Paw Patrol is like a drug addiction.
At first, it seemed harmless enough. In fact, it was actually kind of nice. But then you get in deeper and deeper and eventually you realize that it’s sucking away your entire life.
Okay, maybe it’s not that bad.
But there was a time when Paw Patrol seemed, I don’t know, more innocent?
My son didn’t watch many cartoons. The extent of his TV viewing up until that point was mostly Baby Einstein, Sesame Street, and Blue’s Clues, which thrilled me to no end as I love me some Blue’s Clues. He was also already obsessed with Cars and perhaps that’s why Paw Patrol seemed so wonderful: his newfound love of the pups would at least temper his passion for Cars.
We played an episode of Paw Patrol for him months earlier, but he didn’t respond to it. I don’t know, maybe he wasn’t old enough, maybe he was still too fascinated with Elmo, maybe the computer animation was outside the scope of his reality. But he didn’t take to it. He didn’t care.
Somehow, some way, we showed him another episode some time later. I have to assume it was out of desperation: he doesn’t watch a ton of television, but he watches the same shows over and over again. Maybe we thought we could mix things up a bit by adding in some Paw Patrol.
We were doomed.
For those who do not have toddlers, Paw Patrol is a computer animated show that airs on Nick, Jr. It is produced in Canada and all of the main characters say “sore-y.”
The main characters in question are a young man named Ryder and his team of highly trained talking dogs.
It’s a fun show, don’t get me wrong. It takes place in the fictional town of Adventure Bay which apparently has no public services to speak of, so they have to turn to a kid who lives in a tower and his pets to take care of pretty much everything. Car accident? Paw Patrol will save you. Water main burst? Paw Patrol. Trapped in a cave? Paw Patrol.
Besides their human leader, Ryder, the rest of the Paw Patrol is made up of Chase, Marshal, Rubble, Zuma, Rocky, and Sky. They’re all dogs. Sky is the only female. She wears pink. But she’s also the only one who can fly (or she was until recently).
The Paw Patrol is marketing for kids to the extreme. Each dog has their own color (six of the seven colors of the rainbow). Each has their own specialty which comes with not only a pack that can do things (Rubble’s pack has a shovel, Chase’s pack can shoot a net), but with a dog house that turns into a vehicle.
You’ve got the complete package there: anthropomorphic characters, clearly defined roles connected to colors, and gadgets. It’s the perfect storm of kids TV.
Paw Patrol also has one of the greatest theme songs in children’s television history, which means that it is evil. I have gone weeks with that song in my head. I know every word. I’ve even learned how to play most of it on the guitar just to make my son happy.
The main problem with Paw Patrol is that it’s never ending, which means each season they need to come up with new ways to keep the kids entertained, which invariably involves coming up with new vehicles and gadgets for the pups. The Paw Patrol has a large RV type vehicle that they can travel in. So if they have a land vehicle, shouldn’t they have an air one? Thus the Air Patroller was born. But wait, if we have the land and the air covered, what about the water? And so we got the Sea Patroller.
But what if they go to the jungle? Shouldn’t they have special outfits for that? And special vehicles? What if they get new packs that allow them to fly? Maybe there should be more pups? How about a bilingual pup? Or another girl!
That last point is a tricky one. The Paw Patrol falls into the same out dated trope as nearly every other cartoon: the girl character has to wear pink. Not only that, but Sky was originally the ONLY girl on the team, the TOKEN girl, if you will. Someone somewhere must have pointed this out to the creators, so eventually Everest was added, although she’s not in every episode.
It’s easy to hate the Paw Patrol. The characters are relentlessly cheery and naive, the show has a basic formula it repeats every episode, and the Paw Patrol are EVERYWHERE. They are toddler crack.
But in an era where every studio thinks it can produce a computer animate show, the Paw Patrol looks pretty darn good. As the show evolved, the creators really started to embrace the idea that the computer generated animation was meant to feel like claymation and it really shows. Compared to shows on PBS or even the Disney channel, the Paw Patrol is a work of art.
Sure, I’ve spent a lot of time over analyzing the show. The pups are often facing off against an eagle, and given the show is produced in Canada, I feel like that must be a subtle jab against the U.S. Rider is supposed to be 10, but he’s clearly the same age as Katie, who runs her own pet grooming store, and seemingly older than Daring Danny X, who does ridiculous stunts that he would have to at least be a teenager to perform (he’s also a horrible, horrible addition to the show). There is a statue of Mayor Goodway’s ancestor in the middle of town, which suggests that the position of mayor is handed down like royalty. That ancestor also looks exactly like Mayor Humdinger, the mayor of Foggy Bottom, Adventure Bay’s rival town. Why?
I could go on.
As far as TV for toddlers is concerned, Paw Patrol isn’t bad, which is good, considering that it is everywhere and completely unavoidable. And at the very least the show teaches kindness. Problematic gender roles aside, kindness always wins the day, powered by friendship, and there are worse lessons a toddler could learn.
Ultimately, Paw Patrol gets a thumbs up from me. Let your kids watch it, just be prepared for the rabbit hole you’ll find yourself in.