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Archive for Wednesday, May 10, 2006

TV network puts children to bed

May 10, 2006

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— It's bedtime and your toddler is having a meltdown, insisting on just one more episode of "Bob the Builder."

Well, parents, now TV might help.

Melanie the baby sitter, Star the puppet and Hush the goldfish are the stars of a new bedtime show on PBS KIDS Sprout.

Since mid-April, the cast of "The Good Night Show" has been taping the second season in a Paulsboro studio, just outside Philadelphia. The show returns in July on KIDS Sprout, a cable and satellite network owned jointly by Comcast Corp., PBS, Sesame Workshop and HIT Entertainment.

The network features programming aimed at 2- to 5-year-olds. "The Good Night Show" comes on at 5 p.m. CDT daily, offering soothing stories and music that encourage toddlers to wind down and get ready for bed.

On the three-hour show, Melanie - in real life, she's Melanie Martinez, a 34-year-old stage actress and the mother of a 3-year-old - introduces five- to 15-minute segments of kid favorites such as "Thomas & Friends," "Angelina Ballerina" and the old standby "Barney & Friends."


Melanie Martinez, who plays Melanie the baby sitter, laughs during taping as she sits with Star the puppet on the studio set for "The Good Night Show" in Paulsboro, N.J. The television show is broadcast on PBS KIDS Sprout, a 24-hour national cable and satellite network aimed at the youngest television viewers.

Melanie Martinez, who plays Melanie the baby sitter, laughs during taping as she sits with Star the puppet on the studio set for "The Good Night Show" in Paulsboro, N.J. The television show is broadcast on PBS KIDS Sprout, a 24-hour national cable and satellite network aimed at the youngest television viewers.

"When a kid says, 'Can I just watch one more show?' The parent can say, 'Of course you can,"' said Andrew Beecham, senior vice president of programming for KIDS Sprout. "It's only five more minutes."

In between segments, Martinez leads yoga sessions, demonstrates crafts, teaches Spanish and, most importantly, helps the excitable puppet, Star, get ready for bed. It always works: By the end of every show, Star's lights are out.

Seeing Star, who acts like a 4-year-old, doze off is "one more way to know that bedtime's going to be OK," Martinez said.

While the show is sure to appeal to some frustrated adults, some child-rearing experts say they'd rather see parents - not Melanie and Star - prepare their children for bed.

Seattle pediatrician Donald Shifrin, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee that studies television and children, does not recommend that parents make the KIDS Sprout show - or any other - part of their children's bedtime routine.

"The bedtime routine is one of the most sacred times for parents," Shifrin said. "What we'd like is to have parents take them there with cuddling, with books, with songs, even with audio tapes."

Jennings Bryant, an expert in children's television at the University of Alabama, said that in an ideal world television should not be part of the bedtime routine for children - but "The Good Night Show" sounds better than some alternatives.

Its creators say the show is designed to be seen by parents and children together, uses repetition and slower pacing so that preschoolers can follow, and has infrequent commercials aimed mostly at parents rather than their tiny consumers.

"If they're going to watch television anyway, I would rather they watch something like this," Bryant said.

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