Recipe for live-action success: Make it funny

This month, LiveWire spoke with a panel of kids ages eight to 12 about their TV viewing preferences. Boys and girls both...
February 1, 2000

This month, LiveWire spoke with a panel of kids ages eight to 12 about their TV viewing preferences. Boys and girls both

average over four hours of tube time a day, and the majority of girls prefer live-action shows (boys prefer cartoons). We asked the girls and boys to explain which live-action TV shows are their favorites and why.

What we found:

Funny shows take the cake

Half of the kids on our panel like their favorite live-action show because it delivers a very important component-humor. After humor, action and special effects were other popular components. The comedy Kenan and Kel tops both boys’ and girls’ lists, followed distantly by All That. Boys and girls then diverged in their choices with boys selecting action shows like Walker Texas Ranger, Power Rangers and Animorphs. Girls chose dramas and comedies with strong, young, female leads, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The majority of kids watch their favorite TV show three times a week or more.

The perfect TV show

Girls prefer shows with a mix of comedy and drama, while boys overwhelmingly prefer straight comedy. Over half of the kids feel it is important to relate to the lead characters in shows, and an equal number feel that shows should teach something or send a positive message. Over half of the boys and girls cited music and fashion as important elements in a show, and most specified that a show’s music is more important than fashion. Dewayne from California, age 10, explained why both music and fashion are important: ‘I like when shows have good music. Then I want to buy the CDs. If the clothes are tight [cool], everyone wants to get them.’ Unlike music and fashion, fewer than half of kids felt that the setting of a show is important. Those who did feel the show setting is important said that the setting must be believable.

No real fall debut standouts-yet

No clear favorites jumped out from the lineup of new fall series: In fact the top answer for boys was that they do not have a favorite new show. Of the boys who do have a favorite, more voted for 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd than any other debut. Girls’ votes were all over the place, with Odd Man Out emerging as most popular newbie by a nose. Boys most often picked their favorite new show ‘because it is exciting,’ followed closely by ‘because it is funny.’ Girls explained that their favorite shows are the ones that have kids in them and seem ‘real,’ followed by those that are funny. Commercials and friends were the sources named most often for learning about new shows.

What kids said:

When asked to create their own shows, almost three-quarters of our panelists dreamed up shows about kids. More than one-third of boys and girls said that their shows would be funny, while an equal number of boys created action/adventure shows. More than one-third of boys and one-quarter of girls created shows that would be educational in some way or carry a message about the challenges of real life.

‘It would be about things pre-teens go through, like being popular and unpopular and things like that. The show would be exciting, dull and sad-just like life.’ Josh, 12, Nevada

‘It would be about teaching and helping kids with special needs. It would take place in school and on field trips and would star celebrities like Britney Spears.’ Amber, 8, Georgia

‘My characters would be easy to relate to, have awesome taste in music, dancing. Kids would always learn something, but at the same time have fun. They would be witty, a little sarcastic, but definitely funny and pretty good-looking-but not like a lot of those fake-looking people on most TV shows.’

Anthony, 9, Ontario

‘It would be a quiz show for kids, where the kids would have easy questions and make money. It would take place in Orlando, so I could take my family to Walt Disney World, and it would star Kenan and Kel.’ Allison, 9, Pennsylvania

Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, investigates a wide range of issues in kids’ lives. Kid Think talks with kids via LiveWire: Today’s Families Online,

a proprietary panel of more than 1,100 on-line families across the United States. Both Kid Think and LiveWire are divisions of Griffin Bacal, a New York-based

communications agency specializing in the youth and family markets. If you have any questions or subjects you would like Kid Think to cover, call Paul Kurnit at

212-415-2992 or e-mail

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