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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bob the Builder's primary focus is the can-do attitude that Bob and his building crew demonstrate while facing tough assignments, which has good messages about determination. While some of the duller details (paperwork, fundraising) won't interest preschoolers, they will like seeing Bob and his anthropomorphic machinery at work. The show puts a female character at the forefront, a plus on a construction-themed program. A 2015 reboot significantly altered the look and sound of the show, portraying Bob and his peers as more mature versions of their originals and tasking them with larger-scale building projects, but the empowering themes at its heart remained the same.
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What's the story?
For the youngest fixer-upper, BOB THE BUILDER has all kinds of ideas, and he's known for his can-do attitude and for getting things done when something in town needs fixing. But he doesn't work alone. His business partner, Wendy (voiced by Kate Harbour/Joanne Froggatt), is invaluable, and he has an army of machines and trucks that are always enthusiastic to help him as well. In later episodes, Bob (Neil Morrissey/Daniel Bacon/Lee Ingleby) and Wendy are joined by a building apprentice named Leo, whose eagerness to learn compensates for the fact that he makes his fair share of mistakes. They also take on larger projects, such as building movie sets or high-rises.
Is it any good?
The most effective aspect of this series is the characters' ability to identify a problem or task, make a plan that aims to solve or accomplish it, and delegate the right crew to get the job done. It's a great illustration of teamwork; the plan of action is dictated by the unique needs of the job, and that means that the workers (human and machine) rotate responsibilities. Yes, Bob and Wendy are the leaders, but everyone plays a vital role in the eventual solution. Of course, there's also the fact that machines and trucks with personalities are fun to watch, which is a big winner for preschoolers.
The significant changes that accompanied Bob the Builder's return to TV in 2015 likely won't affect viewers who didn't already know and love the pudgier, overall-clad original incarnation, but they're more than a little off-putting if you're a loyalist. The taller, slimmer, more modern (though no less baby-faced) Bob and crew have their perks -- including the use of modern gadgets and the accomplishments of bigger projects -- but they lose some of their quaintness in the process. Happily, though, the show's excellent messages about working together and overcoming challenges made it through the renovation without a scratch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the challenges Bob and his crew face in Bob the Builder. How did Bob come up with the right solution? Could he have completed the job without the others' help? Why is it important to cooperate?
What mistakes are made in the repair or building process in this story? Are any of the characters immune to making them? Why is it important to ask for help when you need it?
If you've seen both versions of the show, compare and contrast them. How do the characters change? Do they seem older in the newer episodes? How does the addition of new characters change the dynamic within the group?
- Premiere date: November 20, 1998
- Cast: Kate Harbour, Neil Morrissey, Rob Rackstraw
- Network: PBS
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Cars and Trucks, Adventures, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- TV rating: TV-Y
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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