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Jewish World Review / Dec. 27, 1999 / 18 Teves, 5760

Evan Levine

Creepiness from the crypt

New Tales from the Cryptkeeper
CBS, Saturdays

"NEW TALES FROM THE CRYPTKEEPER" is a series of thinly veiled morality tales wrapped up in a ghoulish exterior. The Cryptkeeper, who has also appeared in other series, both narrates and participates in a series of stories designed to impart such lessons as honesty and responsibility to young viewers. In one, for example, a young boy who can't help lying finds that when he says a horrible monster has eaten his homework, his fantasy spins out of control and the monsters of his imagination come to life -- thanks to the Cryptkeeper.

Although some humor keeps things on the light side and the boy ultimately learns his lesson, there's still something unsettling about the agents of change being so gruesome.

While kids are likely to distinguish the fact that this is exaggeration at its highest form, it may be upsetting to some to see their foibles exploited by a greenish guy from the grave who seemingly has power over kids' every move. Viewers are literally scared into doing the right thing, which is not always the message one wants to send. The series will certainly titillate children with its just-this-side of really scary goings-on, however.

"'Cryptkeeper' is a show with a hopeless attempt at comedy," proclaimed Michael, 10. "It's not scary, but it is hard to follow." This said, Michael also admitted that he might watch it again, "because it's fun."

Ratings Scale: 1-10

(10 is the highest)

Appropriateness: 5 -- The undercurrent of horror may intrigue some viewers, but upset others; it sends an odd message about kids' behavior.

Humor: 5 -- While the situations are supposed to have a lighter side, some viewers may find them creepy.

Visuals: 5 -- Slightly crude animation that will probably be secondary in kids' minds.

Social Value: 6 -- The underlying social and moral values are there, but cast in a grim guise.

Believability: 6 -- Kids may recognize some of their fears and dilemmas come to life.

Fun Factor: 6 -- The slightly lurid appeal may draw kids in.

Rolie Polie Olie
Nickelodeon, Saturdays

The Disney Channel, Saturdays and Sundays

One of the nicest things about "Rolie Polie Olie," the series from children's book author William Joyce, is that there are no bad guys, but it's also not achingly sweet. The show, now in its second season, focuses on the inhabitants of the planet Rolie Polie, where everything is round and robotic. People and household robots exist side by side, and although the inhabitants go about their daily business, no villains or traumas interfere. (In one episode, for example, the kids do a rain dance to ward off the endless rain.)

"They do a dance to make the sun come out, and you couldn't really do that," explained Toby, 6. While the endless sweetness could be cloying in some shows, it's remarkably saccharine-free here.

"I like the Olie because he's shaped like a ball. They also play golf, which is one of my favorite sports," added Toby.

The series has a sort of hypnotic effect that grows on you as you watch it -- a look and feel that is both nostalgic and futuristic. (Joyce has said that it was created to impart a 1930s Art Deco look.) While some viewers may find that the look is overpowering and that the plots get lost, others may be drawn in by the sheer originality.

Ratings Scale: 1-10

(10 is the highest)

Appropriateness: 8 -- A nicely offbeat show for kids 3 to 5.

Humor: 7 -- Everything is cheerful and upbeat, with the kind of gentle humor that preschoolers can relate to.

Visuals: 8 -- Parents will be as mesmerized as kids by the unique look.

Social Value: 7 -- A creative approach to storytelling and relationships for young children.

Believability: 7 -- Young kids will relate to the situations and dynamics between the characters.

Fun Factor: 7 -- While the series does occasionally have a sameness about it, the endearing characters make it worthwhile.

Evan Levine is the author of "Kids Pick the Best Videos for Kids."


12/27/99: Rotten Ralph: Red and righteous