In the last twenty years or so, children’s television has changed dramatically. While,
even by the mid nineties, Saturday morning cartoons and After school specials were still common mainstays of American television, nowadays, those two programming blocks are mostly extinct. I think the saddest, most depressing children’s television development of the 2000’s is the lack of single-camera. For example, when I was kid, Disney Channel had high quality programming like So Weird, Even Stevens, and Lizzie McGuire. Nickelodeon could air single camera shows like The Adventures of Pete & Pete and Alex Mack up against shows like Kenan and Kel and All That. However, in 2015, when it comes to their continuing series, both cable networks now focus exclusively on cheap (and cheap looking) multi-camera. Now, I’m not saying that multi-camera is bad. Some of the best recent children’s series, from Girl Meets World to iCarly are multi-camera…and work well in that format. But it’s truly unfortunate that children’s television has essentially become less inventive and “diverse” (in terms of genre and camera format).
After The Discovery Family Channel (formerly The Hub) cancelled both Spooksville and The Haunting Hour, it seemed like we had reached an era where single-camera dramatic television aimed towards young children were a thing of the past. Color me surprised when I discovered that CBS was airing a single-camera crime procedural aimed towards children and families. That show is The Inspectors.
Because the Federal Government still requires American television networks to air at least three hours of educational television a week, all five major networks still air children and youth programming on weekend mornings. These programs are usually non-fiction, and cover topics from sports to nature and animals to science. Many of these programs (particularly CBS’s Innovation Nation) are really good. However, I know that when I was a pre-teen and a teen, fiction and drama programming drew me in more than non-fiction. It would be great if one of these networks put time aside to showcase original dramatic programming.
That is essentially what CBS has done. Every Saturday/Sunday morning, CBS airs a block of youth programming, titled CBS Dream Team. For its first two seasons, the block consisted of documentary-style programming, usually with a famous name as the host. However, starting October of this year, CBS Dream Team premiered a new show called The Inspectors. It is centered on a team of detectives who work for the United States Postal Inspection Service, where they solve crimes connected to the US Mail. It’s a show that’s designed to teach families and young people about all the crimes that be can committed involving mail and possibly the steps we can take to protect ourselves. It’s a worthy topic…but the best part of this series is that it involves actors playing characters…and a single-camera look. In the world of youth television, this is the type of high-quality programming that’s sorely needed in this medium.
This show needs to succeed. I know I shouldn’t make declarations after having watched one episode (“The Slow and the Furious”), but if all the remaining episodes are of the quality of this one, then I truly believe we have a winner. I don’t have anything really poignant to say at this point, just that this is a show I have been waiting for. Although the show seems comedic in nature, it really does touch on real crimes and real issues. It’s a show that educates without being too didactic. It entertains, without being too silly and, frankly, “childish.” The show really does model itself after crime procedurals (like the ones that air on CBS primetime), but it’s more appropriate for children. At the same time, it doesn’t patronize its young audience. What I’m trying to get at is: the show is the perfect tone.
And I hope it does well at next year’s Daytime Emmys.
The Inspectors stars Jessica Lundy and relative newcomer Bret Green as her wheelchair bound son. Where I live, the show airs Saturday mornings at 8:30 AM (for some reason, CBS Dream Team airs really early in my area). Since no childless 20-something wakes up that early on Saturday unless he or she is going to work, I do have to DVR the show and watch it later. The show, if IMDB is correct, has 22 guaranteed episodes. I’m not sure if this is the type of show that needs another season. If it does, I really hope the show is successful enough to continue on. If not, then I hope for a great 22 episodes. What I do know, is that I am glad that, for right now, the children of America, have an option like this for their television and educational needs.