I’m always on the lookout for something clean and funny I can watch with The Nerdling. She’s 11 years old, so when looking for something we’ll both enjoy, the choices are limited. I keep an open mind when it comes to Disney shows. I understand going in that we’re not looking at Emmy-caliber work here. I know there will be stupid jokes, obvious punch lines, predictable stories, and a few bad actors. That’s okay. It’s just silliness.
The issues for me usually come in the adult/kid relationships. This is where innocent and humorous becomes disrespectful and rude. On many of the shows, the insolence comes from one particular character. On some, the show’s producers set up the adults to be so inept and stupid, it’s a wonder that they can even raise kids at all.
Here are some examples of some hits and misses for Disney Channel programming in recent years.
- A.N.T. Farm – I really do find this show hilarious. When it’s about the kids. Their acting makes me laugh. Their over-the-top characterizations are really well done for comedic effect. The only downside comes in the adults. Sadly, the dad is a buffoon, the school principal is mean and uncaring, their class supervisor is a moron, and the owner of their 3rd season school is self-involved.
- Hannah Montana – The first two seasons start off very promising. Miley dresses in disguise when she performs as a rock star on stage so no one knows it’s her. She learns some good lessons and has an enriching relationship with her father. In later episodes, you feel a shift. Suddenly Miley is a little more of a diva. Now she exploits her fame to receive special treatment. Now she intentionally disobeys her dad, typically to be with a boy.
- Jessie – Many of the episodes are quite funny. Jessie is a likable character and is typically quite patient and loving with the kids she nannies. The few adults are pathetic; a butler that doesn’t want to work and parents that are never present. But the largest issue here comes in the form of the youngest child, Zuri. She’s always rude, disobedient, disrespectful and dishonest with her nanny, her friends, her siblings, and even strangers. And she never has any consequence for it! They all just shake their head like, “That’s just Zuri.” All of the kids have some of these traits, but I’ve never seen it in any other character or on any other show to this extreme. How about teaching that bad behavior comes with consequences!?
- Sonny With a Chance – I really enjoyed this show while it was on. Sonny was optimistic and kind and fun to have around. As with most Disney programs, adults are mysteriously absent most of the time.
- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody – Silliness and troublesome antics are very present in this show, but with one very noticeable difference: The mom. Their mom cares about them. Their mom teaches them lessons and corrects them when they’re wrong. Their mom acts like a loving parent! Gasp! Unfortunately, the mom character is gone for the spin-off series, The Suite Life on Deck. (Happily, one of the students from the youth group I led in California appears as Woody.)
- Wizards of Waverly Place – I won’t even let my kids watch this show. We tried a couple of episodes, but one thing immediately stuck out to me: Selena Gomez’s character, Alex, is manipulative, disobedient and rude to her parents. That’s not funny to watch, it’s downright painful!
Remember when programming for kids taught lessons and had morals? Remember when the adults were respected and listened to? On the first season of Saved by the Bell (Good Morning, Miss Bliss), the kids would take their teacher’s advice on dealing with their issues. Boy Meets World, though not made for Disney Channel, was a Disney-produced show that fit the more useful adults-are-mentors-not-idiots genre.
I’m not saying to stop watching the Disney Channel shows. They do have some very entertaining aspects. But I do recommend that you watch a few of them with your kids and explain the difference between TV and reality. I question my daughter as we watch. “Would I ever let you get away with that?” “What would happen to you if you said what that kids just said?” Encourage kids to know that adults are not just hanging around to be the punch line on a joke from a disrespectful child. Adults are available to be mentors, instructors, teachers and sometimes even friends.
What other shows portray adults as idiots? What shows show a positive adult role model? Comment me!