Scott D. Pierce: TV critic sort of insults noisy puppet chicken

First Published      Last Updated Jun 02 2014 04:46 pm

If you have very small children and a cable/satellite TV subscription, you may have come upon "The Sunny Side Up Show" on Sprout.

Sprout is a channel aimed at toddlers. And "The Sunny Side Up Show" is a three-hour block of programming that airs seven days a week — and is co-hosted by a Chica, a chicken puppet that squeaks. A lot.

A whole lot. Pretty much endlessly, or so it seems to adult ears.

In a presentation to TV critics a few months ago, the show's human hosts were joined by Chica. Chica tried to answer questions. By squeaking.

The hosts of the show, who spend an inordinate amount of time with Chica, acted like this was normal. For at least one of the TV critics in attendance — yours truly — it was a little like needles being stuck into my forehead.

I knew that I only had to put up with this for an hour or so. I was, however, concerned about the havoc this might be wreaking on the human hosts of "The Sunny Side Up Show."

"I don't mean any offense to anybody on the panel," I said, "but there are moments when, at my house, we have this noise, too — and we take the toys away from the dog so we can hear the TV," I said.

(That's absolutely true. I love my dogs too much, but when the younger Shih Tzu, Chip, gets going on a squeaky ball, it's impossible to hear anything else.)

"Are there moments when, the squeaking just gets to be a bit much?" I asked.

This, apparently, hurt Chica's feelings. Or, at least, the feelings of Chica's unseen puppeteer. Chica squeaked and disappeared down into its nest.

"I'm sorry," I said. "Poor puppet thing."

"It will be OK," assured host Tim Kubart.

(The hosts were all super-nice. Even to a cranky old critic who was sick of the squeaking.)

And Andrew Beecham, the creator and executive producer of both "The Sunny Side Up Show" and "The Good-Night Show," offered an incredibly smart answer to why Chica does all that squeaking.

"What we find is that, obviously, preschoolers don't watch TV like me or you," he said. "They're not sitting on a sofa watching. What they're doing is they're coloring, they're walking around, picking their nose.

"When they hear that squeak, they turn around and they engage with us. So it's actually a really useful thing for us, because we know when Chica speaks, kids are watching."

That's it! Shows that are intended for preschoolers are not necessarily shows that are going to entertain adults. Which doesn't make them bad, it just makes them ... focused.

But I still worry about the adults who work on the show being exposed to all that squeaking. Especially because Chica also co-hosts "The Good-Night Show."

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.