S HOUR: Planning will help children and parents get the most from TV. child. But what's wrong with watching an admittedly dumb but hilarious program just for fun? My son dissolves into spasms of laughter watching the contestants climb chocolate slides, wade through mountains of plastic foam chips or get covered with green goo. Nighttime television is a little tougher. Oh, there's The Cosby Show, The Wonder Years and ALF, which promote wholesome values. But we have drifted away from them, probably because they're scheduled on school nights. I find ABC's Full House amusing. Set in San Francisco, a young widower copes with the ups and downs of trying to raise three daughters with the help of his brother and brother-in-law. It sounds like another inane sitcom, but Full House instills a subtle dose of family values. For older children, independent stations now are rerunning National Geographic Specials, and they're a treat. There's Jacques Cousteau exploring every nook and cranny of ocean floors. Or shows on the vanishing tigers, sharks and polar bears. Young viewers who see these programs, even several times, still marvel at the beauty and grandeur. As our son has matured, he's lost interest in Saturday morning cartoons. But one show recently has captured his imagination set in the wacky world of Paul Reubens, or Pee-wee Herman. I hate to admit it, but Pee-wee grows on you. His Pee-wee's Playhouse (on CBS) places the viewer in a bizarre world of talking chairs and globes, a cowboy friend, a talking head (literally) and state-of-the-art animation and video effects. He is terminally nebbish, yet promotes understanding of people who are different or weak or smaller. Even though there always will be doomsayers, there are fine television programs for children whether after-school shows, Disney, Henson, Peanuts or holiday specials. It just takes a bit of planning to find the proper balance and to limit sensibly the time spent in front of the television set. Parents should watch programs with their children, to explain sensitive issues or to reassure them when fears or uncertainties arise, as well as to share the experience and promote further discussion. As a practical matter, it makes sense simply to know your child, know whether he's introverted or extroverted, and to avoid violent or overly competitive children's programs and shows tailored to sell a toy product. If your child's friends watch some current craze and yours begs to watch it, don't panic. Interests change quickly. The other day, for instance, our son came bounding into our room and said: "Dad. Come quick! Roger Clemens just struck out a batter on the best curve ball I've ever seen and they're about to show the replay! And wait till they show it again on ESPN!" By Jeffrey Lyons Q USA WEEKENDJULY 14-16, 1989 poonost tor senuus uvetw immmb m mMiy " uarvooiuu i iiuiiiiuuuuumuu

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