In the world of surreal children’s programming, the most curious development may be how the line between the viewer’s ages is becoming increasingly transparent. Many of you, particularly those of you who are childless, probably missed the premier of Nick Jr.’s newest show Yo Gabba Gabba!, a hip, live-action program for children under the age of five.
At the same time, there’s enough club-society chic and pop culture nods throughout Yo Gabba Gabba‘s thirty minutes that may find adults drawn to the chroma-key green backdrops as their offspring.
The show’s host, DJ Lance Rock (a skinny, twenty-something black man with a penchant for fuzzy orange headdress and oversized eyewear) teethfully introduces five toy monsters (the green & fuzzy monster Brobee, Foofa the pink flower bubble, Muno the bumpy & phallic red cyclops, Plex the robot, and Toodee the blue cat-dragon) who are housed in his expandable boombox. The monsters, colorful and non-threatening, come alive in a world of electronic music and hyper-hued colors while dispensing life lessons to the impressionable young viewers. The episode that I watched praised the virtues of waiting in line and how doing so enables everyone who patiently waits for their turn to, eventually, have a good time. Admittedly, it seemed fairly innocuous, serving as a hidden vehicle to showcase the program’s prime directive: to get the kids to dance and sing to a growing catalog of eerily retro electronic music.
Increasing the show’s hip factor is its guestlist of performers like Biz Markie, The Shins, M.I.A., as well as its MySpace friends which include such internet phenoms as “Blazen” Denny Hazen and Leslie “Keeper of the Gems” Hall. That’s right: even in the world of children’s programming, you’re required to have a MySpace page.
Which certainly points to the creators of Yo Gabba Gabba! intentionally trying to manufacture a Teletubbies-type kitsch factor that caters to the afterhours crowd coming down from their pharmaceutical realities.
How does it stack up for the rest of us? Well, under the influences of two cups of coffee and the demands of an impatient four-year old, Yo Gabba Gabba‘s Noggin debut provided me with some much deserved distraction while I set my sights on tackling the Sunday paper. But while I tried to focus on the mundane black and white words of the week-in-review, my eyes were intuitively drawn to the florescent hues emitting from my television screen; the entire family was transfixed. Indeed, my three month old daughter has only rolled over for two different stimuli in her short time here on Earth: one was to see what her four-year old brother was doing in another part of the room and the other was to get a better glimpse of the TV to see Muno dance and sing a song about jumping.
I supposed that this means the creators of Yo Gabba Gabba! are set to have a certifiable hit on their hands, complete with future DVD releases and licensing deals. It’s the brainchild of Christian Jacobs (who also serves as the leader of the band, The Aquabats who, as expected, make regular appearances on the show), Scott Schultz (lead singer of the shoegaze band, Majestic) and Justin Lyon who formed The Magic Store, a Orange County-based creative conglomerate hellbent on creating the most compellingly visual children’s programming since Sid & Marty Krofft put down the bong.
With St. Louis native Lance Robertson (who used to work at the awesome-but-now-defunct Streetside Records in STL’s Delmar Loop neighborhood) playing the role of the cheeky narrator, DJ Lance Rock, the team put together a very low-fi version of the show in a demonstration tape that still managed to catch the attention of Nickelodeon execs who promptly ordered 20 episodes.
It’s easy to understand why: Yo Gabba Gabba! packages just enough irreverence for the attention deficient toddler and just enough indie-cred to get hipster parents to watch alongside the rugrats. Besides, who wouldn’t want to utter the magic words of “Yo Gabba Gabba” and escape into the positive-theme world of quirky characters navigating around bright colors and EDM soundtracks?