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Kids TV Review: Sheriff Callie's Wild West

Disney Junior's Sheriff Callie's Wild West was one of the first shows our Little Buddha watched in the hospital. . The bright colors and upbeat music caught his eye and he would sit rapt for 10 for 15 minutes at a time--an impressive feat for a 8 or 9 month old. This was Little Buddha's reigning favorite for about 6 months.

I have never been a Disney person, I'll just get that out of the way now. As a feminist, anti-racist, and sociologist I have serious issues with most of its programming. When I was pregnant I had already decided there would be no Disney products or shows for our kiddo--yeah. I still stand by the original decision, but it was one of the few things that seemed to catch his attention and distract him from the hospital. I wasn't about to take that away from him. We've met a few more Disney Junior characters that are breaking with tradition, so now I take it on a case by case basis. When he is older we can talk more about viewing with a critical eye.

All Photos (c) Disney

Sheriff Callie is a Disney show, so you know there are toys, clothes and books. If you visit the Sheriff Callie site you will find videos, games and pages to color. In the upper left hand corner is also a "for grown ups" link where you can find Appisodes and other content. The show is currently available on Hulu and GooglePlay.

Sheriff Callie's Wild West is a western themed animated show aimed at preschoolers. It leans heavily on the wild west motif while also borrowing from the small town cop theme, think kid friendly Bonanza meets The Andy Griffith Show. It all takes place in the town Nice and Friendly Corners, a town filled with adorable anthropomorphized animals, and the occasional plant. 

There really is a character for everyone. Sheriff Callie (voiced by Mandy Moore) is a calico cat clad in pink boots and hat. She is the moral compass and hero of Nice and Friendly corners, often using her "noodle lasso" to save the day. Deputy Peck is a Barney Fife-esque woodpecker who usually manages to get into mischief with his bestie Toby. Tobias P. Cactus, or Toby for short, is--you guessed it-- a cactus. He is sweet and innocent, generally getting into trouble because he listens to Peck.

There is also a host of townsfolk. Uncle Bun runs the general store. Uncle Tio has a secret past. Ella the cow is owner of the local milk saloon. Governor Groundhog. The pig brother miners Dusty and Dirty Dan. A pair of skunks, Stinky the local farmer and his prissy green-thumbed cousin Priscilla. Priscilla is voiced by the amazing veteran voice actress Cree Summers, one of my favorite humans. If you don't know the name, you'll know her husky voice from classics like Inspector Gadget, Tiny Toons and the more recent Dinotrux. 

Sheriff Callie usually follows a predictable format: problem introduced, first attempt to solve it fails (usually by a supporting character's folly), second attempt makes it worse, Callie saves the day and everyone learns a valuable moral lesson. At some point there is a musical number or two. Fairly straight forward. 

Our Little Buddha loves the music from the show. We have often postponed a meltdown by singing the "milkshake song." The tunes are catchy, but after repeated viewings they will haunt you. Haunt you.

The show has some interesting guest voices. When I heard the Milk Bandit, I couldn't place the voice--I was shocked to see it was Flea. Yep, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He is in good company, the Silverado brothers are voiced by Iggy Pop and Henry Rollins. Chris Issak as Johnny Strum the singing bandit. Plus you'll hear familiar voices from  TV shows like Family Guy and King of the Hill.

So, what are my issues with Sheriff Callie? Way too moralistic. Life isn't black and white and neither are our choices. The show stresses following the rules over critical thought and doing what you are told is right over what may feel right. I know this may not be an issue for other families, and they may agree more with Callie--that's fine, but it isn't how our family views the world. An example? When two blue-jays' crops fail they steal corn from Farmer Stinky. The moral is : It is never okay to steal. Now, in Callie's defense they do help them grow more corn. They don't leave them hungry. Still, I disagree with the message, as it comes from a place of great privilege. It is much harder decision to make when you or your family is hungry.

I get that this is a show aimed at preschoolers, but it rubs me the wrong way. During sections of the plot we have issue with I tell our little guy why we (mommy and daddy) think Sheriff Callie it is wrong. Hopefully it will model that it is okay to disagree with authority figures and encourage him to question messages he will encounter in media over the years. As he gets older I hope these discussions will be less one-way and will serve as a way to teach critical thought and empathy.

If you purchase the show via GooglePlay, you can download them for offline viewing, which can be a great help in long lines and during medical procedures. Callie did help us get a few clear ultrasounds. 

Overall, it isn't a bad show. Little Buddha really enjoys it, though not as much as when he was really little. I do appreciate that the lead and hero is female and that femininity itself isn't devalued in the show. I just don't care for the black and white moral messages that come up. I have seen the episodes more times than I can count and can't say that they hold up to repeated adult viewings, but few shows do. It will always have a special place in my memory--it gave my poor kiddo much joy during a hard time.

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