Thursday, May 29, 2014

Giving a Monkey a Shower

Michael Levin asks What Makes 'Phineas and Ferb' the Most Original TV Show Since Ernie Kovacs?:

Phineas and Ferb is unique among TV cartoons in that it treasures the creativity and resourcefulness of kids while at the same time preserving the dignity and wisdom of parents. Indeed, on P&F, people basically get along. The parents have a functional relationship (something that used to be known as a happy marriage). They appreciate each other's quirks and embrace their roles as spouses and parents. Phineas and Ferb are half-brothers; they get along, perhaps because Ferb doesn't seem to mind that Phineas does most of the talking. (Swampy says Ferb's character is based on an uncle of his who had a cleft palate and didn't say much, but when he did say one thing, it was such a wise statement that everyone sat up and took notice.)

The half-brothers get along with their older sister, Candace, whose voice is performed by High School Musical veteran Ashley Tisdale. Candace suffers from teenage angst -- she constantly obsesses over the state of affairs with her boyfriend Jeremy while determining just how much energy to divert into "busting" her brothers, whom, deep down, she actually adores.

Even the action figures of the piece -- a pet platypus who transmogrifies himself into Secret Agent P in order to do battle with the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz -- recognize how much they need each other. Says Povenmire, "We said to ourselves, 'Can't we do a show where nobody's a jerk or an idiot to each other?'"

Our boys have been watching "Phineas and Ferb" for quite a while and it is easily the best show on television for kids. The writing is witty and fun and hits the mark when it comes to hooking the kids while keeping adults interested at the same time. That's a rare combination in the world of children's television today.

I never really gave much thought to how the characters interact on the show until I read this piece, but the fact that they do get along is also part of the appeal of the show. The children aren't snarky brats and the adults aren't doofuses. It isn't that fake holding hands around the campfire singing "Kumbaya" crap that you find on some PBS shows. It's an animated children's show so it obviously doesn't reflect reality, but there's nothing wrong with having likeable characters who treat each other decently.

A show for kids where the characters don't insult each other and the writers don't insult the intelligence of the audience? Who'd have thunk it? The guys who created "Phineas and Ferb" did.