So there’s a new hotness in town, as there tends to be, and the flavor of the current month is PBS Kids’ Peg + Cat. Make sure you’re saying it right; that’s “Peg plus Cat,” not “Peg and Cat,” and it’s certainly not “Peg vs. Cat,” which is what I can’t stop myself from calling it because I’m an idiot. Although if each episode ended in some sort of deathmatch between Peg and Cat (his name is actually Cat) that would be really cool and maybe they ought to think about doing that.
In some ways, I really like Peg + Cat, and I wish that the show’s shortcomings didn’t kill it so thoroughly for me. Most kids’ shows are either about nothing in particular or they are about reading. Peg + Cat is literally the only show that I can think of that is explicitly about math, and I think that’s a good thing. You can see from the image there that all the animation is set against a graph-paper background, and you might notice that clouds are rendered as infinity signs. The really cool bit is the calculus and algebra equations that are written into the background. They’re never commented on, but they’re always there and I think they’re cool. Also, smart female main character, and Cat’s personality and voice acting is entertaining. All of these are positives.
Here is the problem, and I will freely admit that this is as much a problem with my parenting as it is with the show: my kid tends to watch multiple episodes of shit in a row, right? So repetitiveness can kill a show really quickly for me, and of everything that he’s watched, with the possible exception of Color Crew, Peg + Cat is easily the most intensely repetitive show he’s ever liked. The following things happen in every episode, and keep in mind there are two episodes per show:
- Peg encounters a minor problem. She declares, Super Why style, that they have a biiiiig problem!
- Cat solves this minor problem immediately. Like, this immediately: PEG: I’ve lost my shoe! This is a biiiiig problem! CAT: Your shoe’s right there! I’m not exaggerating. Solved immediately.
- Peg sings the “Problem Solved” song. Here it is:
- Peg and Cat encounter a second, larger problem, which Peg also declares to be a biig problem.
- Peg encounters difficulties solving the problem and has a moment where she is “totally freaking out!” which Cat fixes by wordlessly offering to punch her face. Peg, oddly, always misinterprets Cat’s desire to punch her by suggesting that he has told her to count backwards from five to calm down. This is clearly not what Cat just did. Cat wanted to punch her.
- Peg calms down, and Peg and Cat eventually solve the problem. Peg sings the goddamn Problem Solved song again, except this time with an extra line where they state that everything is awesome. Episode ends.
This has destroyed my mind, folks; that’s four biiig problems and four problem solveds per show, and I cannot tolerate that much. The trouble is that literally everything else about the show, I like. I like the math, I like the other songs that show up in the show (Peg plays the ukulele, and most shows involve at least one other song someplace.) I like the fact that the show occasionally brings in science and history; Beethoven is a recurring character, and Cleopatra has shown up at least once. Peg herself entertains me. I like the intro theme, and the fact that they’ll mix up the song and the animation for it rather than it being exactly the same every episode. I like the math integration. There’s a lot of good stuff about this show.
Just don’t try to marathon it. Because it will kill you.
10 thoughts on “Creepy Children’s Programming Review: Peg + Cat”
I would hate this show (1) because of the “big problems” and repetition and (2) because of the calculus and algebra equations. I failed algebra, but I got an A in the class because Mrs. White gave me the mark of the kid on the line above me in her grade book by mistake. And I never took calculus because I promised my Trigonometry teacher that I’d never take another math course if he passed me. It wasn’t a difficult promise to keep.
My children are older now, but I always thought that children’s educational programming assumed that children were complete idiots. I watched this show (once) because of your review. In “The Big Dog Problem” I was mildly entertained by Cat’s jig problem and wig problem that came up to solve the problem of mom coming in to find out what was going on with those two. They were Dillydallying, lollygagging, and shilly-shallying again. The mom didn’t know Peg was too short to reach the mailbox, even with a cat on her head.
My dad made us count the mail we picked up on the way home from school, and we once lost a letter in a an apple tree on the way home. It was a “really important letter” too.
I used to watch Thunderbirds when I was younger, and that show is repetitive – it’s pretty much the same script, with a slightly different setting. Every. Time.
But it’s still pretty great.
My 4 and 6 year old adore this show. My 8 year old declares it “the dumbest thing ever.” I find it acceptable. The games related to it on PBSkidsgo.org range from cute and age appropriate to full-on-ridiculous. Especially the one where the player sends chickens into space by selecting the correctly sized coop for a rocket. Just weird.
For a little math-show variety, try out Team Umizoomi. I’m itching to hear what you have to say about Milli Measure’s magic measuring pig tails and Bot’s belly-belly-belly screen, which seems to be part TV and part automat.
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I saw a documentary several months ago about modern children’s programming. One of the things that was discovered after the days of Sesame Street is that children thrive on repetitiveness more than we ever realized. If they are able to make predictions, when those predictions come true endorphins activate the reward centers of their brains. As a result, they become more attentive as their brains look for more predictions to make to get the endorphin reward. And that means that an educational program that has repetitive elements will be better able to convey the non-repetitive portions because the children are paying better attention. Not just staring harder at the screen, but thinking about and analyzing more of what they see in an attempt to find the patterns. They can’t help but learn more.
Knowing this makes shows like Peg + Cat and Blue’s Clues and other modern children’s programming much less likely to induce me to commit Seppuku. And the formulas on Peg + Cat’s background entertain me greatly.
The repetition doesn’t bother me much it’s the brainwashing, or indroctrination, or whatever you want to call it that’s trying to turn all the kids into little drama queens and kings. saying it’s a “biiig problem” and a “reaaaaaally biiig problem” when it’s not, not even for a kid and “totally freaking out!” over every little thing. I see the kids watching this to grow up being the kind of people who turn mole hills into mountains and try to turn every situation into a drama fest. This is not a good show and not watched in my house.
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