The newest favorite (although still second fiddle to the Guppies) is Team Umizoomi. For those of you non-parental sorts, let me try to capture the essence of TU: It is a “tiny team” of a girl, boy, and their robot pal. They are all quite small, being roughly the size of a Chihuahua puppy (maybe). They all have special powers which allow them to solve puzzles and complete missions. They kind of remind me of the old cartoon Wondertwins, only with an educational twist and without the stupid blue monkey.
Milli is the girl Umi, who has “pattern power.” Her dress is chameleon-like, morphing into whatever pattern happens to be at the center of the puzzle/mission. Additionally, her ponytails can measure things. Oddly enough, they avoid any direct indication of units, and say “unit.” I do have a problem with “unit” being used interchangeably for linear distance or volume… Geo is the boy Umi, who has a “shape belt.” This allows him to construct a whole variety of items needed to solve the puzzle/complete the mission. He’s otherwise pretty boring. Bot is their robot pal, whose torso rotates revealing the Belly Belly Bellyscreen on one side (which is where they often get their missions) or the Bot Bot Bot-o-Mat on the other side (which contains random items at any point in time).
There are other miscellaneous characters that often reappear, such as Silly Bear (which Will cannot stand…I rarely see Will get as outraged at the TV as when Silly Bear is on) – whose dimwitted but benevolent antics are often at the root of a Team mission – or Dormouse. Dormouse is cause for some explanation. He is essentially the bureaucrat of the operation. You will find him blocking the Team at some various checkpoint, apologizing profusely for the inconvenience but still unwilling to let them pass. Essentially, he cock-blocks the Team over some kind of trivial red tape(sorry for the profanity – I really do try to keep that to a minimum here, but it is the best verb to use in this case). Ultimately, the team prevails. I guess this is useful to kids in its own fashion, in that “the only thing that’s certain in life is death and taxes” kind of way.
It’s really rather cute, with funny little songs along the way. I also appreciate that they’re educational. The missions/puzzles are usually pretty stupid. They start with some live-action (“real”) kid who has lost or broken something and therefore can’t perform in some kind of task or function. Such as the little girl who lost her cartoon sparkle shells and therefore couldn’t share them with her class, or the little boy who broke his lion pull-toy so that he couldn’t lead the pull-toy parade. In that case, I was uncomfortable, as this little boy was clearly way too old to be playing with a pull-toy. I have to say it’s rather akin to having a plot in porn. Why bother? Why not just give the Team a job to find object X and turn them loose?
Anyway, Stella likes it, particularly the end when they do their celebration dance and “crazy shake.” She practically gives herself a nosebleed shaking her head like mad. I guess it’s still ultimately better than Barney.