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TODAY

Monday, February 18

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Airbags

Most of the late '80s and early '90s consisted of me babysitting my three preschool-aged nephews. For a teenager without a real job, babysitting was one safe option for easy money, or so I thought. After spending the day with them and having exhausted all of my resources (Cookies? Check! Piggy back rides? Check! Having them run around till they get are dead tired? Check!) I would wrangle them onto the couch and pop in a Barney tape into the VCR. While sitting next to them in a Barney love-fest stupor — for Barney loves everyone — I would think, "There is no way in hell my kid is ever gonna watch that!" There was just too much love on Barney for my taste. How could I have grown up with the rockin' Banana Splits and expect my kid to sit through Barney's lame dancing and singing?

My son, now almost 19 months, digs a good beat and to accommodate those times when he has a ton of energy that needs a place to go or when I just want to sit down for a blessed half-an-hour, there's Jack's Big Music Show? Produced by Spiffy Pictures, Jack's Big Music Show is Noggin's new hit, a rockin' good show that appeals to both children and adults.

Jack is a cool boy (I'm guessing he's a boy of some sort (even though he's blue and looks a bit canine) who hangs out every day to play music with his best friend Mary and dog Mel. They really are a musical bunch, too. Jack plays the guitar, Mary the accordion and Mel kicks a mean set of drums. Each episode takes place in Jack's clubhouse, located in his backyard, and has the gang experiencing some sort of musical adventure. In one episode, a musical genie grants each of them a wish, in another they teach The Little Bad Wolf (Big is his older brother) what music is and in another episode, Mel has a "Super Swell Dance Party" where he spins records and the entire neighborhood drops in.

Besides Jack, Mary and Mel's singing and dancing, each episode features a video by acclaimed children's artist Laurie Berkner, who performs with her husband, bass player Brian Mueller, and with keyboardist Susie Lampbert. Berkner adds a nurturing element to the show by teaching children acceptance and self-confidence while singing songs about liking yourself, having lots of energy and being different.

Apart from the performances by Laurie Berkner and the other regulars (including Dirty Sock Funtime Band and Chicago native Cathy Richardson, who is the voice of Jack's mom), the show has other human musical guests who drop by to sing and perform. Guests in the clubhouse have included Yolanda Adams, blues legend Buddy Guy, Hot Peas N' Butter, Guy Davis and more.

With its understated humor and clever puppetry, the show has a bit of a Sesame Street vibe to it, and it's no coincidence: there are several Muppet/Sesame Street ties. David Rudman, one of the show's executive producers, worked on Sesame Street as the voice of Cookie Monster and does the voice of Jack. Adam Rudman, another executive producer, is an award-winning writer for Sesame Street, and John Kennedy, who has provided the voices for The Muppets' Dr. Teeth, Animal and Sam the Eagle, is the voice of Mel.

Jack's Big Music Show is entertaining and engaging children's programming without all the cutesy junk other shows try to dish. While watching Jack, children will hear favorites like "Mary Had a Little Lamb," but played with electric guitar and sung as "Mary had an Accordian," as well as develop a love of music and some rudimentary music theory. Music goes hand-in-hand with many aspects of children development, so it's cool to have something you can watch with your children that won't make you want to shoot yourself. Be it the Sesame Street influenced humor, the music, the Laurie Berkner videos or just Mel playing the drums, everyone who watches can find something they like in Jack's Big Music Show. And, with the exception of the music video portions, it's filmed here in Chicago. Cool, huh? Plus, the theme song is catchy as hell! I dare you to not watch the show and find yourself humming the "dum dee dee dum" chorus throughout the day.

According to Noggin, "The mission of Jack's Big Music Show is to expose and foster an appreciation of music [and] help children expand their universe and develop memory, language, literacy and reasoning skills as well as the cognitive, social and motor skills" Well, that may be true, but the bottom line is that Jack rocks the house. If the first 13 episodes are any indication of what the show will continue to be like, then bring on season 2, Jack!

Jack's Big Music Show
on Noggin, every day at 3:30pm
and on Comcast On Demand
Send a SASE at the address listed here for a free photo of Jack and the gang, compliments of Spiffy Pictures.

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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