Like many of us, kids' TV writer Josh Selig
can say he grew up on Sesame Street. But unlike most of us, he literally grew
up on the show as a cast member, rubbing elbows with Big Bird, Ernie, Bert and
the gang. Selig has since spent his
career working in children's television. He is a multiple Emmy Award-winning writer
for Sesame Street, and went on to create Little Airplane Productions in 1999,
the birthplace of such beloved shows as The Wonder Pets!, Oobi and 3rd & Bird.
Selig's most recent project is Meet the Small Potatoes, a feature film based on his Small Potatoes series about a rock band of talented tubers. The film is a kind
of mockumentary of a mockumentary—think This Is Spinal Tap for the stroller
set. After screening at the Los Angeles Children's Film Festival, it will be available on DVD beginning April 30.
He talked to mom.me about good preschool TV as well as his favorite character.
are the ingredients of good preschool TV?
Beyond the usual
stuff—great characters, writing and production design—the best shows tend to
originate from deep within an individual and reflect his or her own childhood
experiences. The more personal a show
is, the more universal it is. I think
that's pretty much true of everything.
important for a show to have a curriculum, or can kids just be entertained?
I think the most important thing is that a
show respect its young audience. This
can happen with or without a curriculum. After all, most of us first heard Rossini's The Barber of Seville in
an episode of Bugs Bunny. The worst
shows, in my view, talk down to children and expose them to music, writing and
design that is not high quality.
best way for parents to learn about shows for their kids without having to
watch all of them?
to other parents. Check out clips on
YouTube or Netflix to see what your kids like. Never trust ratings or parenting websites, as these tend to lean towards
shows that are the least interesting and ruffle the fewest feathers.
Who is your
favorite character in preschool TV, and why?
I've had a real soft spot for
Grover ever since I was a kid. Grover is
not particularly clever or talented, but he does try very hard. Though I always wanted to be Spider-Man, I'm
that are really annoying for adults are the ones kids want to watch over and
over again. What gives?
Some of the shows that parents don't like
offer something very special to young children: They make them feel helpful or make them feel loved. These qualities outweigh good production
values in the eyes and the hearts of most child viewers.
My kid tends
to get obsessed with certain characters. Should I be worried?
Not at all. Just as teenagers get obsessed with a song or
a band, preschoolers get obsessed with a character or a preschool show. This usually lasts anywhere from a few weeks
to a few months, and then they move on to something else. Many kids get obsessed with Ming-Ming
Duckling on The Wonder Pets, and some will even talk like her for a while. (Ming-Ming pronounces her "r's" like "w's.") This is harmless, though one parent actually
sent me a bill for her kid's speech pathologist!