One Track Mind: Allyson Lupovich, "Theme from ‘Caillou’" (1998)

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What fresh hell is this? Take one day off from work to recover from one of the nastiest, most insidious little colds to come along in ages, and something sicker happens: I get the theme song from children’s show Caillou lodged firmly in my head.

And it’s not like we had it on all day, serving up its special brand of sickness from our DVR or OnDemand. No, it was on only the time that it aired by our local PBS affiliate. Something this insipid doesn’t require much, however, to infect even the hardiest of listeners.

Caillou is TV’s most unmercifully whiny of animated tots. Like Charlie Brown, the boy appears to be prematurely balding, but unlike unlucky ol’ Chuck, we can’t side with this character because all he does is whine. Who cares about a whiner? Shut up already, kid! His little sister got a better cookie, or seemingly more ice cream, whatever – Caillou will make an issue out of it. A big issue. We’re talking serious tantrum-time.

And what do his parents do? Nothing. They’re the world’s most understanding parents, never reacting with the slightest bit of upset, anger, or anxiety over the ridiculous temper their tiny offspring is displaying. In fact, usually they seem to encourage the little tyrant — caving and giving the little turd exactly what he was whining about. Is this what children should really be seeing? A good example, is this?

But let’s get back on track: that theme song. It’s one thing to make the theme so sing-songy. I understand: It’s a kid’s show. It sounds like something coming out of children’s toy, and that’s fine. It’s composed mainly of the sound of a piano-flute combination that never could actually exist in the real world, a kind of barb which lodges firmly deep in the consciousness. It helps make the kids come back, right?

But it’s the singing that really bothers me. It’s so misleading, because it’s probably actually a kid. It’s meant to sound like Caillou in the show, but it’s not the Caillou you’ll grow weary of. The Caillou in the song is much peppier and kind of cute — not whiny at all. And, again, clearly a child, or someone around a child’s age. Would it be so much to ask for, you know, a child to voice Caillou in the show, too? Because that’s not who voices him in the show: It’s one of those situations where a much older, possibly adult person either alters their voice him/herself or does it some other way and the result is 100 percent inauthentically child-like. And kinda creepy if you think about it too much, which I have over the past too many hours.

See, there’s nothing about the way that Caillou speaks that says “this person has recently been a child.” The voice is that of someone who makes a great effort to act like a child, and that’s the problem. That’s why Caillou’s whining is so irritating. If you’ve got kids, you know that whining just comes with the territory. And I’d think authentic whining might be welcome to some, if not most parents because it might feel like a little reality is reflected at least somewhere in the kids-show world.

The saccharine-sweet, bubble-gum perfect world of Caillou may attempt to make the young ones feel more secure, but it sure doesn’t represent any kind of reality that they may actually experience. And judging by the reactions I see in various places online, Caillou would be served up a beatdown just about every time he opened his mouth.

I just want to remind everyone of something: What we broadcast over the air goes out into space and will act as our introduction messages to intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. If we get attacked, remember that mixed in with all of the interesting stuff we broadcast, our amazing discoveries, our triumphs, our humor, our humanity and intelligence, are things like Jersey Shore, Housewives of (name a location), The Bachelor, and Caillou.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at
Tom Johnson
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