TV Article

Kidvid With Class

New TV shows for kids on cable and syndication -- Ken Tucker reviews recent programs such as ''Rugrats,'' ''The Ren & Stimpy Show,'' and ''K-TV''

New TV shows for kids on cable and syndication

Here's a roundup of the fall's most notable new children's TV shows on cable and in syndication. Compared with the networks' Saturday-morning fare dissected last issue, there's a lot more good news here — fewer movie ripoffs, more news-related programming, and in the case of Nickelodeon, some inventive animation. You might have to scour your local TV listings to locate some of these shows, but the effort is worth it.

Wide World of Kids
Jason Hervey, the loutish older brother on The Wonder Years, is loutish in a more amiable way in this globe-trotting show, a sort of Lifestyles of the Young and Unfamous. Hervey and his cohost, Scott Grimes (Critters), seek out fellow teens who do interesting things, like 14-year-old French mountain climber Yves Charlet, whose mountaineer grandfather reached the top of Mont Blanc. Charlet gave the hosts mountain-climbing tips. While in France, Hervey and Grimes also attended a cooking class for young people at the legendary Cordon Bleu school. Here, the hosts didn't offer information — they just made dumb-American-tourist comments like, ''I bet you guys make good French fries!'' The show is ambitious in scope and looks expensive, but it's kind of aimless and dreadfully afraid of dropping its wise-guy attitude, lest it seem (oh, horror!) educational. B-

K-TV
This news and information series features a cast of amateur journalists ranging in age from 10 to 14. They offer reports about current events and the environment; host Molly Barber (Romper Room and Friends) elicits questions and comments about those reports from a studio audience of young people. Barber's part of the show — in which, Donahue style, she goes into the audience with a hand mike — is awkward and uninformative. But the reports themselves manage to enlighten kids about the world around them without any discernible political slant, and the wildlife-education segments featuring animal-behavior expert Warren Eckstein are excellent little mini documentaries. All in all, an admirable effort. B

Way Cool
Six young cast members offer Saturday Night Live-style sketches that promote, in the words of co-executive producer Todd Kessler, ''friendship, family relationships, responsibility, and respect.'' The problem is, these kids are way too cool, if you ask me. Their sketches seem as much satires on these values as promotions of them, and the quality of the humor is sub-sitcom. The hip-hop interludes featuring an educational rap-music duo, Partners in Kryme (which stands for Keeping Rhythm Your Motivating Energy), are pretty embarrassing — way uncool. C-

The Legend of Prince Valiant
The great Harold Foster newspaper comic strip Prince Valiant, created in 1937, strove heroically to make a dramatization of the Middle Ages accurate, exciting, and beautiful to look at. Here, however, the strip has been turned into a poorly animated show that has all the drama of a bad high school pageant. Familiar actors provide the voices — Robby Benson is Prince Valiant, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is King Arthur, and Tim Curry is Sir Gawain — but their expressiveness can't bring this stiff cartoon to life. D-

Young Robin Hood
Just what the title implies — a cartoon series that cashes in on the popularity of Kevin Costner's recent movie by offering a new wrinkle: All the Robin Hood characters (Robin, Maid Marian, Little John) are foxy-looking teenagers. These teens do all your typical Robin Hood-type things — engage in archery contests, get chased by wild boars, and speak in period language (''Robin Hood, you saucy rascal!'' one character coos). But the Hanna-Barbera production team hasn't thought of any particularly original stories for these characters; Young Robin Hood is just a tedious rehash of the legend. D

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