That being said, most parents I know (including myself!) appreciate the brief periods of quiet that a television program can bring to one's household. Sometimes a parent just needs two minutes of blessed quiet to maintain their sanity for the rest of the day.
My munchkin is still pretty little (toddler/preschool age), so while we don't watch a lot of television, there are extra levels of crazy in the programming designed for kids in that age range. Seriously, sometimes you wonder where the writers and animators are getting their drugs.
TV Shows that Munchkin Seems to Enjoy and Don't Make Me Completely Nutso:
This is a BBC series about a crew of animals who travel Earth's oceans in their crazy underwater living quarters/ship, helping ocean creatures. They end every episode by singing a song with facts about the creature they helped, with video of the real life animal in the background. It is cute without being saccharine and educational without beating you about the head. My only issue with this show is that while there are two female crew members (one of whom is the ship's mechanic/fix it lady) the show mostly revolves around three male crew members. It would have been awesome to have more episodes featuring Dashi & Twig in more central roles.
- Bubble Guppies
A Nickelodeon show featuring 6 little mermaid kindergarten children (or guppies). Each episode they learn about something which is triggered by what the guppies see on their way to school (eg. running into a friend who falls and breaks their tail leads to a whole episode about doctors and medical related things). I love that all 6 guppies seem to get equal face/air time, in addition to having an even gender split in the characters (the three girls are Molly, Deema and Oona, and the three boys are Gil, Goby & Nonny). The songs are really catchy, and my only real beef with the show is that there are so many freaking nautical puns.
- Peg + Cat
This is a joint Canadian-American production. The main point of the show is to demonstrate mathematical concepts to little ones, but does so fairly subtly (the characters ask viewers to help with counting, finding shapes, or doing simple addition or subtraction problems - in order to solve a dilemma in the show). A fair amount of singing is involved, and I love that the show is presented so that it looks like everything is drawn on graph paper.
- Zack & Quack
The whole thing is based in a world that is essentially a giant pop-up book. Zack, a little boy, and his friend Quack, a duck, are theoretically the show's heroes, but they rely heavily on next door neighbour Kira, who carries a paper fixing kit with her wherever she goes. This show is seriously adorable.
- Fraggle Rock
I know, I know, this show has not had a new episode since 1987, but it is readily available on DVD or Blue-Ray (we have the first two seasons on disk). It started in Canada with the Jim Henson company, and translates better than some other stuff from that era, since it was intended for international audiences right from the beginning.
It is just as good as you remembering it being when you were little. The only thing that doesn't hold up as well is the green screen effects and some of the out in the real world scenes (whoa, the early 80s!), but everything else is still pretty awesome. You get the lovely nostalgia factor, and your kid gets to watch high quality programming.
TV Shows that Munchkin Seems to Enjoy that Hurt My Brain
- Toopy & Binoo
This is a Canadian series about a cat (who doesn't talk) and a rat (who doesn't freaking shut up) and their adventures in their 'whimsical' world.
The writers of this show have smoked ALL the drugs. It was nominated for a Gemini award, but I can only imagine it was because the show's staff shared their stash of the good stuff. Seriously, this show is all kinds of WTF.
- Mike the Knight
This Canadian show means well, and some of it is cute. That being said, Mike is a bossy, know-it-all little brat who doesn't ask for help until everything is about to bite him in the butt. He's mean to his sister because she is a wizard and not a knight. He treats his dragon buddies like slaves. He is bossy at his other friends, unless he needs something from them. In short, Mike sucks.
- Thomas and Friends
This is not the Thomas the Tank Engine of years past. Thomas in his 2010's incarnation is similar to Mike the Knight - the trains are whiny, selfish little bastards. You will watch this and yearn for drunk Ringo or George Carlin from the 90s to return and kick their annoying train butts. Kids, unfortunately, love them because trains.
Much like teenagers boarding a bus in threes, I can't even with this show. It is full of terrible stereotypes (especially gender related, especially on the rare occasions that the show's lone female character is allowed to make an appearance - boys like to smash! And play rough!). I don't understand how an award winning children's author is behind this mess. Seriously, dude wrote The Stinky Cheese Man and is now doing THIS??
If you have any recommendations for keeping a small child entertained for a few moments so that the parent in the house can get things done without said small person underfoot, shout them out in the comments!