While some people may be able to nobly claim “we are not a TV family,” here in the Siden household, we cannot utter this phrase. However, we do watch in moderation, limiting Maia’s intake to set times of day and to programs that provide some type of educational value. TV is not a babysitter in our house and Maia is not watching Licensed Toy Cash In: The Series. As she is an early riser, she will often hop in bed with us and watch the latest DVR recording. While she has her own show preferences – usually programs that aren’t exactly the type of fare you want to see first thing in the morning – I have been slowly gravitating her to a preschool property that is fast becoming a family favorite.
Olivia, airing on Nick Jr, is 3D CGI series based on the award-winning and much beloved book series by Ian Falconer. The first Olivia book was released in 2000, and the series has since sold six million copies worldwide in 20 languages. Brought to life on TV by children’s media company Chorion and animation studio Brown Bag Films, Olivia centers around a 6¾-year-old girl, who happens to be a piglet. Each episode features two Olivia tales, focusing on both her real-life interactions with family and friends as well as her imaginary adventures.
I realize most families already have a few shows they have committed to, and may not be willing to take on a new one. However, I strongly encourage you to give this show a viewing or two. Taking my “sales pitch” a bit further, here a few solid reasons to consider adding this piglet to your media mix.
Adapted from beloved, award-winning source material
Olivia comes straight from from a trusted and Caldecott Award-winning property. Also, the Olivia property was an organic creation born out of Falconer’s homegrown idea to create a book for his own niece (named Olivia). Olivia wasn’t dreamed up in a boardroom as a multimedia franchise. The TV series stays true to the spirit of Falconer’s 10-year-old picture book series. While the adaptation expands upon the minimal colors used in the book, the same energy, heart and humor is felt in each episode.
Olivia dreams big, but lives in reality
Like any child, Olivia loves to dream big. Whether imagining herself as an astronaut, mommy, restaurateur or star in a concert hall, this piglet has big plans for herself and takes audiences along for the ride. But she also deals with the day-to-day challenges every kid faces. While Maia certainly loves the fantastical worlds of Disney Princesses and even the candy-colored otherworldliness of Yo Gabba Gabba, it is great to balance these properties with the reality/fantasy mix that is Olivia.
On occasion, I have found some unintentional humor in some of the preschool shows I have been forced to watch. Whether it is their corniness, condescending dialogue or just overt ridiculousness, it is hard not to have a go at some shows in order to survive the 22-minute block. During Olivia, you will find yourself laughing with the show. Be it Olivia’s dog Perry tearing up the house, her teacher Mrs. Hoggenmuller having her patience tested, best friend Julian muttering his favorite saying “I just try to get through a day at a time,” or Olivia taking on her latest pet project, all of the characters make it impossible not to enjoy the comedy in this show.
A realistic portrayal of family life…by pigs
Too many times I have watched a preschool show and been turned off by the sickly sweet, unrealistic portrayal of family life. Olivia finds a way to take a family of pigs and make it feel realistic. Surrounded by her parents and two younger brothers Ian and William, she lives in a home that will feel familiar and realistic to most kids. Olivia has a working-mom who owns her own party planning business and finds time to manage a family of 3 kids, despite being spread a bit thin at times. Her fun-loving dad is the more absent minded of the two, but is always there to offer the “little talks” and help clean up messes. However, both parents run low on patience, make mistakes, and represent a parental unit that is more true to life than most I’ve seen, even with their snouts. With occasional visits from her free-spirited grandmother and the escapades of her two pets, these pigs have more in common with the average household than the homosapiens seen on your child’s other favorite family show.
A realistic glimpse into the life of a six-year-old girl
This little piggy spends her day in a world that is quite familiar to the average six-year-old. Surrounded by friends and family, each episode centers on relatable occurrences such as visits to grandma’s house, class plays, snow days and field trips. The experiences and emotions Olivia goes through during these events, such as sibling and friend rivalry, boredom, and disappointment, are ones that are sure to touch young viewers on a daily basis. Sure, many shows cover off on typical childhood events, but Olivia brings a realistic approach (swine cast excluded) that brings a gravitas to it.
An independent, confident role model…with faults
Whether taking it upon herself to put on her own ice skating performance, deciding she will sell the most Young Pioneer cookies or taking on a big project like a video diary, Olivia is an independent girl who sees herself as a leader and the best at whatever she does. She isn’t afraid to chase down her goals, even to a fault or to utter failure. Olivia isn’t perfect, but she is persistent and determined to get things done without the aid of a knight-in-shining-armor or a magical sidekick.
While some of Maia’s favorite characters stick to their gender roles (pink, dresses, tea-drinking), Olivia is not afraid to dabble in both. Sure, she loves her pink hair ribbons, ballet, and baby dolls, but she also loves soccer and dirty camping trips. She is a post-modern role model that shows it is okay to love pink girly-girl stuff, but still kick butt on the soccer field, too.
Still not convinced? Check out Olivia for yourself on Nick Jr. and you will surely want to add this pig to your TV schedule.