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Stream It Or Skip It

Here’s the thing: Teletubbies is not made for the fully formed brains of adults, but it is a show that makes perfect sense to the mushy brains of toddlers. This series, geared toward young viewers, was an instant sensation when it first premiered on British TV in the 1990s because it was just so weird and trippy. Not much has changed about the show in its 2022 Netflix reboot, which means that babies are gonna love it. Adults? Not so much.


Opening Shot: The face of a baby beams from the center of a sun that rises over Teletubbyland, giggling and cooing as he lords over the vale where four colorful creatures gleefully spring out from a hole in the ground.

The Gist: Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa Laa and Po are back in what’s actually the second reboot of the 1990s childrens’ Teletubbies series. (It came back briefly on Nick Jr. in 2014.) These colorful teddy-bear-like creatures communicate in simple toddler speak, and excitedly play games and watch videos on the screens superimposed on their bellies (hence the “tele” in their name).

While they primarily exist in their magically verdant, hilly landscape, when they press the “play” button on the front of their body, a live-action “Tummy Tales” segment takes them to a place where actress Julia Pulo sings songs about the merits of things like bubbles and playing music in a silly band. And then, immediately after watching “Tummy Tales,” they all demand “Again! Again!” and the segment you just watched plays for a second time. I mean, this is annoying but also genius. Once my kids learned how to use a remote control, they rewind and fast forward the same scenes of their favorite shows and never watch the whole thing through.

Through silly games and songs, the Tubbies simply play and have fun and repeat simple concepts to kids like hugging and having parties. The show is not explicitly educational, rather, it’s more learning through play, and displaying acts of kindness and friendship for viewers to potentially mimic out in the real world.

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The Little Baby Bum music and nursery rhyme series on Netflix was probably inspired a lot by the original Teletubbies. On that series, a group of animated characters perform simple, catchy songs, mostly nursery rhymes and kids songs that are already in the public domain, one after another with no filler. Like Teletubbies, I think you’re supposed to turn it on for your kids and then leave the room. Set it and forget it TV for toddlers, consider them canon in the Ron Popeil school of absentee parenting.

Our Take: As a parent, my personal opinion is that there’s no need for children’s programming to have to alienate adults and drive them out of the room while it’s on the screen. Shows that are more of an irritation, like Ryan’s World and Blippi, are endlessly frustrating because while they obviously hook kids in (to the tune of hundreds of millions of views), I can’t name an adult who enjoys sitting through them with their kids. Teletubbies, which is clearly geared toward the littlest viewers – like the under-three set – falls in the “why am I watching this?” camp, but unlike those other shows, it’s gentler and sweeter and doesn’t give off a creepy, commercial “influencer” vibe like the others. The original show, like Barney, became a pop culture phenomenon when it first premiered in the 1990s, and since then has been the subject of a million subreddits about how great it is to watch while high, but I’ve never heard anyone talk about it as a show they and their kids actually enjoyed.

This new version has made obvious efforts to step into the 21st century in that there’s more diversity among the human cast members (the infamous baby that opens the show, riding in on sunbeams to lord over Teletubbyland is different in every episode, each child representing either a different race or ability), but the general tone and intention of the show is the same.

I have to admit that Teletubbies does everything small children want their shows to do: it’s bright and visually catchy, segments are repeated on a loop, the minimal narration makes it easy for little ones to follow; it’s undeniable that the show plays into the psychology of what kids want to see. And for that, I can’t fault it. It’s just that I wouldn’t ever choose this as a show for my kid if I was holding the remote control. But now that remotes are exceedingly simple to use (curse you, Apple TV), my four year old can not only change the channel and choose his shows, he can download the Pluto TV app without anyone realizing it, so my point is, you may not be able to stop your kids from finding and watching this show.

Sex and Skin: Ew, no.

Parting Shot: “The sun is setting in the sky, Teletubbies say bye-bye!” our narrator says, sing-songily, as each Teletubby jumps back into the hole from whence they came.

Sleeper Star: As the narrator, Titus Burgess provides the perfect combination of child-like excitement and dramatic line readings that sell the story in each episode.

Most Pilot-y Line: “Over the hills and far away, Teletubbies come to play!”

Our Call: STREAM IT IF YOU’RE UNDER THREE! Your tiny tot would probably enjoy these bite-sized (15 minutes a pop) episodes, they’re colorful and repetitive and don’t rely on verbal concepts that are difficult to understand. But for kids older than toddler age, SKIP IT! Save yourself from this show and watch something else with them.

Liz Kocan is a pop culture writer living in Massachusetts. Her biggest claim to fame is the time she won on the game show Chain Reaction.

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