Age Appropriate TV

hdtv_smallRecently, NHL took a liking to watching The Pink Panther on Netflix.  He loves the comedy of the classic cartoons.  Unfortunately, his peers don’t seem to share his enthusiasm.  In fact, one of them recently made fun of him for it.

First of all, I took NHL aside and gave him a bit of advice.  I told him that he is NOT to stop watching or enjoying something just because someone else doesn’t like it and especially not because someone made fun of him for it.

Beyond that, however, B and I decided that we should introduce him to some age appropriate television shows.  It’s all well and good that JSL loves Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Doc McStuffins, and other Disney Jr. shows.  NHL, however, is too old for those programs.

We began to brainstorm what kinds of shows a 9 year old would watch.  Unfortunately, all the shows we came up with came from our childhood: Alf, the Cosby Show, and Full House to name a few.  These shows, while age appropriate, aren’t likely to be interests that his peers share.  I doubt that many kids in the fourth grade watch the antics of Willie Tanner, Cliff Huxtable, or Joey Gladstone.

So we’re on the hunt to introduce NHL to some shows that suit him both in terms of subject matter, age appropriateness, and peer popularity.  We won’t show him a program to merely because everyone else is watching it, but it would be nice for him to have common interests with his classmates.

What shows do you think suit a nine year old boy?

Note: The HDTV image above was created by jgm104 and is available via

TV Rewind Addiction

moose_and_squirrelOne of the fun parts about being a parent is introducing your kids to shows that you grew up with.  I’ve shown my boys Spiderman and his Amazing Friends, Rugrats, , Animaniacs, and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (via the new series since the 80’s series isn’t available to stream).

Their latest retro streaming obsession, however, is Rocky and Bullwinkle.  I t began with me playing a few Fractured Fairy Tales for NHL.  He wasn’t enthusiastic about seeing it, at first.  I guess he assumed that "show dad used to watch when he was a kid" would equal "boring."  (No matter how many shows they come to like that I introduce them to, they always seem to assume this.)  After seeing the first one, however, NHL begged to see another and another.  Soon, he was showing them to his brother and they were laughing at the fairy tales gone wrong.

Then, they discovered Moose and Squirrel.  NHL is now obsessive about seeing every episode.  He got really upset when, after returning from a quick supermarket run with me, he saw JSL watching an episode he hadn’t seen.  It looks like another win for Shows Dad Loved Watching.

Note: The moose image above is by Seeman and the squirrel is by helicopterjeff.  Both images are available via

Cable Deals and Cutting The Cord

cut_cable_TV_smallOver the years, I’ve written a few times about cutting cable.  There was my initial assessment back in August of 2009 that figured we’d save just under $200 a year.  Then, a couple of months later, I wrote an Aloha Friday post to see if anyone else had cut their cable.  (Quite a few had or were seriously considering it.)

In November, we got our first Roku box, signed up with Netflix, and I did a four part series on Netflix, Roku, and cutting cable.  At the time, I re-assessed how much cutting cable would save us.  This time, I came up with a figure closer to $50 a month.  This meant that cutting cable would save us $600 a year.  It was highly tempting, but the online options just didn’t seem *quite* there at the time.

A year later, in October of 2010, I wrote a follow up about cutting cable.  In this post, I pointed out how we weren’t paying for DVD video rentals anymore except (at the time) through Netflix.  Instead, we were borrowing DVDs from our local library for free.  (Ok, there are taxes we pay that pay for this, but we’d pay those taxes whether we used the service or not.  We can’t exactly opt out of paying taxes.)  Again, I felt that we were close to cutting, but not quite there.

Since then, the situation has evolved.  First, Netflix raised their prices and separated out their DVD and streaming offerings.  We made what seemed to be a tough call:  We cancelled our Netflix DVD service.  In the end, it was great getting all of those DVDs, but they would often sit unwatched for weeks.  Meanwhile, Netflix streaming was getting more and more use.

Next, we signed up for Amazon Prime.  This was initially to help defray shipping costs if we bought items from Amazon, but it also meant that we got many Amazon Video on Demand movies/TV shows for free.

In addition, Netflix and Amazon have gone on a streaming licensing spree in the past two years.  More and more items have come onto streaming.  In fact, it has gotten to the point that my boys barely ever switch over to live TV.  They are content to watch Netflix streaming shows all day, every day.

On the purchased DVD front, I figured out how to stream my DVDs within my house.  This means that we don’t have to root through the DVD cabinet, load the disc, and then put it back when done.  Instead, we can select the movie/TV show from an easy to navigate menu and hit play.  This will mean that we will be more likely to buy DVDs since the boys can play them themselves on a whim instead of asking us for help finding/loading them.

Also, as my boys have grown, their entertainment tastes have changed.  Instead of just sitting and watching TV, they will love playing on the computer, playing on their Nintendo DS systems, playing with Legos, or playing on the iPad.  NHL has even discovered books and will spend hours looking through the various books he has.  All of these cut down on  TV time.

In fact, using our DVR as a guide, we only really watch about 19 shows now.  Those can all be viewed either from an over-the-air broadcast, Netflix, Amazon VOD, or the network’s website.

Finally, cable TV prices have gone up.  Last year, we were ready to quit, but got a great deal from our cable company.  Since that deal was about to expire, I called up to see what they could do for us.  The "deal" we were given was that we would pay more money and get slower Internet.  When I asked about keeping our "standard speed" Internet, I was given a quote for a LOT more money than what we’re paying now.

