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Check out seven shows you can watch with your kid without going crazy

1 of 8 PBS, Disney XD, Disney Jr.


The wealth of children's programming today is astounding. Too bad so much of it is so annoying to parents. All the sing-songy voices, the idiotic catchphrases, the canned laughter, and the over-acting — it can be enough to drive an adult nuts. But there are a few programs that are palatable, even fun. Some are well known: Sesame Street remains an oldie but goodie, and Disney's Phineas and Ferb is fast becoming a modern classic. Even the love-it-or-hate-it Yo Gabba Gabba! on Nick Jr. deserves consideration for the way it courts adult viewers by featuring cool indie bands. When childless hipsters DVR a kids show, it's time to take note. Here are a few other programs that may be less well known, but could be just as important in helping parents keep their sanity. — Ryan E. Smith
2 of 8 Universal Studios/PBS

Curious George (PBS, check local listings)

Ages: 2 to 5 Story line: That famous monkey is at it again in this educational and Emmy winning animated series, now in its sixth season. Curious George, originally found in the beloved books of Margret and H. A. Rey, continues his adventures (and mischief-making) with the man in the yellow hat and other friends as he explores the world around him. Why you won't hate it:This is Zen television at its best. The narrator's tones are soothing, the accompanying music is never obnoxious, and lessons are imparted without being heavy-handed. Parents will be surprised at how many times they find themselves chuckling at the clever writing and how much they still love this irrepressible character. By the end, you'll be hooting and howling just like George.
3 of 8 CBS

Busytown Mysteries (CBS, Saturdays at 8 am/ET)

Ages: 2 to 5 Story line: Based on the charming creations of children's author and illustrator Richard Scarry, this show features Huckle the cat and a host of other fun characters — including a shoe-wearing worm and a pair of pigs who drive a car shaped like a sausage. The group uses its deductive reasoning skills to solve everyday mysteries. Why you won't hate it: Two words: Sausage car. The characters have character — what other cartoon features a cat wearing lederhosen? — and the plot, while simple, doesn't assume that you or your child is a moron. The voices are never grating, and even the catchphrase, "Let's get Busytown!" doesn't get old.
4 of 8 Nick Jr.

Olivia (Nick Jr., daily at 3/2c)

Ages: Ages 2 to 5 Story line: The title character is an adorably confident 6-year-old pig who constantly loses herself in her vivid imagination, often bringing her family and friends with her. Inspired by the books of Ian Falconer, Olivia exudes creativity and a can-do spirit. Why you won't hate it: Olivia's optimism is contagious, making her one sensational swine. More importantly, the characters never talk down to the viewer in terms of vocabulary or content. So, while your preschooler learns about the solar system through Olivia's daydreams, you can discover how cold it is on Jupiter and be reminded that, no, old timer, Pluto is not a planet anymore.
5 of 8 HUB

Fraggle Rock (The Hub, weekdays at 7 am/ET)

Ages: 4 to 8 Story line: Think of it as The Muppet Show underground. Originally airing on HBO in the 1980s, this less-appreciated but more tot-friendly series centers on the lives of subterranean, fun-loving puppets called Fraggles who love to sing and dance while teaching each other valuable lessons. Why you won't hate it: Jim Henson, the mastermind behind this show, was a genius at reaching children and adults simultaneously. Not only is the dialogue witty, but it's hard not to love raucous, silly puppets who can sing a revival-style tune one moment and a ballad the next. Don't forget that the theme song became a top 40 hit in Great Britain back in the day. These Fraggles still rock.
6 of 8 Nickelodeon


Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness (Nickelodeon, Fridays at 8:30/7:30c) Ages: 6 to 11 Story line: Po the panda — made famous by Jack Black in the movie and sequel upon which this cartoon is based — is the Dragon Warrior who engages in some serious kung fu (and cooking) with his colleagues, the Furious Five, to protect the Valley of Peace. Why you won't hate it: Everything endearing about the movies remains, except for Black's exuberant voice, which is mimicked impeccably by Mick Wingert. There's top-notch animation, laugh-out-loud humor, fast-paced action, sight gags that work on all ages, and all-around, high-energy awesomeness. It can be heartwarming one moment and hilarious the next. And if the theme song doesn't pump you up, nothing will.
7 of 8 Cartoon Network

Young Justice (Cartoon Network, check local listings)

Ages: 6 to 11 Story line: The DC comic book universe returns to television, this time featuring a squad full of teenagers. Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Superboy, and others form a team similar to the adults' Justice League to carry out secret missions based on Batman's orders. Why you won't hate it: If you like comics, you'll like Young Justice. This show's action, as well as its dramatic tension and snappy one-liners, are well-conceived. The violence clearly aims for the upper regions of the target audience — maybe a little too high for young ones — but it's perfect for adults who love a good superhero show.
8 of 8 Eric McCandless/Disney Channel

Good Luck Charlie (Disney Channel, check local listings)

Ages: 6 to 14 Story line: A standard family sitcom, this series focuses on the Duncan clan as they deal with the arrival of their fourth child, Charlie. Parents Amy and Bob ask their three older children to help care for their sister. Why you won't hate it: Any adult who grew up watching shows like Full House in the 1980s and '90s will feel right at home. The mix of goofy plotlines isn't new, but that's OK. What's nice is that this kids' show actually includes subplots for parent viewers, like trying (unsuccessfully) to transition a youngster from a crib to a toddler bed. It's funny stuff, if only because it's so true.