But some people have interpreted “children’s television” to mean “as weird as possible,” and writers have created shows that are strange, unintentionally creepy, or in some cases, just plain disturbing. When you’re scrolling through the options on free TV apps, see if you can find some of these bizarre programs — and remember, they are meant for kids.
"Yo Gabba Gabba"
This Nickelodeon hit is actually quite polarizing: some parents love it for its simple, straightforward weirdness and eclectic selection of music. Other parents hate it for well, the same reasons. The show follows the adventures of five friends in Gabba-land: Plex, a robot, and Tootie, Foofa, Muno and Broby, a collection of colorful creatures with distinct personalities. This bunch is led by DJ Lance Rock, who sports hipster glasses, a bright orange jumpsuit and a fuzzy hat. While the lessons are good — who doesn’t need to be reminded “don’t bite your friends!”? — the overall fringe/hipster vibe and Muno’s resemblance to something you may find in an adult bookstore disturb some viewers.
“The Higglytown Heroes”
On the surface, “The Higglytown Heroes” is a sweet, simplistic show that teaches children how to recognize the everyday heroes in their communities, from the guy who delivers pizza to tow-truck drivers. What takes it to a disturbing level are the residents of Higglytown, who are essentially nesting dolls who move around and function without arms and legs. And they pop open at the waist, pulling out various tools and other items they need to complete whatever task they are doing — including additional Higglys. Add in a wise squirrel named Fran (voiced by Edie McClurg) who is always present, and you have one weird kids’ show.
Children in the 1970s were treated to this trippy masterpiece of children’s programming, which used live actors and puppets to relate the adventures of a shipwrecked 11-year old boy on the Living Island. After being convince by a talking flute (seriously) to board a boat for adventures across the sea, the boy, Jimmy, lands on the island where the battle of good vs. evil played out in the forms of the dragon H.R. Pufnstuf vs. Witchiepoo, who flew around on a broom-like contraption called the “Vroom Broom.” In typical ’70s style, the show featured weird music and colors that you might find at a Grateful Dead concert and enough dark themes and frightening images to give anyone nightmares.
This British import leads approximately 99 percent of the people who see it to scratch their heads and ask “What the …?” Let’s try to explain this weirdness: The Boobahs are shaped like gumdrops, with sparkly, colorful fur that lights up. They have hairless heads, large eyes and a row of lights for eyebrows. They communicate through a series of squeaks and clicks and can retract their heads into their necks. Oh, and they can fly. In each episode, the Boohbahs begin with a dance and then interact with the “Storypeople,” a group of characters who don’t actually speak but interact with each other to act out a story or lesson, using “presents” from the Boohbahs and real children. There are 104 episodes of this madness, each more disturbing than the last.
No discussion of disturbing children’s programming would be complete without mentioning the Teletubbies, quite possibly the most disturbing kids’ program to hit the airwaves. The show features four toddler-like creatures — Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po — who each have a signature color and a television implanted into his or her stomach. They live in Teletubbyland, a magical, mystical place where anthropomorphic objects (like Noo-Noo the vacuum cleaner) provide guidance and supervision, and where “magical” (read: trippy) things happen every day.
Of course, all of these programs, at one point or another, were popular with kids and some, like “H.R. Pufnstuf” still retain cult status among those of a certain age. But for everyone else over the age of five, these shows remain some of the weirdest things to ever hit TV.
“Yo Gabba Gabba Live” Image from Picasa by William Scwarz photos
“H.R. Pufnstuf” image from Wikimedia Commons
About the Author: As a child of the ’80s, Corie Cheney grew up loving “Inspector Gadget” and “Fraggle Rock,” which one could argue are a little on the strange side. She writes about film and television.