Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TV Or Not TV

"Easy, Telly. It's just a T.V. show." - Elmo, forever the voice of reason.

I've finally found someone who laughs at his own jokes more than I do. And surprisingly enough, this someone is not a member of my family. In fact, he's not even a person. He's furry, red, and maddeningly friendly and optimistic. Welcome, my friends, to Elmo's World. We are now permanent residents.

This little guy actually thinks he's hilarious. And you know what? He's absolutely right. I used to watch such high-brow programs like The West Wing, NYPD Blue, and Dawson's Creek. Alright, that last one was a guilty pleasure. But now I'm glued to Elmo's every word.

I find myself just as transfixed as my daughter, lingering in front of the television even long after she's lost interest and run off to explore something else somewhere else with someone else. What's he going to say next? What pun is he going to throw at me? How is he going to wow me with another zinger of a one-liner? George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Rodney Dangerfield, Jerry Seinfeld. That's my Mount Rushmore of comedy. But Elmo's face may soon be chiseled on the side of that edifice.

The amazing thing is the connection he has with children, in particular, my daughter. Elmo is the baby crack of subliminal messaging, making him automatically loved and needed by every child. The attraction is so strong, my daughter has now mastered the concept of the DVR. She requests, and demands us to fast forward Sesame Street to the parts with Elmo in it. Ernie? No interest. Big Bird? Big deal. Cookie Monster? So over it. She wants to be immersed in Elmo's World.

2nd Birthday: Don't I know you from somewhere?
In fact, she doesn't even call it "Sesame Street." She refers to it as "Elmo TV." Now that is genius marketing. She even knew who Elmo was before we ever even introduced her to television. For the first two years of her life, we didn't want her to watch any television. My stance on this topic is both well documented and well debated. I'll boil it down to a few sentences for you: Television makes you stupid. And this is coming from someone who makes his living in television. Cartoon characters shouldn't be teaching our children. People - parents - should be. Isn't television what we do when we want to unwind and do something "mindless?" End of discussion.

Before her 2nd birthday, she knew Elmo only as a smiling, waving character on her sippy cup. Dora was just a stringy-haired doll she pushed in her toy stroller. Nemo was a little plastic fish she played with in the bath. Now, they've come to life... in extreme moderation. Lucky for us, she only wants to watch Elmo. Lucky, because I get such a big kick out of him. Such a big kick, I broke down and recently bought an Elmo DVD. I still haven't given it to her yet, however. These things take time, after all.

Here's another reason to love Elmo: he has a Jersey City accent. What's up with that? Listen to how he says "computer" or "drawer." He might as well be asking his mom if he can have a second helping of fettuccine alfredo. I always knew there was something innate that I liked about this Elmo. He's a little paisano.

He has become such an integral part of our household, that my daughter and I routinely sing the theme to "Elmo's World" without thinking twice about it. Elmo doesn't even have to be on. That's how woven he has become in the fuzzy sweater of our lives. The theme is constantly in our heads - in my head. I'll start a line, then she'll finish it. The last line of his theme song pretty much sums up the immense, and constant  impact he's had on us:

"La la la la la... la la la la... Thaaat's Elmooo's Woooorld!."

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