As a parent, finding appropriate viewing material for preschoolers is a minefield of armchair psychology and finger-crossing. Forget the hours upon hours of junk you watched as a kid, the reasoning goes. If your kids watch anything close to bad TV, their minds will instantly rot away to nothing.
That anxiety is only heightened for parents of young girls, looking desperately for positive role models in a sea of boy wish fulfillment.
Sometimes you just have to roll the dice and hope the stuff they like to watch won't send them down the wrong path. And other times, it's an easy call to just avoid a show completely. Nickelodeon's new animated series "Little Charmers," premiering Monday on Nickelodeon at 12 p.m. PST and at 8 p.m. PST on Nick Jr., is one to avoid.
Set in the town of Charmville, the series follows three best friends who happen to be witches. But don't think that makes them special. You see, in Charmville, it seems that everyone is magical.
Headstrong Hazel, Posy the quirky "Spellerina" and Lavender the feisty "Potionista" zip around Charmville trying out their burgeoning magical powers and looking for adventure. Unfortunately, the idea of adventure presented to this show's preschool audience is considerably lower stakes than one would guess from the premise.
Granted, perhaps future episodes will empower these young girls to quest just like great heroes, but in the premiere episode, this trio was reduced to cooing over cute boys and stressing over their wardrobes. Not exactly the stuff to inspire 3- to 6-year-olds to broaden their horizons.
Relying a bit too heavily on "charm" in its titles, the first short, "Prince Not So Charming," sends the girls off on a "Witches of Eastwick"-like quest to conjure up the perfect boy from a mere frog. Never mind that maybe there are other things young girls could be doing than letting their hearts go aflutter over a boy. At least it's not as demoralizing as the second story, "A Charming Outfit," in which these girls imbued with powers unheard of in normal life use those abilities not to fight evil or try to improve their world, but to make a hand-me-down dress appear up to the standards of the girls at school.
Isn't preschool much too early to be heaping these concerns onto kids?
Off in their magical club house, the girls do whatever they can to unlock the magic that has been promised in the otherwise plain dress.
When their initial spells don't work, one girl suggests: "Accessorize it to disguise it."
Frankly, it's a wonder these kids have wands and not magical credit cards.
With their big eyes and cute familiars, these little witches seem ready-made for toys, so it's no surprise Canadian animation giant Nelvana paired with toy makers Spin Master Entertainment for this series. No doubt, they'll be available soon in that magical bastion of mystery, enlightenment and adventure: the mall.