By Sarah McCarthy
Every couple of years a new children’s show appears with the charm and flair to appeal to everyone from children to college students to adults. This year, giant robots and cat-dragons are attracting a cult following among youth–youth of voting age. Yo Gabba Gabba!‘s bright colors, catchy music and celebrity guest appearances have children, parents, stoners and pop culture junkies alike addicted.
Laura Comrie, a writer for the fan blog “Gabba Friends” believes that Gabba! has a unique quality that separates it from other programming.
“Its quirky nature sets it apart from the syrupy programming that is available. Our children love it because the characters act out scenarios on their level without being either condescending nor underestimating their intelligence,” she writes. “College students are tuning in to see their favorite indie artists perform – what other show has creators and writers who are so well tapped into the hipster scene?”
Yo Gabba Gabba! stars a lanky guy in an orange suit, DJ Lance, and his four friendly monster friends: Muno, Foofa, Brobee and Toodee and a robot named Plex. Each show has a different wholesome message, such as nutrition, manners or friendship, illustrated with sketches, songs and dancing–much like other children’s shows.
Created by Scott Schultz and Christian Jacobs of indie band The Aquabats, Yo Gabba Gabba! (paying homage to The Ramones chant, “Gabba Gabba Hey!”) first aired in August 2007 on Nick Jr. Since then, not only has it won over the hearts of viewers, it has received a Daytime Emmy nomination and Time Magazine‘s vote as one of the 10 best new television series of 2008. The show received viral popularity when the video called “Party in my Tummy” of Brobee singing with his vegetables hit YouTube. Not long after, pop culture show The Soup gave Gabba! even more recognition by airing a now-famous clip of a child proclaiming, “My name is Nathaniel! I like to dance!”
What really hooked the 20-something audience is the range of well-known indie bands on the show each week. Using co-creator Jacobs’ connections in the music industry, the show has booked several major bands and has featured a wide variety of musical guests like The Shins, Hot Hot Heat, Jimmy Eat World, I’m From Barcelona and Datarock. Rapper Biz-Markie and Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh also provide a regular segment called “Biz’s Beat of the Day” and “Mark’s Magic Pictures,” respectively.
Jacobs told ABC News he is not surprised Gabba! has received a cult following among an older crowd: “It makes sense that college-age kids would take interest in watching because there is a strong pop culture element to this show, and because we have popular bands that college-age students like on the show,” Jacobs said.
Not limited to musicians, Yo Gabba Gabba! also boasts a long list of celebrity guest stars in the “Dancey Dance Time” segment, where the guest performs a song and dances with the characters. Some of the more notable “Dancey Dance” friends have been Elijah Wood, Tony Hawk, Mýa, Sean Kingston and Amy Sedaris.
In an interview with USA Today, creator Scott Schultz described what he believes to be the reason for Gabba!‘s mass appeal. “There’s an element of wanting to be fancy-free and not too serious and to be a kid again,” he said.
Already hailed as the new The Muppets, Yo Gabba Gabba! is not the first children’s show to attract a wide adult following. Shows like Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, H.R. Pufnstuf, Teletubbies, The Powerpuff Girls and Spongebob Squarepants also had strong adult cult followings. Gabba! Shares similarities with its predecessors, yet it is an entirely new breed of children’s television. While Gabba! shares a pop culture awareness with Powerpuff and Spongebob, it lacks the subliminal adult humor. Gabba! is also like Teletubbies in that they both can be interpreted as psychedelic, but Gabba!, unlike Teletubbies, contains actual dialogue and meaning.
Comrie believes the secret of the success of the show is the dedication the cast and crew have to making the best possible television: “If there’s one message I wish I could tell everyone, it is this: Behind this show that is currently exploding in popularity are genuinely good and down-to-earth people who put their best into creating quality television for our children,” she said. “They are exactly what they teach… love, kindness, tolerance, patience, integrity… all of it.”
Sarah McCarthy is a sophomore journalism major. E-mail her at smccart1[at]ithaca.edu.