When Kid Shows Underestimate Their Audience

Children’s entertainment has evolved considerably since I got up early to watch The Shazam!/Isis Hour. Today’s kids want to see movies based on favorite books more than those on favorite toys. They gravitate to TV shows with irony, sarcasm and empowered young characters, not just slapstick setups. Gross is still fun, but it's not as independently engrossing as it used to be.

Yet, if we accept this, then why are kids still being marketed to as if all they want is something loud, colorful, and obnoxious? From the commercials of Fanboy and Chum Chum, for example, all I’ve gleaned so far is that it’s about two inexplicably costumed kids who yell, throw themselves into solid objects, yell some more, and do juvenile things with their body parts. Sounds like Laverne & Shirley meets Wile E. Coyote, then gets lobotomized.

The F&CC commercials did not appeal to my 10-year-old son, who told me the show seems so loud and ridiculous it “just may be boring.” He’s starving for a narrative, a premise, a sense of time and place—anything to indicate the show is more than the TV equivalent of pop rocks. CatDog was more informative in its title alone than F&CC is in a full 30-second spot (or an entire show, if you count one review).

Treating kids with respect means aiming at something higher than your audience’s puerile instincts. And that goes for promotion as much as it does for programming. Kids are not idiots, and if you want them on your side, you’d better get that straight.

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