This week on “The 5”, New York comedian Doug Smith wants to help parents of pre-school aged kids avoid a very common problem: smashing their brains out after watching too much terrible children’s television. He’s confident he can save your sanity.
Smith just debuted his own original programming- his new album Barely Regal debuted at #1 on the iTunes comedy charts this month and is now available on all digital and streaming platforms from 800 Pound Gorilla Records. Barely Regal is a cutting collection of Doug’s musings about his direct relation to Ulysses S. Grant, raising a son, maintaining a marriage, and keeping your sanity in the hellscape that is New York City. Doug is hilarious, and he’s got great credits including a Conan appearance, an appearance on Gotham Comedy Live, selection as one of Just for Laughs New Faces, inclusion on Kevin Hart’s LOL Network, a spot that went Viral on Ari Shaffir’s This is Not Happening on Comedy Central, and he’s opened for Norm McDonald. He is perhaps best known as the lead in Comedy Central’s viral Mini-Mock, “Brooklyn Ball Barbers”, which has since accumulated a record 240 million views.
So get your hands on his album, Barely Regal and check out his Five (unless he cheats, but who would do that?) picks for childrens programming that won’t make you suicidal.
In a sea of Paw Patrols and PJ Masks, finding a kids show that a parent can enjoy without the help of edibles is no easy task. The only episode of Dinosaur Train I wanna see is the reunion show 5 years from now where Buddy, the adopted t-Rex brother in a family of pteranodons, has to deal with the repercussions of instinctively eating his loved ones. Until then, these programs will keep you from Googling “human euthanasia” while your slack jawed toddler stands two inches from the screen.
#1. Sesame Street. Obvious choice but the fact that it’s remained relevant and consistent for half a decade, unlike Aerosmith or the Simpsons, is quite remarkable. The show took a bit of a dive when it hit HBO and was forced to make some cuts due to shorter runtime. Bring back Murray, the greatest monster on the street since Billy Eichner. But they did introduce a new cooking segment where Cookie Monster and his adorable little buddy Gonger serve up simple meals at the request of hungry fans. They taste test each concoction themselves and it’s such a relief to see Cookie get some much needed omega-3s after somehow managing to avoid a diabetic coma for over 40 years. Not a huge fan of all the new puppets, like Julia the autistic girl, simply portrayed as socially awkward and withdrawn. Sure, its important to have people with disabilities normalized but make her halfway likeable for Christ’s sake. She’s not even an excellent driver who can count matchsticks at a glance. Props to Ilana Glazer for stepping in to replace Mr. Noodle, formerly played by a “mime” who had more of a “sweaty drunk sex offender” vibe. She does a fantastic job weathering verbal abuse from Elmo, who relentlessly shames her for incorrectly performing simple tasks. “Don’t brush your teeth with the toilet plunger, Mrs. Noodle!”
#2. How To Train Your Dragon: Race to the Edge. Or as I like to call it, Game of Thrones: No Tits Edition. It’s a similar medieval world as young Viking lad Hiccup Haddock and his ragtag band of dragon riders take to the sky for epic battles, facing off against backstabbing foes from faraway lands. Unlike most TV series spawned from a movie franchise, RTTE has several major carryovers from the film cast, including Jay Baruchel and TJ Miller. Miller especially shines as Tuffnut Thorston, a blowhard know-it-all who along with his twin sister Ruffnut, can’t seem to put a right foot forward. Too bad he got the axe for putting a pickle in his ass on a commuter train. Or something like that. Hard to keep track of who did what in the #metoo era. The expansive roster of dragon species is truly remarkable; really makes me regret taunting Austin Hull in 4th grade for his obsession with the damn things. Of course he took solace living in an alternate universe… he was raised by a single mom who wouldn’t let him go to school on rainy days. Sorry, Austin. You were right. I’ll admit it… dragons DO rock!
#3. Ask the Storybots. An animated gang of blob creatures who live inside our screens, Bing, Bang, Beep, Boop, and Bo are called upon by inquisitive viewers to find out how things work. All the miraculous scientific wonders we take for granted and are too thick headed to explain to our kids ourselves (electricity, flight, DNA) are demystified in a thoughtful and creative way. Celeb guests lead the charge as experts on the subject in question. All hail Edward Norton in the comedic performance of the year as Gary, a Middle-Eastern electronics salesman who gets zapped by a faulty toaster and still manages to swindle the Storybots on a refurbished dumb phone.
#4. Tumble Leaf. A gorgeous stop motion world where Fig the fox lives on an abandoned shipwreck (don’t worry no dead passengers shown) with his best friend Stick the caterpillar. Each episode, they pull an everyday object from the finding place and use said object in a unique and imaginative foray into scientific discovery. Example: When Fig and his pal Maple get lost in the woods, they use coins to reflect moonlight on a path to find their way home. The plot lines are like a mushroom trip without the existential crisis. The landscape is so lush and inviting, if it was a theme park, I’d buy a season pass with or without children. The show is so goddamn addictive, I find myself watching it after my son had gone to bed. My wife walks in and I flip the channel like I got caught watching porn. In fact, that’s my cover up. “What were you watching?” “Porn!” Until I get a map of Tumble Leaf tattooed across my heart, I’ve done the next best thing. I named our cats after the main characters. In fact, I plan on getting more cats just to round out the cast.
#5. There is no number 5. I had to wrack my brain to come up with these four. If my son tries to watch anything else I snatch the remote out of his hand and ask, “You ever watch Sopranos?”