For the past week or so, the national commentariat has been bouncing on a trampoline of nostalgic glee in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street. And we're cool with that. Look back at shows like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and Captain Kangaroo, and it's easy to find yourself longing for a lost era when children's television was innocent, gentle, untainted by commercialism, and soothingly slow.
Then again, if you happen to be a young dad, you might just have a sneaking suspicion that things are better now. Sure, the Wiggles make you want to explore the innards of your flat-screen with jackhammer and blowtorch, but there's a reason—several, in fact—why you often find yourself bathrobed on the couch, selflessly putting in hours of high-quality hang-time with the offspring while your wife dashes off to the gym. One of those reasons might well be Genevieve Goings, the hip-swiveling conductor and bullet-train-loving chanteuse who hosts Choo-Choo Soul on Playhouse Disney. Another might be Nina, the perky, perma-smiling problem-solver who's always dropping by the warehouse to provide the Imagination Movers with a helping hand. And if your kids are connoisseurs of the Dan Zanes & Friends DVDs, well, you probably remember the day you learned that Barbara Brousal was leaving the band and Sonia de los Santos was climbing aboard.
Maybe it's just that you're fried after years of sleep deprivation. Maybe it's because you haven't had sex since The Sopranos went off the air. The point is, you can't help but notice that children's entertainers are a lot hotter than they used to be. This comes as no surprise to Zanes himself, who acknowledges that, yeah, for years there was a steady supply of fathers in the front row giving Barbara Brousal the casual once-over. "That was always a cool thing," he says. "Now we've got a whole new generation of dads that are totally psyched about Sonia. We're making music for families and kids, and at the core of it all is music. But on the other hand, it is showbiz, you know, and I think as people we're wired to find attractions where we can."
Of course, modesty is crucial when you're making music for preschoolers. "When I put on an outfit, I have to think about not showing too much cleavage, and 'Is this going to be too sexy?' " says the indie-rockish Ashley Albert of the Jimmies, who's been described as the Kathleen Hanna of the Hanna-Barbera set. Nevertheless, she remembers playing a Jimmies show at the World Café in Philadelphia, "and there was this single dad's club that came with their kids—the entire club! And the head of this group was, like, borderline creepy. He had signs. He knew every song. He was demonstratively singing along, like 'I know all the words!' He said, 'Oh, we'd go anywhere to see you!' "
Even so, Albert understands that she works in the land of make-believe. She's candid enough to admit that she might not be entirely responsible for the carnal desires that she inspires in her audience. "I'm hot in this genre," she says. "I don't know if I'd pull it off in the real world. But I've got it covered in this genre, because there's not much to choose from. It's slim pickins."