Pros: Catchy music; educational; toddlers get up and move; fun characters; stresses good manners, etc.
Cons: Network Wiggles; songs stuck in your head.
My little girl took her sweet time learning to walk - she could crawl at warp speed and knew that someone would pick her up and carry her if need be, so why bother? It wasn't until around 15 months that she took those first tentative steps, and was off and running from there. And in typical little girl fashion, as soon as she was steady on her feet, she was dancing all over the house. Turn the radio on? She dances. Music on television? She dances. Hum a tune? Dances. Catchy commercial jingles? Yep, dances to those too.
Having recently outgrown her favorite "baby" show, I was looking for more educational children's programming for her to watch on occasion. Sesame Street was, of course, a given - after all, it was my favorite when I was a kid. Skeptical of all of the other regular children's programming, I hesitated to turn on anything else for her...until the day that, while flipping through the channels, Rachael spotted The Wiggles on Playhouse Disney. And - you guessed it - started dancing. Or was it wiggling?!
~* The Wiggles? *~
If you don't know who The Wiggles are, you either don't have children or have been living under a rock. They're everywhere - in commercials on children's television channels, on lunchboxes and backpacks and clothes and toys. The Wiggles are, quite simply, a kiddie sensation.
Anthony, Greg, Jeff and Murray are an Australian "band" that consistently pump out catchy and groove-able songs for young listeners. Each Wiggle is identifiable in part by his own particular color shirt (blue, yellow, purple and red, respectively) as well as individual personality quirks. Anthony is a food-lover and is seldom seem without a snack; Greg is an aspiring magician and driver of the Big Red Car (their preferred mode of transportation); Jeff is somewhat narcoleptic and drops off to sleep at some rather inopportune moments; and Murray loves making music, especially on his (color-coordinating) red guitar. The quartet lives together in "Wiggle House" - much like a toned-down PeeWee's Playhouse with a talking stove named Hot Pots and lots of funky, colorful furniture. (Yes, each guy has their own bedroom - with color-coordinated doors, of course.)
The show isn't all 'four guys singing', however. Each show has it's own theme - animals, parts of the body, numbers, etc. - with live action sketches between the musical segments that teach toddlers about the theme of the day. Interspersed with the show's theme are subtle lessons on friendship, manners, hygiene and other important issues that little ones are just beginning to figure out.
The Wiggles aren't the only residents of Wiggle World - they are neighbors to several other colorful characters:
* Dorothy the Dinosaur is a large, green, hat-wearing, rose-eating dinosaur who just loves her friends The Wiggles, and often depends on them to bail her out of sticky situations (ie. stuck atop a tree when her ladder falls.)
* Henry the Octopus is a purple, plaid-suit wearing octopus who lives beneath the sea. (Oddly, The Wiggles are easily able to join him in his underwater home without the aid of scuba gear. Hmm.) Henry is conductor the Underwater Animal Big Band, a group comprised of various fish and sea creatures that performs occasionally on the show.
* Captain Feathersword is a friendly - and klutzy - pirate with a fluffy feather for a sword (thus his name!) He lives on the Friendly Pirate Ship with his crew of about five other nameless pirates, all of which sing and dance along with him. The Wiggles often visit the Captain aboard his ship, but he's not at all opposed to leaving his vessel to visit them at Wiggle House as well.
* Wags the Dog seems to be Captain Feathersword's pet as he very often interacts with him, although he rather seems to be 'his own dog', going here and there (and doing tricks and obeying commands) solely as he pleases.
While parts of The Wiggles are animated (mostly scenery and backgrounds), Dorothy, Henry and Wags are all obviously actors in costumes - therefore, as tall as The Wiggles themselves.
~* Variation *~
Recently, a variation on the classic Wiggles format (music and sketches) has appeared on Playhouse Disney - one that we're much less fond of, truth be told. In these episodes, the guys are proprietors of Network Wiggles, a news broadcasting station. Greg, always being "lead Wiggle", is the anchorman, reporting the news around Wiggle World. Dorothy very often does "special reports" (such as story time at the library), and the other guys have their own segments - Anthony's Workshop (arts and crafts), Music with Murray, and a game show called "Where's Jeff?", where the guest must attempt to guess where Jeff has fallen asleep now. Captain Feathersword is in charge of weather, with his "amazing Weathersword!" Ugh. Cheesy, cheesy.
Musical segments are still a part of this new format, although not as often in the video-like style of the 'traditional' Wiggles show - rather, the guys sing and dance on a stage in their studio, with kids operating the cameras and lights around them. This setting, to me, detracts from the show's appeal...although at this point, I'm thinking little Wiggles fans would watch them no matter where they performed.
Both show formats are currently aired on Playhouse Disney, so you're not stuck with one when you prefer the other. However, you never really know what you're going to get. (If you have access to Tivo/DVR, it's easier to pinpoint which show type you're recording - the theme shows will note the theme in the description, whereas the Network Wiggles shows will simply be marked "series".)
~* Overall *~
Like most any children's programming, The Wiggles can be downright annoying. Although kinda cute, Captain Feathersword especially is a tad irksome, and Dorothy's high-pitched whiny voice has been the cause of a couple of parental headaches already. However, I am happy that the show is constantly teaching my daughter something - whether it's as simple as numbers and letters or something more complex like the sounds that different musical instruments make. I love that The Wiggles are very (sometimes unrealistically) polite to each other and obviously value their friendship - they share, they say "please", "thank you" and "excuse me", and are generally great role models for the way I'd like for my daughter to behave.
The musical numbers are, as I've said before, very catchy - it's hard to listen and not "wiggle" a little yourself, and dancing around with my daughter (who always gets up to dance) isn't bad exercise either! I'm happy that she doesn't simply sit and 'veg out' in front of this show, but gets up and moves around throughout. That's worth having the occasional Wiggles tune stuck in my head for days at a time...
~* For Die-Hard Wiggles Fans *~
There is no shortage of Wiggles merchandise to be had - but how about The Wiggles themselves? Sure, why not? Fans can catch them on tour throughout the U.S., U.K. and Australia! Just visit their official website at http://www.thewiggles.com.au for a complete list of concert dates, and get your wiggle on in person.