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In which John explores the best and most popular television shows designed for toddlers, and in doing so uncovers a strange and disturbing world through exploring shows including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, The Octonauts, Team Umizoomi, and Dora the Explorer, Diego, Ni Hao Kai Lan, Oswald, Phineas and Ferb, and the Backyardigans, among others.


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A Bunny
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Good morning, Hank, it's Tuesday. My son, Henry, doesn't watch a lot of television, although he does enjoy Uncle Hank's space videos, but I recently watched 12 of the most popular programs for toddlers to understand what he might be watching. And, Hank, because I remember that you were a big fan of the show Blue's Clues when you were in college, I come to you today with an introduction to contemporary children's television. So, Hank, in general, watching children's television is a dark and surreal descent into madness, where the characters on the screen talk directly to you. So, for example, at the end of every episode of Dora the Explorer, she'll be like, "what was your favorite part?" and I'll be like "well, the weirdest part was the part where you and your pet jaguar went camping with nothing but a flashlight and some snacks" and she'll say, "I liked that part, too!" and I'll be like, "no, I didn't like it, Dora, I thought it was weird. You're a toddler. You should be inside." Also, Hank, in the world of contemporary children's television, we've apparently abandoned child labor laws, like, take for example the Dora the Explorer spin-off, Diego. Diego's like a four year old who's been inexplicably promoted to some kind of park ranger that allows him to go around the world and save animals. Apparently, there are a lot of animals in distress, because like, Wonder Pets, which is about an operatic gerbil, he saves animals in need. As do the kids on Little Einsteins, a show about kids who fly around on a little rocket called... Rocket. But of course, Hank, there are also people in need, specifically child actors, and for those child actors, we have Special Agent Oso, an "Oso" (oh so) special agent panda who travels around the world helping child actors learn to do things, like tie their shoes. Team Umizoomi is also in the child actor assistance business, but they specialize in math, which can be a little bit humiliating because they'll be like, "hey, do you know what shape this is? And I'll be like, mmm, octahedron?" And they'll say, "that's right, it's a dodecahedron!" And I will feel the shame. Hank, there are also lots of shows about kids who go into their backyards and have really compelling hallucinations like The Cat in the Hat and The Backyardigans and Phineas and Ferb, which, by the way, is the best television program I have ever seen for children or adults. In fact, not to brag, but I own a Perry the Platypus Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers doll. It airs on the Disney Channel, which also contains Mickey Mouse Clubhouse; the first time I saw Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, I was like, "this is amazing, it's a television program with no advertisements!", and then I realized, the television program IS the advertisement. What else, oh yeah, there's the hot slice of crazy known as Yo Gabba Gabba. Hank, I don't know what Yo Gabba Gabba is about, but I do know that it contains more good music than MTV. Like, Hank, if you want to hear The Shins or Weezer or Weird Al or Mos Def on TV, you have to watch Yo Gabba Gabba. And then you have the wildly popular Ni Hao Kai Lan, a show that I'm surprised right wing commentators haven't gotten upset about, given how they felt about the Teletubbies, I mean, Ni Hao Kai Lan basically teaches American children like the importance of Confucian filial piety, a smattering of Mandarin Chinese words, and the very dangerous lesson that the best way to solve your problems is by collaborating with a tiger. Whereas in America, we know that the best way to solve our problems is by not collaborating at all. And lastly, Hank, there are currently two different shows on television about octopuses who inexplicably do not need water to survive. There's the charming Oswald and the terrifying Octonauts. So the Octonauts live at the bottom of the ocean in some kind of pressurized contraption, and their leader appears to be this monocled octopus, and then when sometimes they'll have animals in distress, they travel around in this anglerfish which is awesome, except the anglerfish has a male voice, and we all know that is a female anglerfish, because if it were a male, it would be just a sperm producing parasite on her side. More importantly, Hank, what's up with the octopus symbol that's on their hats and their uniforms and their coffee mugs? Has their monocled octopus cohort created some kind of cult of personality where they worship him as dear leader? And why is there a children's television program celebrating this weird underwater cult? And Hank, that's not even to mention Bubble Guppies, a show in which little mermaids and merdudes, despite living underwater, are able to have campfires. No wonder our science scores are so low. So, Hank, those are my conclusions from a week of watching children's TV, don't forget to be awesome, and I'll see you on Friday.