Why Yo Gabba Gabba! is the Perfect Kids’ Show

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck on April 24, 2017

in Television

[originally published in 2011]

Children of the 80s are a proud bunch. Most of us hold our childhood memories in high regard, and rightfully so- we grew up in an exceptionally kid-friendly decade. There were so many shows, toys and cultural phenomena to be a part of and to look back upon wistfully. If you have kids, and you want them to grow up and have a similar sentimental yearning, Yo Gabba Gabba! is the show for them.

Think back to your earliest memories of childhood, when you became a cute little mass-media consumer. It’s likely that your first loves were some combination of Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, The Muppet Show, and other similar programs. The common bond between most kids’ shows of that era was that they all featured some combination of humans and puppets/suited characters. It was this very combination that allowed so many little sponge-like minds to absorb the intricacies of human interaction and expression. It wasn’t until later on in childhood that animated shows such as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and The Smurfs captured our attention.

So many of today’s kids’ shows are fully animated or star computer-generated main characters. I must give credit to Nick Jr., because for every animated show like Dora the Explorer, there is a human-infused counterpart like Yo Gabba Gabba! or The Fresh Beat Band. It’s important that little ones master the art of human interaction at an early age, and that is something Yo Gabba Gabba! emphasizes in a fun way. Here are just a few reasons it’s the perfect show for kids and parents alike:

The special guests

Is Jay-Z coming to Gabbaland in Season 4?

The guest stars on YGG are kid-friendly, but targeted at their parents. If you are a fan of SNL, The Office, Freaks and Geeks, or pop culture in general you will recognize Gabbaland’s resident school teacher (Angela Kinsey), super spy (Jason Bateman) the guest at Brobee’s birthday party (Melora Hardin), some very odd and awesome treasure hunters (Fred Armisen & Charlyne Yi) and a few dancey dancers (Andy Samberg, Sarah Silverman, Bill Hader, Rachel Dratch to name a few). Jack McBrayer and Paul Scheer do a recurring segment called “Knock Knock Joke of the Day”.

Many are familiar with the Gabba Gang’s “new friend” Jack Black, who appeared as himself for an entire episode, but just as charming were Weird Al Yankovic as a circus promoter, Mos Def as “Super Mister Superhero” and Anthony Bourdain as Dr. Tony (nice to see doctors in Gabbaland still make house calls).

The musical guests

Every episode of YGG has a “Super Music Friends Show” segment, which features a number of talented bands, some mainstream acts and some that are huge on the indy scene. These performances are not your typical ‘kid music’ where we ‘hold hands and sway’, but rather ‘get up off the couch and rock’ songs by bands like Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, The Killers, The Roots, The Shins, MGMT, and The Ting Tings.

Biz Markie’s “Biz’s Beat of the Day” is a crowd-pleaser; listening to my two-year old attempt to beat-box like his friend Biz is a treat. If you’re a Killers fan, I challenge you (whether you have kids or not) to check out this song and not have it in your head the rest of the day:

Their place in the pop culture pantheon

While Muno’s appearance as a come-to-life-toy who gets to hit the town in a Kia Super Bowl commercial was great exposure for the show, characters from Yo Gabba Gabba! have appeared on Jimmy Fallon, performing Kool & the Gang’s “Spirit of the Boogie” with The Roots, they have helped launch a line of YGG-themed Vans shoes and apparel (for grown-ups), and invaded the Coachella music festival:

The cut scenes 

It’s clear after watching a few episodes that Yo Gabba Gabba! is written and produced by super-talented pop culture nerds. The cut scenes between segments typically feature one or all of the YGG creatures in an 8-bit setting, traversing some familiar-looking  landscape reminiscent of 80s video games such as Jungle Hunt, Paperboy, or BurgerTime. Picture Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as a kids’ show.

In the Clubhouse episode, Muno and Brobee imagine they are stuck on a snowy mountain peak, and their winter gear is eerily similar to that of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo’s Hoth garb from Empire Strikes Back. That should gain instant cool points with any dad who is a Star Wars fan, as I can guarantee you’ll never see “Dagobah Dora” or Elmo in Mandalorian Battle Armor.

The message

The writers of Yo Gabba Gabba! tackle the real issues that their little viewers could be facing: It’s OK to be different. We all get scared sometimes. Some people are sad a lot (poor Gooble). They deliver simple to follow guidelines for being an intelligent and conscientious person: Be nice to animals. Look both ways. Don’t bite your friends. All of these messages are delivered in an engaging and entertaining way.

It’s hard to say what our kids will look back on fondly when they are in their thirties and forties. My hope is that today’s children can be as proud of what they grew up on as we are.



@eclectik June 10, 2017 at 4:34 am

Waiting for the Fruit Islands cereal show, Yo A Yumma Yumma

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