The Twist: PBS Kids is the magnum opus of children’s television


Trey Boudreaux

PBS Kids is often undervalued as a children’s TV channel, even with its large audience. The Sidekick staff designer Nrithya Mahesh shares her appreciation for the channel through a humorous column. Graphic by Trey Boudreaux.

Nrithya Mahesh, Staff Designer

The year is 2016. I return home from a strenuous day of third grade at Richard J. Lee Elementary School, exhausted from cutting construction paper all day. My mom asks me how my day went. I respond, “Not now mom, “Wild Kratts” is starting.”

The life of a stingy family is nothing without PBS Kids, the free channel children like me depended on for entertainment. I may not have had a choice to watch it, but PBS Kids stays a diamond in the rough of kid’s television. While all my other friends raved about the latest “Liv and Maddie” episode, I gushed about the wonders of “Odd Squad.” 

You can tell I was a cool kid in elementary school. 

PBS Kids is known for its educational content, whether it be social or math lessons. One of the most common themes throughout shows was language arts. With shows like “WordWorld” and “Super Why!”, the channel develops kid’s literacy skills at varying ages and times in their lives. Personally, “Martha Speaks” and “WordGirl” stood out the most at a young age. 

“Martha Speaks” is a show about an average dog who ate some alphabet soup, and on the way to Martha’s stomach, the letters lost their way. They traveled to her brain and now she’s got a lot to say! Don’t believe me? Listen to the theme song

“Martha Speaks” may be compared to a similar Disney Channel show about a talking dog, namely “Dog with a Blog.” However, did “Dog with a Blog” teach different complicated vocabulary words, such as hyperventilate and exaggerates, to an elementary audience? Exactly.

Another literacy based show, “WordGirl” featured Becky Botsford, a seemingly normal student, and her pet monkey Bob, who together moonlighted as the superhero duo WordGirl and Captain Huggy Face (what beautiful names, I know). Using the power of vocabulary, WordGirl defeats villains and restores peace around the city. 

The most revolutionary aspect of this show was the accurate portrayal of newspaper writers through Todd “Scoops” Ming. Scoops is one of few people to find out about WordGirl’s true identity, but stays quiet about it to not negatively impact Becky’s personal life, an ethical move.

In a world where the media usually shows reporters in a negative light, “WordGirl” improves the public perception of journalism. 

PBS Kids would be nowhere near as good as it was if it weren’t for the fabulous “Wild Kratts”. Following Chris and Martin Kratt as they save animals from perilous situations, “Wild Kratts” instilled a sense of environmental awareness in many children. Who has done more for the environment: Greta Thunberg or the Kratt Brothers? I’ll let you decide that one for yourself. 

PBS Kids might not be known for its music, but it excels at creating catchy songs. I might not know the current No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but I can sing the “Arthur” theme song by heart.

In fact, “Odd Squad” was home to the best boy band of all time: Soundcheck (what, did you think I was going to say BTS or One Direction?). Soundcheck released some of the most influential songs of my childhood, including “Take Away Four” and “Up, Down, Left, Right”.

Overall, “Odd Squad” was one of the best shows ever made. Where else could you see disillusioned children run a 9-to-5? I was a little too old to be learning about how to add single digit numbers, but I always acted surprised when they found out two plus two equals four.

No matter how great “Odd Squad” was, there was only space for one PBS Kids show in my heart, and “Arthur” held the spot. Having the most interesting set of characters and storylines, “Arthur” entertained me throughout my elementary education. The random tales of Muffy and DW held my attention when my parents’ couldn’t. 

I’m sure there are people arguing “But who even watches ‘Arthur’?” “Does anyone actually remember the show?” “Who in the world is DW?” If this is you, listen closely. 

Step 1: Search your favorite character’s name one letter at a time. 

Step 2: See how many letters it takes for their images to show up.

Step 3: Search DW one letter at a time

Step 4: Notice that DW shows up first on images after only two letters of search

“Arthur” has astronomical cultural relevance to this day. Sending a meme of a closed fist to your friend? That’s Arthur. Posting a meme of that one girl who can’t be stopped by a sign because she can’t read? That’s DW, also from “Arthur.” 

PBS Kids was an absolute joy for me as a child. It might not have had the relevance of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, but PBS Kids remains an influential network. So, next time you arrive home from school, tired from solving too many integrals, play an episode of “Arthur” and enjoy the wonders and nostalgia of free kids television. 

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