Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stevie In Front Of The TV: The Best New Show You're Not Watching (But Should)

Once upon a time, or as they say over at the network where the show I'm about to review airs, once a-Sprout a time, when we New York kids came home from school on those rare days (VERY rare days!) when we didn't have a ton of homework we used to turn on either Channel 5 or Channel 11 and watch whatever Hanna-Barbera cartoon had just come down the pike or Channel 9 to watch the Marvel Super Heroes show with its limited animation retellings of Stan Lee's latest hits, (Full disclosure: I was still a heavy DC fan then.) and we almost never checked in with the network affiliates and their local and national newscasts and what one person once described as a "series of catastrophes interrupted by a fashion show." The old folks called it a bunch of mindless pap, but hey, we LOVED it.

On September 26, 2005, PBS,Comcast, HIT Entertainment and Sesame Workshop introduced a new channel with VERY limited commercial interruption called PBS Kids Sprout.Since then, one of the
cornerstones of the channel's programming has been "The Good Night Show," which, like the toons of those glorious days of our misspent youth, provides an alternative to the screaming and shouting on the allegedly grown up news channels, but also promises a more stimulating alternative to the kidvid fare on Disney and Nick with artistic activities, stories, poems, songs (including "The Nightly Cleanup Song" and "The Brusha Brusha Brusha Song", which instructs the younger generation in the proper oral hygiene technique) and off-PBS repeats of "Angelina Ballerina" and "Bob The Builder" as well as British shows such as "Sarah and Duck" and "Sam and Stella." Since then, actress Michele Lepe (as Nina Flores) and puppeteer Stacia Newcombe (as her best friend Star) have welcomed viewers (or "Sproutlets" and "Big Sprouts") into their tree house at the "You and Me Tree". Not only do Nina and Star engage in all the aforementioned activities, but  they also play dress-up, tell stories with sand, and teach Spanish and American Sign Language. Like Mister Rogers in his sweater. kids see Nina in her Dr. Denton's top and lounge pants and immediately know they have a friend, and Star, a chubby little star with a little boy's voice and (Of course!) stars in his eyes, is a character they can easily identify with. With a pair this popular, it was only a matter of time before they got their own show.

That show is called NINA'S WORLD and it officially premiers on September 26 at 7:30 PM Eastern on Sprout, now 100% owned by NBC Universal and still with VERY limited commercial interruption. Michele is the Executive Producer and Stacia reprises her role as Star in this VERY animated original programming which tells stories from the character Nina's childhood. Unlike certain other shows, (I'm talking to YOU, Sofia the First!) this is a 100% Hispanic character voiced by a 100% Hispanic actress, (NOT Michele, but once I find out who, I'll let you know.) and unlike another animated show centered around a Hispanic character, (Estoy hablando a TI, Dora la Exploradora!) this story portrays children in a more realistic, and positive light. Nina trades in the jammies for jeans as she takes us back to the days when she learned about the power of imagination and friendship with well-written and animated stories from a talented crew including (HEY, YOU GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUYS!) EGOT (Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony) winner Rita Moreno as Nina's very hip Abuelita (Granny) Yolie. This is a program for everybody and a great way to learn Spanish if you haven't already. (People named Trump need not watch.)

As Nina herself says when starting her Sprout Stretches (exercises) on Good Night,
"I'm a little sprout now, but watch me grow,
As up up up I go!"
And up is, DEFINITELY, where NINA'S WORLD is going.

NEXT: A preview of my trip to San Antonio and Austin.

Feliz Hispanic Heratige Month!

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