My three-year-old Irene has gotten passionate about this show. I guess that means she’s old enough to have opinions I don’t care for. Goodness knows there are worse shows for her to obsess about; her brother Simon, who turns seven this week, has enough of those that he prefers. But Bubble Guppies has always struck me as weird, and it didn’t help that one of the episodes Irene watched yesterday was about how great cops are. Which heavily features the black kid because of course it does.
The characters are merkids who attend a school taught by a large orange fish called Mr. Grouper (Tino Insana for 79 episodes and Fred Tatasciore for nine random ones in the middle of the series). There are actually three boys and three girls, which is rather nice; it’s hard to peg the ethnic mix of kids whose hair is purple or pale blue, but it’s definite that one of the kids is black. It’s one of those shows where, every episode, they learn about something interesting, or at least interesting if you’re a small child. The first episode, they learn about going to the doctor, for example, and they’ve also learned about firefighters and construction and so forth.
And, yes, there’s an episode about the police. Officer Miranda is a lobster voiced by Wendy Malick, which is definitely a series of words, who teaches the kids all about how police will keep us safe. And I mean, I don’t really expect a Nickelodeon show to get into the weeds about police brutality on a show aimed at four-year-olds or so, but it’s still a little odd right now to wonder if Goby (in this episode voice by Maleik Mar Mar Walker) went home and got a slightly different conversation about the police from his parents.
What bothers me a little more often, though, is that the show takes place under the water but doesn’t entirely seem to understand that in most episodes. There’s one where they’re giving Bubble Puppy (who but Frank Welker?) a bath, and then they get upset that he gets them wet and I really do not understand this. There are more episodes than I care to think about where it’s like, “Wait, do they remember they’re underwater? Because this doesn’t make sense underwater.” Sometimes, they seem to have more than one kind of water.
It’s inoffensive enough for the most part. A lot of dad jokes; well, you could talk a lot about the intersection between Dad Humour and Small Child Humour. (Though Simon gets really annoyed at his dad sometimes over his jokes, which is more entertaining to me than this show.) As far as Shows Intended To Teach Small Children About The World goes, it’s not a bad one. It’s just that this one episode in particular struck me; even in 2013, there should’ve been a serious conversation about the whole thing, I feel.