I have a 3.5 year old kid who loves the Wiggles (wikipedia, home). Has for about a year and a half – which is long legs for a kids’ media. I’ve seen most Wiggles videos and most that I’ve seen I’ve seen more than once. And here are my observations:
Old School v. New School
There’s a huge divide between early Wiggles and later WIggles.
- Noxiousity: Early Wiggles stuff is less obnoxious than later. It’s the classic band idea – they’re interesting and fun when they have no budget and are charming and lo-fi. We also started with the earlier ones, so that may be a factor. Later Wiggles are much more edited, fast, everyone very close to the camera, bright colors, worse songs, and more educational content. Early Wiggles were slow, simple, and song-based (and the songs were good).
- Greg-less: Greg, the lead singer (yellow shirt) dropped out of the band for health-related reasons. His voice is nice and gentle, and he’s an old dude like the others. His replacement is younger and has a nice choir voice. But that’s the problem – he’s younger and sounds better, he looks more rehearsed and dances well. A lot of the appeal of the Wiggles for me initially was, what the hell are these guys doing singing kids for songs? Yeah, the songs are catchy, but what the hell are four male adults doing singing songs to kids? They’re kind of goofy, they miss steps (purposely, apparently, to make them appear more human to kids. Worked). In retrospect I think they were pretty genuine – they were goofy. Sam, for all his theatrical skills, is not great at being goofy. He’s like an MC for an awards banquet.
- The Captain and Anthony Show: Later episodes seem to be narrated and driven by Anthony. While Anthony appears to be the band leader, this is less obvious early on since everyone seems to play equal roles. Later, not only do Murray, Jeff, and Sam have less to do, but Captain Feathersword is in ALMOST EVERY SINGLE SKETCH. A little Captain goes a long way. He’s obviously a gifted entertainer and always stays in character in really silly sketches, but he takes the scenery out to dinner and eats it. That Anthony also appears in almost every sketch was annoying to me until I saw their live concert video – Anthony runs the show, but he does it very well and very conscientiously. There’s a reason he’s the leader, he seems to have boundless energy and enthusiasm.
We still watch them (see how I make it sound like I have some say in the decision), but I’d be hard-pressed to want to listen to a whole CD of Sam’s singing – he just sounds normal, a theater-ready performer. Greg’s voice (and interactions with others) had some character, some grittiness. Poor Sam, too nicety-nice.