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Yo Gabba Gabba: Giving Preschoolers Indie Cred Since 2007

March 7, 2010

As a new father, certain decisions have to be made concerning one’s daytime television habits. For example, 24 is no longer acceptable viewing during lunch, but Thomas the Tank Engine is. Out: Oldboy. In: The Berenstain Bears. You get the idea.

As young Q is still too young to truly put any sort of word-action combinations together with the things he sees on children’s television, his exposure to any sort of television is simply relegated to — by his own choosing, ignoring most any other sort of programming — classic fave Sesame Street and Nickelodeon’s neo-kids-rave Yo Gabba Gabba.

Let’s be honest: it’s no mystery that children are magically drawn to Sesame Street. After all, who among us haven’t grown up loving Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, The Count, Cookie Monster and company? Sesame Street is now and its fortieth year, and there’s no sign of it even slowing. It’s a given that our grandchildren will be watching Elmo as well.

If Sesame Street is the example of honing an idea to perfection, Yo Gabba Gabba is an free-for-all cyclone of wigged-out madness. Each trip to Gabbaland is helmed by the friendly, over-anunciating, androgynous DJ Lance Rock, whose toys become the living characters Muno (“he’s tall and friendly”), Foofa (“she’s pink and happy”), Brobee (“the little green one”), Toodee (“she likes to have fun”) and Plex (“a magic robot”). The entire affair is rather simplistic, truth be told. But it’s what producers Scott Schultz and Christian Jacobs, both former members of the Orange County alternative music scene of the late nineties, do with the formula. They’ve take what should be a standard, throwaway series of basic, rudimentary pre-school lessons and rhymes for kids who are easy to please — and turned it into one of the hippest places to be seen.

In addition to the generalized songs the Gabba bunch sing in unison (“It’s Fun to Make a Snack,”I Like To Dance,” “Don’t Bite Your Friends”), the show also features stop-ins from Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh as a beret-sporting illustrator and Biz Markie beatboxing “Biz’s Beat of the Day.” Occasionally famous folks — like Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood and Sean Kingston, to name a few — will stop in to introduce the gang to a new “Dancey Dance,” which is usually a simple three or four-step dance everyone can do in unison.

But the real kicker comes from the show’s music. Each episode features a “Super Music Friends” segment wherein a known act will ham it up in costumes or against a green screen. And here’s where your mind gets blown. As it turns out, there are some pretty impressive acts going on at 10:30 in the morning on lil ol’ Nick Jr., including Shiny Toy Guns, The Roots, Weezer,  The Killers, The Shins, Of Montreal, The Ting Tings, MGMT, Mates of State, Enon, Joy Zipper and a host of others.

What does all this mean, my childless, single friends? It means that someone has found a way to simultaneously keep new parents halfway hip while their children beam at dancing costumed characters. It’s a brilliant concept for young parents in the 2000’s.  Because while you single folk are still out there schmoozing it up at your city’s hotspots as we sit at home covered in applesauce, we have Yo Gabba Gabba to keep us plugged in — strange though it may be. And let’s face it — you childless folk are just going to look creepy watching Yo Gabba Gabba by yourselves, so it’s a small one-up we parents have on you. And we’ll take what we can get.

(Oh, alright. Here’s a link to all you need to see. But you didn’t earn this by having children first, remember that. Consider it a gift.)

Next week’s Nickelodeon lineup features a brand new series of Yo Gabba episodes featuring the likes of Sarah Silverman, Mos Def and chef Anthony Bourdain (as, strangely enough, “Dr. Tony”), plus a whole new batch of cusping and beloved bands bringing it down to grade-school level. It’ll all be gloriously bizarre and cool, to be sure. After all, it’s just as DJ Lance Rock tells us over and over: “listening and dancing to music is awesome.” Yes it is, DJ Lance Rock. Yes it is.

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