Yes, there were times as a toddler when my son Tim, now 12, would have fits in the supermarket, or demand to be carried for hours on end, or point at things and grunt and expect immediate service, like some rich mute person making demands of his butler. (Actually he still kind of does that last one, but I don’t hop to it like I used to. At least not as fast.)
But one thing I still thank him for was his taste in children’s television. My daughter went through a Barney phase that I’m convinced left pockets of saccharine in my brain that exist there to this day — that show was a prime example of what happens when you let PhDs design a television show. (Spoiler alert: Nothing good.)
But Timmy had good taste right from the start, almost immediately developing an affinity for Sesame Street and, even more so, the Henson Co.-produced ”Bear in the Blue House.” Getting to watch those shows almost made it worth being his butler. Here’s a whole episode of “Bear” that I heartily recommend you spend the next 24 minutes watching:
Both my kids also loved The Wiggles, which could have been problematic except for one thing: The Wiggles are awesome. There, I said it.
But one thing Timmy did not love so much, but that several of his friends seemed totally and comprehensively obsessed with, was Thomas the Tank Engine. For the uninformed, Thomas is a train who lives on an idyllic little island with all these other trains, and they communicate telepathically I guess, since their lips don’t really move, and sometimes there’s a tiny Ringo Starr, except when it’s George Carlin. And yes, I either dreamed that or I’m on drugs, or both.
So while Timmy was watching ”Bear in the Big Blue House,” his friends were pushing little Thomases around the house, and going to special Thomas events dressed in Thomas overalls, and watching hours upon hours of telepathic trains teaching each other lessons, like that they should always try their best and that if they don’t, the Diesel train will run them off the tracks, killing them instantly. (You can tell I only picked up on these plots in bits and pieces between ”Bear” episodes.)
I bring all this up (and I’m sorry if I was slow in getting to the point, sort of like all the damn trains in the previous clip) because in 2015, South Carver, Mass. will see the opening of the largest Thomas Land theme park in North America. According to the press release, ”the new Thomas Land will cover 11.5 acres and boast 14 rides based on Thomas & Friends’ and the Island of Sodor.” (That’s where Thomas lives, or the setting of ”The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” One of those two things.)
While that might not have appealed to my children when they were small, I know there are many youngsters who would be thrilled about that news, which is why their parents will be monitoring them around the clock to make sure they hear absolutely nothing about it. It will be part of Edaville USA, a railroad-themed family amusement center that features such attractions as an antique carousel, a train ride through the fall cranberry forest, and also … I’m sorry, what were we talking about?
Of course I kid Edaville and Thomas Land — fun, wholesome activities for the whole family are few and far between these days, and I wholeheartedly endorse their efforts to celebrate quality children’s entertainment and empty our wallets at the same time. Sure, they can never un-do 2000’s ”Thomas and the Magic Railroad,” which I watched with Timmy after my well-meaning mother-in-law bought it on VHS, and which featured Alec Baldwin as George Carlin and Ringo Starr, and Peter Fonda (Peter Fonda!) as a depressed grandpa, and Didi Conn as OH MY GOD MAKE IT STOP!
So for all you Tank-heads out there, enjoy the new Thomas Land. And Timmy, thanks again for your fine taste in children’s television. If anyone needs me, I’ll be watching the Bear Cha Cha Cha on a loop:
Read more Pete at Pete’s Pop Culture, Parenting and Pets Blog.