At this point, cutting cable would save us nearly $65 a month.  That’s almost $780 every year that we could put into other needed areas (or even *gasp* save).  Given that we have been using cable less and less, that cable is getting more and more expensive, and that all of the TV shows we like watching are available elsewhere, I’d say we’re closer than ever to cutting the cable cord.  Right now, I’d wager that actually cutting the cable cord will be tougher than living without cable TV will be.

Have you cut your cable cord or called your cable company to request a lower rate?

NOTE: The "No Cable TV" image above was made by combining HDTV by jgm104 and No-sign by skotan.  Both images are available from

Asperger’s, Television, and Arthur

Ever since NHL’s diagnosis, I found that I like seeing depictions of Asperger’s on television.  There’s the Parenthood (which I actually don’t watch, but have heard is a great portrayal), Doctor Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory (which never comes out and says that he has Asperger’s since it is a comedy and Sheldon’s actions often elicit laughs, but otherwise makes a great portrayal), and more.

Recently, I had heard that PBS’s Arthur had an episode on Asperger’s Syndrome.  Technically speaking, the episode aired two years ago, but I hadn’t seen it except in a small YouTube segment.  Over the weekend, though, I realized that we have Arthur on Netflix.  Perhaps the episode was there to watch.  I didn’t know the title offhand, but skimming through the long list of episodes (Arthur has been on the air for over 16 years now), I found it.  Season 13, episode 6: When Carl Met George.

The basic plot is simple, George (a moose who likes ventriloquism) is sent to the library to find more glue for his class.  There he meets Carl, a boy who is completing a puzzle, likes trains, and whose mother is getting him apple juice "in a box, not a bottle."  Carl speaks in a bit of a monotone voice, has trouble with expressions ("Maybe we can hang out sometime." "Hang out of what?"), is startled and overwhelmed by unfamiliar objects (such as George’s ventriloquism dummy: a big giraffe), is extremely honest, and who can speak on and on about subjects he loves without noticing or caring whether anyone is listening.

I found this episode extremely interesting.  I found Arthur’s portrayal of Carl to be extremely accurate.  I could see parallels in much of what Carl does and how he acts with NHL.  For example, while Carl might go on and on about trains, NHL has trouble stopping talking about Legos or video games.  He’ll try to give everyone a detailed description of where he is in his current favorite game and every single step he needed to take to get there.  He also has trouble distinguishing when the other person has heard enough or when the conversation is over.  (He’ll often leave the room still talking about his favorite subject – a trait that I used to exhibit and still do from time to time.)

My favorite segment, however, was the "what it is like to have Asperger’s" sequence.  In this, George takes an imaginary trip to another world.  On this world, many things look the same as on Earth, but a lot is different.  People talk very loud for no particular reason, have odd expressions that make perfect sense to them ("good night for a banana fight, right?"), and dress in a matter that we would find extremely funny (but that they see as perfectly normal – thus making George look weird for laughing).  The segment only lasts two minutes, but boils down the challenge of Aspies living in a neurotypical world.

Also interesting is the "real world" segment that comes after "When Carl Met George."  Arthur episodes typically include "And Now a Word from Us Kids", which shows real kids talking about what the animated episode was discussing.  This sequence showed some real kids with Asperger’s and Autism riding horses (as therapy) and in school.  I really liked the closing quote from the teacher:  "People who have minds that work differently are really, really interesting people.  They matter just as much as everyone else."

This might be a bit delayed, but I’d like to thank the creators of PBS and Arthur for such a wonderful episode.  Given that the series tackled Asperger’s so wonderfully, and that it has taken on other big topics, such as cancer, this is definitely a show I will be encouraging my kids to watch.

NOTE: The Autism Awareness ribbon icon above was created by Melesse and comes from Wikimedia Commons.

Commercially Inappropriate

Last week, I saw the following tweet come through from my friend Christina Gleason (aka WELLInTHISHouse):


This tweet was made at 3:44PM on a Thursday.  This is easily a time when children can be listening.  I was surprised, but didn’t really think about it again until Saturday.  B had gone out to secure some groceries and I was watching the boys.  Feeling tired, I convinced the boys to all cuddle in bed and watch Star Wars: Episode I.  I didn’t even notice what channel it was on.  All I knew was that it was noon and we were going to enjoy a nice, wholesome Jedi movie.

Then, the channel cut to commercial.  Suddenly, we were presented with a couple who were very eager to get their purchase completed in the pharmacy.  You see, they were buying Trojan condoms and were "in a rush" to get out of there.  The commercial even had a graphic of a rolled out and "filled up" (albeit with a generic shape) condom.

I lay there with only one thought in my mind: Which of my kids are going to ask what a "condom" is?  Which will say they want one (as they seem to do for everything advertised on TV)?  Will this lead to questions about what the guy and the girl were doing as they hurried out of the pharmacy?

Thankfully, my kids ignored the ad.  I guess their brains recognized that this wasn’t an ad for a toy and, thus, fell into the "boring TV ad" category.  Still, I was shocked.  Yes, in hindsight, I noticed that this was Spike TV.  I realize they’re not exactly a paragon of clean programming.  Still, a condom ad in the middle of the day during a movie that is rated PG and thus suitable for many young children?

It’s bad enough that we need to screen television shows and music for appropriate content.  Do we really need to be screening for commercials as well?  If so, score 1 for DVRs and 0 for Live TV.

Has your child ever stumbled upon an inappropriate commercial?  If so, how did they react?

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