Shows for the Broke Kids

PBS for a PIK, (a poor imaginative kid)


As a kid growing up, my family did not have much money. At that time, having cable on one’s television was considered a luxury. Due to the lack of cable in my home, I ended up missing many shows from Nickelodeon from the 90s such as “Rugrats,” “Hey Arnold,” “Doug,” “SpongeBob,” along with the shows from the 2000s such as “Jimmy Neutron,” “Danny Phantom,” “Drake & Josh,” etc. and all the great Cartoon Network shows from the 2000s.

Unfortunately, being born in the late 90s, I was sad that I missed out on most 90s television shows that made that era fun and exciting to be a kid. Whenever there is a reference to those shows in a conversation or on social media, I cannot relate because I did not watch the show as a kid even though I watched it years later when I got cable. That feeling of nostalgia wasn’t there.

Luckily, I found my place on a three-letter network.

Despite not having cable, one network managed to give me a childhood that I would remember: PBS, Public Broadcast Service, on channel 3, 13 or, 28. During the 2000s, PBS had some “fire” shows that I was heavily invested in like “Arthur,” “Cyberchase,” “Zoboomafoo,” “Between the Lions,” “Caillou,” “Barney,” and “Liberty’s Kids.”

What made these shows great was that they made learning fun. Who would have thought a show mostly about solving math problems could be entertaining for kids? Or that there were so many animals to learn about? Even shows about science made it cool to do experiments and explore. I think what I felt was the same as the kid watching Nickelodeon — that being a kid is awesome, fun, and we can be who wanted to be.

These shows helped me cope with not having a lot of money like it may have impacted other kids. My mom did what she could do to make sure I had a fun childhood and my imagination helped me get through our situation. Each of these shows helped me learn simple things that a kid needs to know from letters to shapes, to morals and responsibility, and every show offered a bit of creativity that would carry me through my life.

“Mister Rogers Neighborhood” taught me more than to just feed my fish and tie my shoes in a certain way. It taught me to be kind to my friends, family, neighbors, and people in general. Another decade has passed by and I still use the lessons I learned from that show — to be kind to people because you never know what that person is going through.

“Reading Rainbow” and “Between the Lions” showed me that there were stories to be read and adventures waiting to discovered. Even though my dad took the only car we had to work, my mom and I would take the bus to our local library and check out as many books as I wanted to or I was allowed to. I would read them for weeks until they were due and I would go back for more.

“Cyberchase” and “Sesame Street” helped me learn math and how to spell and sound out words. They taught me things that my my mom couldn’t because she didn’t quite know how to spell certain words since she was a Mexican immigrant that had crossed over to the U.S.

These “fire” shows hold a special place in my heart because while other kids were enjoying shows with wacky stories, funny moments, and memorable quotes, I was having fun being an poor, yet educated and imaginative kid.