Five Shows I Can Stand to Watch with My Kids

I know my kids are happiest when I’m enjoying TV shows alongside them. (Note: I said enjoying, not suffering, because some kids’ shows are just kryptonite to grown-ups).

I’m not just talking about the usual (purple dinosaur) suspects but plenty of others (like talking trains and big red dogs). Rather than name names, I present the five animated kids' shows -- which we geezers call cartoons -- that I most enjoy watching with my kids:

Cyberchase (PBS)

This show has more narrative jeopardy than most for this age range, a truly diabolical bad guy voiced with wonderful gusto by Christopher Lloyd, and sophisticated math and science points that don’t bore you (or your kids) senseless.  The non-contrived mix of adventure, fantasy and education are pretty entertaining, and the mere idea of Gilbert Gottfried on a kids’ show is always worth a chuckle.

SpongeBob SquarePants (Nick)

You can't deny that this show is funny. Really funny. But what’s truly impressive are the razor-sharp characterizations, especially in the peripheral cast (Sandy, Plankton, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy). Some episodes are more genius than others, but if they handed out Emmys for Best Supporting Actor in an animated comedy, Squidward wouldn’t have enough tentacles to hold them all.

Angelina Ballerina, The Next Steps (PBS)

There's a sophistication (maybe it's the English accents?) to this show’s storyline and characters that makes it more watchable than most. The dancing itself is meticulously rendered to be accurate, and the voices are soulful and compelling, not just loud and grating. Re-envisioned in computer animation since September, Angelina really springs to life here.

Charlie and Lola (Disney)

This show really captures the soul -- not just the antics -- of true childhood. Using imaginative and somewhat psychedelic visuals inspired by the popular book series, Charlie and Lola episodes deftly convey the familial love that runs just below the surface of chaotic sibling relations. It’s a perfect, appealing balance of sweet and silly, without resorting to slapstick scenes or sentimentality. And then there’s that accent thing again.

WordGirl (PBS)

Contemporary kids have an underappreciated but sophisticated sense of humor. WordGirl knows and exploits this fact better than most shows for kids, with sharp parodies and sardonic gags that are as clever as they are funny. When the omnipresent unseen announcer converses freely with WordGirl, you know someone’s pushing the conventions of not just kid shows, but all of television. And that’s a relief for parents who are tired of cookie-cutter kids' programming. Plus, it builds vocabulary.

Which shows do you enjoy watching with your kids? Chime in below!

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