September 14, 2006


 "Handy Manny"

My 3-year-old nephew Mikey can hardly wait for Sept. 16, when Disney premieres its new series "Handy Manny." And his parents can't wait either, because ever since Mikey received the preview DVD of this show, he has watched it over and over and over again.

"Handy Manny" is a new animated series for preschoolers that features Manny, a workman who helps others and dispenses character-building sayings while his tools sing and dance along. Like several other preschool cartoons that have hit the scene in the last few years, Handy Manny also incorporates words in Spanish into the program. The show's producers say that "Handy Manny" offers a "multicultural perspective and valuable messages about friendship and working together." All while tools are dancing around in the background.

While Mikey loves this show, the adults who have watched it with him haven't seen anything new or different between this and similar shows such as "Dora the Explorer" (actually, we all agree that we enjoy Dora much more). There's nothing I really didn't like about "Handy Manny," and certainly preschoolers will enjoy the music; it's just that I'd like to see something different once in a while when it comes to children's programming and this show's nothing new.

"Handy Manny" will premier at 10 a.m. Sept. 16 on The Disney Channel. After that, it will air at 8 a.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. weekends. Liz DeCarlo

 Hip Hop Harry


  Photo courtesy Stefanie Keenan,

Having survived three children's obsessions with Barney, I believed myself safe from further costumed characters. But Hip Hop Harry arrives on the Discovery Channel this month to prove me wrong. Harry is a new millennium take on a character (in this case a bear) who interacts with live kids, teaching lessons and having fun along the way.

Admittedly, I don't live in the hip-hop world. I don't understand the music or fashion appeal, so my children haven't been exposed to much. But my three boys immediately fell under the spell of Harry and the HipHop Central crew. They were nodding along to the music, remarking on the "cool kids" dancing and following the episode's plot like these characters were a bunch of old friends.

As with much of children's programming these days, Hip Hop Harry aims to teach children simple lessons in a fun way. Within the first five minutes, Harry and the cast had hit upon the value of exercise, sticking to one's commitments, listening to parents and washing hands, which turned out to be the central lesson of the first preview episode we watched.

I loved that when the kids wanted to know "why" they have to wash their hands, Harry's immediate suggestion was to visit the library to find the answer. Judging by the "I love to learn" motto and dance number, I assume books and library visits will be a consistent presence in the show. As they read about tiny germs invisible to the eye, my 4-year-old studied his own hands and asked me to show him the germs. My 5-year-old simply got up and went to the sink, trying to follow along to the rap song about hand-washing.

The end of the show was most entertaining for me. I wonder where the producers found all the amazing kids, who can really dance. Harry calls for a "Dance Circle" and each cast member gets a chance to show his or her stuff in the spotlight. My son summed it up well: "All right. That guy really has some moves."

Hip Hop Harry begins airing on the Discovery Channel Sept. 25 at 9 a.m., and will repeat the following week on TLC, Oct. 2. Hip Hop Harry will continue to air on both channels for the rest of the season. Check local listings for channels and times. To purchase DVDs of the program, visit Alena Murguia


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