YOUNG AND IN LOVE

Tuning in to the Teletubbies' Nursery Rhymes & Other Fun Songs

In the episode we watched, a cloud gets stuck in the Tubbytronic Superdome. (The Superdome is the communal compound where the pudgy aliens reside — seemingly without any parental influence, unless you count the custard machine and the vacuum cleaner, Noo Noo, which does all the housework.) Noo Noo sucks the cloud up and experiences subsequent indigestion, while the Teletubbies eat custard. Then they all go outside, and the magic windmill distributes gold sparkle-dust. The beatific baby-sun appears in the sky, and the Teletubbies' stomachs receive a special transmission. That such a story line manages to suck not only infants but Ecstasy-fueled club kids into its treacly vortex comes as no surprise: Teletubbyland is velvety and immaculate, an incandescent chartreuse. Everything is suffused with a surreal and hallucinatory brightness. Moreover, as father Andrew Poag observed, there's something very strange about the way magical stuff always seems to happen right after the Teletubbies eat. "You've got to wonder what's in that Tubby custard," he muses.

When the episode ended, we played the CD for Jack. He looked confused and then ran to the speaker, where he stood bewildered for a moment before hugging it hopefully. "Smart child, to embrace technology," Andrew joked. After determining that the Teletubbies weren't hiding behind the speaker, Jack settled down to play with his toys, occasionally chuckling at the sound of the characters' voices. The CD obviously didn't captivate him as much as the video, but he did applaud politely between tracks.

Older children also like the Teletubbies. Leah McKinley, age 7, is a fan because "they're cute." She especially favors Po, "because he's red and little and has a red scooter." Her brother, Mark, who's 5, says he listens to the Nursery Rhymes audiocassette daily. His favorite part is when he hears Noo Noo. "He's their pet, and he's a vacuum cleaner, "Mark explains. Asked whether he prefers the Teletubbies over Barney, Mark states adamantly, "I don't like Barney. Too acty! It's like he talks too much."

The Teletubbies, of course, don't talk too much. They gurgle and giggle and make blissed-out oohing noises, but talking isn't a big part of their repertoire. This detail makes the concept of a Teletubbies record seem like a stretch, but my admittedly unscientific research suggests a qualified success. Do the kids in your life need this CD? Probably not, but neither will they need the new record by Britney Spears or 'N Sync or whoever's pushing preteen pabulum a decade from now. Will the kids buy this CD? No, but you might just buy it for them, especially after they yank it off the store shelf and plant a big wet one on the jewel-box.

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