To help us keep up-to-date with what’s happening with kids, we’ve asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids’ lives. Since today’s kids spend so much time on-line, Kid Think will be talking to kids via Live Wire, Today’s Families Online, a proprietary panel of 600 on-line families across the United States.
Both Kid Think and Live Wire are divisions of Griffin Bacal, a New York communications agency specializing in the youth and family markets. If you have any questions or have subjects you’d like to see Kid Think cover, call Bob Horne at 212-337-6410 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For tweens, dashes of reality, fantasy and comedy make a good show
This month, Live Wire went on-line to talk with kids age 10 to 13 about the new programs that hit the air this fall: which shows kids like, which they don’t like and what they would do if they were in the creative director’s chair.
What we found:
According to our Live Wire kids, reality, fantasy and comedy are the ingredients needed to whip up a good show.The darlings of the new season are Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and Clueless. These programs captivate kids with their mixture of reality and fantasy. The setting, the age group and the language supply the reality, while the characters’ personalities and attributes-Sabrina’s witchcraft and Cher’s wealth-supply the fantasy.
While Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and Clueless were the two most popular new shows among these kids, there was a small but outspoken group of Live Wire boys who resoundingly disagreed. The boys clearly think of these (and most new shows this season) as ‘girl shows.’ But the joke is on them, because they still admit to watching.
Other new season favorites include three very different shows: Mr. Rhodes, a comedy; Dark Skies, pure sci-fi; and 7th Heaven, a family drama. Honorable mentions go to Pretender, Homeboys in Outer Space, Dangerous Minds and Suddenly Susan. According to our kids, these shows have all the makings of hits!
It isn’t surprising that kids overwhelmingly prefer comedies to other types of programming. Of course, kids should enjoy lighthearted entertainment. It’s their prerogative. Leave the serious stuff for adults, right?!
But their reasons for liking comedies are very adult reasons. Life is tough for the preteen set these days (if you have watched Dangerous Minds, you know that school can be perilous), and comedies help them unwind after a stressful day at school.
But these kids aren’t total escapists. Again and again, they emphasized their desire for realism and relevance in all forms of programming, be they comedies or talk shows. This preference for realism was most apparent in the types of shows they would like to see in the future. And even though ‘fluffy’ programs such as Clueless ranked high, our kids are eager to understand the messages in any show.
Lastly, it might be necessary to liven things up with an entirely new point of view. Matthew from Pennsylvania suggests, ‘I would like to see a comedy. It would be the adventures of a family as seen by the family dog.’ There’s a potential tree to bark up.
What kids said:
About the sorceress and the shopper
‘I like the show Sabrina, The Teenage Witch because it is about kids’ lives.’ Christina, Massachusetts, age 12
‘I like Sabrina because a teenager with magic is different. She only d’es good with it.’ Jessica, New Hampshire, age 11
‘In Clueless, the stuff the kids do and have is so ridiculous it’s funny (like cell phones in class). But Cher still d’es serious things, and it’s interesting to see how it comes out at the end.’ Zachary, California, age 13
‘Cher’s character and what she d’es and what her friends do in Clueless are cool, but not real. But it’s OK because she always has some kind of lesson or message at the end.’ Angela, Maryland, age 11
‘Sabrina, The Teenage Witch is OK for girls, I guess. I watch it because my sister d’es.’ Jesse, California, age 11
‘Clueless: That is the dumbest show ever to be on TV!’ Matthew, Pennsylvania, age 11
About the runners-up
‘Mr. Rhodes! What can I say? This is hilarious! Da Bomb! He is so serious and that makes it funny. I could image having a teacher like him. . . . The things the kids do are real, but still funny.’ Jeremy, California, age 11
‘I like 7th Heaven. It has characters that are close to my age, who do the things that I like or would like to do.’ Vincent, Arizona, age 12
‘Dark Skies is cool. The sci-fi theme is neat. I like to see the humans struggle with the aliens.’ Robert, Illinois, age 12
‘Homeboys in Outer Space is a good show. It is not only funny, but it has women.’ Tristan, Maryland, age 13
‘Pretender is a really cool show. . . . He can change and mutate into anything.’ Steven, Rhode Island, age 13
‘Dangerous Minds: It’s neat to see how city schools work. I like how the teacher helps the students. I also like the music.’ Tiffany, Virginia, age 12
‘Suddenly Susan is very funny, but she d’esn’t act dumb or silly like a lot of actresses in other shows. She thinks about other people and says she’s sorry when she’s wrong.’ Zachary, California, age 13
‘After a hard day at school, I like to laugh.’ Jeffrey, New Jersey, age 11
‘I like comedy mostly if it makes sense and is not stupid, because comedies make me happy and they’re a good way to end a day-especially after a bad day at school.’ Jeremy, California, age 11
About shows they would produce
‘It would be like Road Rules or Real World. It would use real people, not actors. It’s interesting to see how other people live. It’s cool to do that for families from different parts of the world, so we could see what their lives are like.’ Angela, Los Angeles, age 13
‘It would be about a real-life family having different things happen to them.’ Chad, Georgia, age 12
‘It’d be like Dangerous Minds because I love that show. It’s real life. That’s important for kids. They have to know that life isn’t fairy tales and princesses. My show would be real.’ Jessica, New Hampshire, age 11
‘A comedy about our family called My Sister and Me.’ Jessica, Texas, age 10
‘A comedy/drama with action as well as with aggressive skaters in some city, and how they live and go to school and work and deal with the cops and businesses who chase them away.’ Kevin, Oregon, age 13
‘A guy like Indiana Jones who g’es on adventures, but you learn something like history or geology or science. And it still could be funny sometimes.’ Marc, New York, age 12
‘It would be about young astronauts in space camp, who work in space with NASA. It would be about a space station in a far-off quadrant and about how kids can help explore strange new worlds too.’ Bethany, Texas, age 12