Genius Brands’ Kartoon Channel! has launched The Smack-Dab in the Middle of the Day Show, a new kids talk show from New York-based Stinger Pictures.
The series (six x 14 minutes) premiered on June 17, and Kartoon has exclusive broadcast rights for six months.
Targeting kids ages four to eight, the live-actioner features everything from wacky puppets and original musical numbers, to a superhero with the power to manage anxiety.
Writer, creator and producer Evan Margolis, who hosts the series alongside his puppet sidekick Coral (pictured), tells Kidscreen that the project is aiming to fill a pandemic-induced learning gap in which kids missed out on formative social experiences.
“A five-year-old today has lived a significant amount of their life in quarantine, or has been restricted in some way from significant social experiences,” he explains.
Smack-Dab is built on the principles of social-emotional learning (SEL), and each episode will tackle a specific topic like self-confidence or dealing with fears. It was developed with input from Dr. Melanie Franklin, a pediatric psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Margolis, who is also an educator with experience teaching remedial reading for kids with dyslexia, recalls using puppets and creative backdrops to help improve focus among his young students who struggled with remote learning during the pandemic.
Drawing inspiration from this personal experience, as well as the Mister Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the new series was born through discussions with Lauren Flack, who is attached as a producer.
“We landed on the talk-show format as sort of a blank canvas for us to meet anyone, learn anything, and approach any topic in a natural and whimsical way,” he says.
Smack-Dab joins a growing sub-genre of kid-friendly talk shows including The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo (HBO Max), The Kids Tonight Show (Peacock) and Earth to Ned (Disney+) that customize the format for younger audiences.