5/18/2009

Special Agent Oso Is Watching

Posted by Brandon |


I've been thinking a bit about Special Agent Oso ever since it debuted on Playhouse Disney recently. If you haven't seen it yet, well you probably don't have a toddler, so don't worry about it, you aren't missing much. Basically it's about a stuffed panda bear named Oso that helps kids with tasks like brushing their teeth or checking out a book from the library or finding their shoe in their dirty room. It's very colorful, it's got a catchy song, it's got pretty good intentions and it catches my daughter's attention, but there are still some things that bother me about it.

For one, I feel like it was developed by focus groups and committees. It liberally takes ideas from other successful kids shows and puts it all together into one package. A little bit of Spanish? Check. Talk to the audience? Check. Bad catch phrase? Check ("all part of the plan, more or less"). Merchandising friendly characters? They're supposed to be stuffed animals so, yeah, big time check - not to mention the merchandising potential for Paw Pilot, Oso's electronic helper thing or Numero Dos, the voice that comes out of his watch that seems to be his boss. Put all these elements together and it feels a little disingenuous to me.

One of the things that I was joking about today is how there are these little ladybug looking cameras that catch the kids having trouble with some task and send a signal to Special Agent Oso and how they seem very big brother-y. Sure, in the show they are being used for good, but what if they fell into the wrong hands? I mean, Special Agent Oso is about as "special" as it gets, it doesn't seem like it would be hard. But what actually kind of bothers me about them is that it portrays constant, secret surveillance as something positive to kids. I'm half joking about this and I'm sure that it wasn't their intention, but it does seem a little insidious.

But overall, I think Special Agent Oso has a good enough message that it trumps the committee feel and weird big brother issues. It teaches kids how to work through problems in a logical manner - three special steps is all it takes, apparently - and that isn't bad. But adults won't get much out of it if you have to watch it as well. It's not cloying or insulting like Barney or the Wiggles, but there isn't much for you here, though I'm surprised Disney's research didn't figure out a way to shoehorn something under the radar for adults in there.

10 comments:

Dave2 said...

Special Agent Oso has been tagged by Blues Clues?!?

Bubblewench said...

I've never seen a yellow and green panda before. Perhaps a touch of the swine flu?

Jay Ferris said...

If Yo Gabba Gabba is acid, this show is speed.

Dan said...

Don't forget, he's Oso special too.

James (SeattleDad) said...

Man, I look what I am missing w/o television. Keep me filled in.

grantruby said...

A panda bear named Oso? What will they come up with next, a bobcat named Gato?

Anonymous said...

As much as I appreciate your insight into OSO, I think that we are over analyzing eveything on TV these days... Did we not grow up on Bugs Bunny being shot at all the time and the Coyote being blown up and thrown from cliffs??!! All I care about is how my 2 year old laughs and enjoys the show!

Rich said...

You're spot on. I guess it's not enough that we begin the indoctrination in high school; then in grade school; we now have to push it back towards birth.

I cringe every time I see my 4YO and 2YO watching it, yet my wife pooh-poohs me.

Jenifer said...

I think that we are over analyzing everything on TV these days...

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Billy Boy said...

My hatred of this show is enormous. Yes it has bad animation, yes the voice acting is terrible, yes they repeat certain lines ad nauseum to reduce production and editing costs. But what bothers me is that he is portrayed as borderline brain damaged. He is incapable of critical thought. He requires assistance for the most minimal of actions (pick...up...fork?). His complete stupidity, and lack of promptness when the timer goes off enrages me to an absurd extent. Then what bothers me more, is the amount of funding his organization receives to basically spy on middle class children. Furthermore, why doesnt he help children that are truly in need? I guess his organizations mandate doesnt extend to liberia or the ivory coast. Find food in 3 special steps!

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