It was our own golden age of television

Why the shows of our childhood were superior

by Darby O'Neill, Art Director

Growing up in an age of worldwide technological expansion had a large effect on all of us, and while it can be debated whether that effect was positive or negative, its impact is severe regardless. We were an audience of guinea pigs in a fresh and marketing-driven era of television. And because of this, our senior class has very fortunately had access to the best waves of weird and wonderful, nostalgia-inducing, (yet mostly cash-grabby) children’s television. At this time, grab the remote, a snack, and come along that journey with me.

by Darby O’Neill

My television journey started with the epitome of media available to anyone under the age of 2: “Baby Einstein.” “Baby Einstein” premiered in the late ‘90s and was in its prime until Disney bought it in 2001; that’s when the production quality noticeably dropped off. Personally, I don’t understand why more people don’t talk about this show, it’s truly a marvel. You’re bored? Baby Einstein. You want something to play in the background? Baby Einstein. You want stimulation? Baby Einstein. I’ve been casually watching it recently and nothing has made me artificially feel the simplistic way of infant life faster. I think drool might have started coming out of my mouth I was so mesmerized. 

Once I gained the ability to speak, I started moving on to shows made for a preschool audience. We were lucky that we got to see a lot of channels in their prime; for instance, we were there when Nick Jr. was still Noggin and Disney Jr. was still Playhouse Disney.

by Darby O’Neill

Another station that I think deserves special recognition for the role it played in our preschool-age development was PBS kids, a channel that you didn’t need cable TV to watch. PBS Kids is loaded with some of the more educational classics and also home to some of the best theme songs I’ve ever heard in my life. After some deliberation, I’ve decided I want the “Dinosaur Train” theme song playing on a constant loop at my funeral. And “Word Girl?”or “Martha Speaks?” Definitely the reason I’m passing English. 

Now we enter arguably the best era of TV, that being Disney Channel throughout elementary and middle school. We as seniors were arguably too young to remember watching shows like “Suite Life,” “That’s So Raven,” or “Sonny With A Chance” live, but we were right on the cusp of getting “Wizards of Waverly Place,” and “Shake It Up” which definitely gives us some street cred.

by Darby O’Neill

We were just in time to watch the premieres of classics like “Ant Farm,” “Jessie,” and “Austin & Ally,” which all began in 2011, much to my intrigue. This pocket of shows and original movies certainly shaped an entire generation of kids in terms of bold fashion choices and sassy comebacks. 

While the live action shows of this era certainly carried, many stations were airing cartoons; a riskier media in terms of being successful, in my opinion. 

While I was never really a Nickelodeon kid, (with perhaps the exception of “Go Diego Go”) I could write another entire article about the treasure chest that is The Cartoon Network. Personally, “The Amazing World Of Gumball,” “Adventure Time,” and “Steven Universe” were some of my favorites. From the gorgeous artwork, memorable songs, and genuinely funny sense of humor, Cartoon Network (CN) always cranked out bangers that broke boundaries as far as what a cartoon could be.

While no network may have been pumping out cartoons like CN, no cartoon was doing it quite like “Gravity Falls,” a sidebar I feel is necessary to bring up. A Disney XD cartoon that premiered in 2012, “Gravity Falls” told the loveable story of a pair of twins that spend the summer with their eccentric, money-hungry great-uncle and uncover the supernatural mysteries of the small Oregon town. It was the perfect blend of fun lightheartedness and spooky worldbuilding with something for everyone and humor that stands the test of time. I used to have Gravity Falls anniversary parties with my friends every year, and I still find myself making little niche references to it here and there.

As high school began, most of us had long since outgrown the desire for kids TV. My immature self may have been excluded from this “us,” but that’s besides the point. With a new age of kids TV sweeping in behind us, where does this leave us on the journey today?

by Darby O’Neill

Unfortunately, newer shows simply don’t have the same level of originality and iconicness as those of our generation did. While there are some exceptions, I find that kids shows nowadays, (especially those for younger audiences,) lack that special something and are ultimately more cash-grabby than ever. It appears that these large entertainment corporations care less and less about production value with new shows lacking in effort, creativity, and more often than not resorting to cheap humor. 

As we go on and grow even further away from childhood, there’s really nothing left for us to do other than sit back and watch how it all plays out. Whether you never watched much TV as a kid, or the mere thought of “Lemonade Mouth” brings a melancholy tear to your eye, (as it should- that movie is flawless,) I hope your television journey has served you well. I know it did for me. And someday when you, dear reader, are perhaps watching TV with kids of your own- just make sure you show them the classics.