Pop Rocks: The Worst Part of Parenting? The TV Shows.

Being a parent is tough, especially when the kids are toddler age or thereabouts. You're basically on 24-7 suicide watch while the little hobgoblins cram everything they find into their mouths and clamber to the top of the bookshelves, while at the same time you try to feed them properly and nurture them along the road to becoming decent, educated, well-rounded adults.

But I'm not talking about any of that crap, I'm talking about putting up with children's television.

Complaining about kids' shows is about as original as making jokes about airline food, and I swore I'd never go down that road...and then I had children of my own. Now I too have learned to dread the words "Yo gabba gabba," and I have to physically resist guzzling the entire liquor cabinet every time I hear the "Elmo's World" theme start up.

"Surely," you're saying, "surely not all children's programming is like sticking your head into a blender filled with drywall screws?" That may be true, but my kids -- all three of them -- apparently have horrible taste. Here then is my list of the ten most annoying examples of kids' television.

All programs were ranked according to the General Adult Goat Getting (GAGG) Factor, a highly scientific formula utilizing several variables including (but not limited to) deliberate speech impediments, uses of the phrase "cool beans," and inappropriate puppets. The higher the number, the more annoying the show is to grown-ups.

I'll also point out that Teletubbies went off the air in 2001. Right before the 9-11 attacks. You don't suppose...?

Sesame Street GAGG Factor: 3

I know, I know. Years ago, I couldn't have imagined saying anything negative about the denizens of the one neighborhood in NYC seemingly free of dog shit and human urine, but that was before the Dark Times. Before...Elmo. As the show has re-tailored itself for a much younger audience, bits like "Muppet NewsFlash" and "Monsterpiece Theater" have given way to "Elmo's World" and the steaming mid-show turd called "Abby's Flying Fairy School." I can't hate on the show that I literally grew up with, but all three of my children have, at one time or another, clamored for "ELMO!" like he was peanut butter-flavored crack. And that ain't right.

Caillou GAGG Factor: 5

As if toddlers aren't whiny enough, they have to be reinforced by this sniveling bald twerp. He's largely flown under the radar in our house, probably because he's Canadian, and the only entertainers from the Great White North allowed in the Vonder Haar compound are Rush, Shatner and Aldo Nova.

Toot & Puddle GAGG Factor: 6

Less confusing to me than the fact that two pigs from Appalachia (that's where I assume the town of "Pocket Hollow" is located) can afford to go on so many intercontinental journeys is how they can get away with visiting countries that don't dig on swine (they go to Egypt in one episode). I can only assume they have no plans to visit Israel.

Yo Gabba Gabba! GAGG Factor: 7

I was inspired to write this entire entry after posting an entry on Facebook that said, in effect, the only people who think YGG! is "cool" children's programming are those with no kids of their own. My two-year olds don't give a frog's fat ass if the Shins or Aquabats are playing the "The Super Music Friends Show." It regurgitates almost as much of its own content as the Wiggles, attempting to hide the fact by catering to hipster parents with 8-bit video game interstitials and distracting cameo appeara...holy shit! Is that Tony Hawk?!

LazyTown GAGG Factor: 7

This Icelandic product is pretty much the creepiest show on TV since Twin Peaks. There's the off-putting mix of live action and puppetry (or a combination thereof, in the form of villain Robbie Rotten), the town's children -- all of whom personify laziness in some fashion -- or the relationship between "Sportacus" (Magnús Scheving) and his sidekick "Stephanie" (Julianna Mauriello). At the show's debut, Scheving was 40, Mauriello...13. Frankly, if I'm gonna watch any Icelander on TV, it'll be this guy.

The Fresh Beat Band GAGG Factor: 8

Compared to this saccharine marketing exercise, the Monkees were G.G. Allin and the Murder Junkies. Initially dubbed "the Jumparounds," and soon renamed with not-so surprising rapidity (my fellow parents and I were referring to them as the "Reacharounds" as soon as those first Noggin promos aired), the generic misadventures and bland pop stylings of Kiki, Marina, "Twist" and "Shout" are what all entertainment will resemble if Mitt Romney is elected President. "Keepin' it real, banana," indeed.

Barney & Friends GAGG Factor: 9

The lunatic purple dinosaur (just listen to that laugh) has been on hiatus since 2009, but the damage has already been done. DVDs seem to perpetuate themselves endlessly, like protozoa, and the show still airs on PBS and Sprout. My oldest went through a Barney phase when her (former) day care let her watch it, but so far we've been successful keeping it away from the others like it was pesticide. One mitigating factor: Barney was the inspiration for the underrated Death to Smoochy.

Wonder Pets GAGG Factor: 10

Pediatricians counsel parents not to "baby talk" to their children, the better to encourage normal speech development. Somebody forgot to tell Linny, Tuck and Ming-Ming.

A Chinese duck? Here's hoping for another bird flu scare.

Sid the Science Kid GAGG Factor: 10

"How does this thing work? Why does that stuff change? How does that do what it just did? What's up with the sky? You think I could fly?" YOU'RE GOING TO FLY OUT THE GODDAMNED CAR WINDOW IF YOU DON'T SHUT THE HELL UP AND LET ME DRIVE YOU LITTLE BASTARD.

Sorry. What I meant was, thanks PBS: It's bad enough my kids will eventually discover Muppets aren't real. Now you've created unrealistic expectations of school and adulthood that'll never be fulfilled. Hey Sid, tell me what this gesture means.

The Wiggles GAGG Factor: 10

I will say this about those Antipodean assclowns, they've engineered a 20-year career out of maybe a dozen songs. Seriously, every show often repeats at least one song/skit from an earlier installment, meaning even if you hastily switch to another episode on the DVR in an attempt to preserve your dwindling sanity, chances are you're still going to hear fucking "Dorothy the Dinosaur."

Honorable Mention: Oobi -- Really? You guys couldn't even spring for a few decent pairs of tube socks? Here, hold my pants, I've got a meeting with PBS to pitch a show about the wacky adventures of a friendly one-eyed lamprey.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar