My oldest son loves the Curious George show on PBS. He laughs along with it and afterwards will tell me the intricate plot points that moved the show from point A to Z. He has his favorites and his not-so-favorites, but generally he enjoys all of them, somewhat, even if he doesn’t love all of them.
I think Noah likes the show because it reminds him of himself. George is curious, fairly bright, and always getting into situations that he’d be better off not getting into. He’s smart and funny and cute, just like George, and he probably smells better than George, even though TMWTYH bathes George regularly.
But the show does one thing that, the first time I heard it, I knew immediately what it meant when I heard it.
In between the two CG segments of the show they will cut to kids taking some lesson that George learned and put it to practical real-world use. Kids will make telescopes out of paper towel tubes or trace their shadows and watch the sun move and stuff like that, but they always say the same thing after each cartoon segment: “George is a monkey, and he can do things that you can’t do.”
Really? It’s really come to that? Telling kids that a monkey might be able to climb up telephone poles and swing from power lines without being fried to a crisp? Or that he can knock down an entire dinosaur exhibit and put it back together before some scientists return? What is the meaning of this?
If you’re like me you already know what this is – the legal disclaimer. Yes, George is a monkey, and he can do things that you can’t do, like get kidnapped from his homeland in Africa and be brought to New York City (wait – some people a long time ago did do that), or go up in a rocket and repair a satellite (that’s been done too), or go skiing and rescue a pig (I’m sure someone has done those exact same things on a ski trip before).
Get real, PBS. Kids are just as smart and brave and crafty and mischievous as Curious George, and while the disclaimer could read “George is a monkey, and he can do things that you shouldn’t do without asking your parents first,” all of the things he does are in fact doable, but some little kid might get hurt or die doing what George does on your show.
When I was a kid there was a park near my house and it had great things to play with there. My favorite thing to do there was swing as high as I could on the swings and then jump off the swing at its highest point, flying probably ten feet or so from a height of about nine to ten feet in the air. It was pretty thrilling to do, and I never broke my arm or ankle, and I could have, but it was fun. And Curious George has fun too, but PBS, don’t tell kids they shouldn’t be adventurous. That sometimes takes all the fun out of being a kid, and if that’s the case you might as well just call him Dullard George.