Like many of you (I presume, if you’re reading this), I spend a fair bit of time exposed to television for the preschool set: the mind-altering weirdness of Waybuloo, the straight-ahead dreariness of Caillou, the sheer sappiness of My Little Pony. And don’t get me started on Bubble Guppies or Barney.
But every now and then, there’s a break from the tooth-clenching humourlessness of early childhood television. The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That!, The Backyardigans, Sesame Street (still).
And The Wiggles.
I like The Wiggles. I think they’re fine. Sure, they’re looking a little cracked around the edges, but what parent of a toddler can’t say the same? Yeah, that Dorothy the Dinosaur is a little creepy, but not Yo Gabba Gabba Muno creepy. And yes, if you try to replicate the Wiggles’s signature lightning-quick finger-pointing move, you learn that, minus the sound effects, it’s not that exciting.
Still, I like The Wiggles. Because they’re not precious, because they’re educational(ish) without being too earnest, because as an adult watching, I kind of get the nudge-nudge-wink-wink feeling from the guys that we’re all in on the joke: it’s all for the kids, right?
At the very least, they’re not (very) annoying.
So it was with some sadness that I read on Thursday that The Wiggles as we know them will be no longer; three of the four band members will be departing.
“Jeff, Murray and Greg have decided it’s time to step off the stage and hand over the Purple, Red and Yellow skivvies to a new generation of Wiggles,” read “an important message” to Wiggles fans posted on their website. They’ve been at it for 21 years, lately touring for eight months a year, and they’d like to spend more time at home, the note explained. It’s not easy being a children’s music star, you know. All the temptations of the road!
(Okay, they didn’t say anything about the temptations of the road.)
The Wiggles are a children’s entertainment juggernaut: They are Australia’s second-highest earning entertainers (earning $28.2-million AUS in 2011, according to the Australian business magazine BRW). There are Wiggles-themed attractions at an Australian amusement and water park, and a Wiggles store at the Sydney International Airport. They’ve spun off Taiwanese and Spanish-speaking versions. Even a recent 30 Rock episode – Meet the Woggles! – saw Jenna decide to go all Yoko Ono on the Australian children’s entertainment band The Woggles and split them up by draping the blue-shirted Russ with her love.
So you don’t have to pass kindergarten math to know that busting up The Wiggles franchise would be financial folly. The Wiggles will live on – same colour shirts, different entertainers. The departure obviously plotted out their replacements – Lachlan, Simon and Emma (a female Wiggle!) were announced on Thursday and will slide into the big red car next year.
But before the big skivvy handover occurs, The Wiggles will take a page out of The Who’s songbook, and embark on a farewell world tour (Canadian dates in October and November). Parents desperate to expose their kids to a little live entertainment they can stand will hand over big bucks for tickets – if they can get their hands on any.