Tuned In

Will PBS Neuter the Cat in the Hat?

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PBS Kids announced yesterday that it’s debuting, in fall 2010, an educational animated series starring Dr. Seuss’ most famous character. In The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, the giant feline takes six-year-olds Nick and Sally “on a magical journey to all corners of the globe to make natural science discoveries,” in a vehicle called the Thinga-ma-jigger. 

I’m not sure whether I like this idea. It always bothers me when children’s characters are cleaned up and reformed for the sake of educational TV. In the case of The Cat, it’s true that the original books, in the meta sense, were greatly educational in that they promoted early literacy. But the cat himself? He was an irresponsible hedonistic ne’er-do-well who wreaked disaster, encouraged children to disobey their mothers and ate cake in the bathtub, then tried to clean up the pink stains using Dad’s ten-dollar shoes.

The Cat didn’t visit the children’s homes to teach them about undersea life—except by balancing their pet goldfish on top of a tower. He didn’t set out to instruct them and improve our national scientific literacy. He stormed in like a whirlwind to shake them out of their complacency, get them into a little ultimately harmless trouble, and clean up the mess when he was done. He wasn’t a science teacher; he was a partying, raging id.

Will we get that on PBS Kids? Or will he be muzzled? Will he be wuzzled? Will he be foofery-fiff-faff-fer-nuzzled?

On the other hand, at least he will be voiced by Martin Short. Maybe we’ll get show tunes! And maybe he can explain the scientific principle on which Voom works.