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Parents' Guide to


By Betsy Wallace, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 7+

Engaging cartoon celebrates playground time.

Recess Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.

Community Reviews

age 7+

Based on 6 parent reviews

age 8+

Recess is On--Come Out to Play!

Another show from my childhood that I remember with much fondness, Recess will take kids and parents back to a simpler time, when one's biggest worry involved playground politics and the school bully inflicted damage with his fists, not a gun or knife (though that's not acceptable, either. We'll get to the cautions in a minute). The main six kids are a lovable, diverse group. Here, you have an average, fun-loving boy (T.J.) hanging out with an athlete, a good-hearted, chubby poet, a somewhat nerdy military kid, a pugnacious tomboy, and a scary-smart gal who could probably whip Ken Jennings in Jeopardy--and he considers them all his best friends. More to the point, these kids treat each other like best friends. They've got each other's backs, have fun together, and solve each other's problems together. At times, their ingenuity even ends up helping out the whole school and/or sending a positive message, such as one about the dangers of too much standardized testing. Some caveats exist. While these children are being--well, children--some of their behavior, such as exclusion and threatening to beat up vulnerable kids, or actually doing it, is unacceptable. One kid is treated as "king" of the entire playground. Spinelli, the aforementioned pugnacious tomboy, constantly threatens to solve conflicts with her fists. Adults are portrayed as overly stern at best, useless and sadistic at worst. The one sympathetic adult is the main characters' teacher, Ms. Grotke, who is vocal about her liberal leanings and adherence to Eastern spirituality. One kid is hailed as a "guru," and one kid "hustles" desired objects, like candy, for money. Kindergartners are stereotyped as savages, which may particularly offend Native-American viewers. However, the appearances of these last few are relatively minor. For older kids who can discern which areas of the playground are safe, go ahead and allow some play time.
age 7+

Political Satire for Kids!

For those who have not come across Recess before, it was a Disney produced show which aired between 1997 and 2001. It took place at an American school called "3rd Street School". Each episode took place during the lunch break (Recess as the Americans call it), in which the students have developed their own government, class system and set of laws. The playground has a monarch by the name of King Bob, who oversees the playground's government. Above the students is the fascist regime of the Teachers Mrs Finster and Principle Prickly, both of whom were inspired by President Richard Nixon and his Vice President Spiro Agnew (a name which crops up in the title of the school that Principle Prickly wants to transfer to - Spiro T Agnew Middle School). Above them are the BOE (Board of Education) which is seen as a group of FBI members, with black suits, shades. They always arrived in helicopters or armoured vehicles with "The President of the BOE". Over the show's four year run (including a theatrical feature film) Recess has tackled satirical subjects such as; Elections, Democracy, Conspiracies, Protests, Human Rights, the Orwellian Nightmare, Rebellion, International Relations (98th Street School), Class, Conformity, Freedom, Monarchy/Royalists, Black Market, Graffiti/Controversial Art, Crime and Punishment, Repression, the News, Capitalism, Health and Safety Regulations, the Economy, Censorship, Misinterpretation, Freedom of Speech, The Military, Racism, Crime Investigation, Health Scares, Outdated Laws, Anarchy, War, Media Representation, Imprisonment and Public Relations to name a few. The feature-film "Recess: School's Out" was inspired by a group of people in America who were permanently trying to ban recess, as they believed it would improve test scores. Many people were against such a proposal when it was first brought up, obviously Paul and Joe were among them. The film was the best example of how the show was influenced by 60's Liberalism, in the way that the 1960's became a key part of the storyline, the soundtrack was full of songs from the era, the peace symbol was seen throughout the film and how the plot was based around Protest, Anarchy and "going against the man". The final scene of the film has Principle Prickly find his old peace necklace and put it on with pride. The last shot is of the camera panning away from the Principle as he sits in his office window, while "Let the Sunshine in" by the the 5th dimension plays in the background. During the credits, the voice cast pay tribute to the Lemon Piper's song "Green Tambourine", in the style of a psychedelic music video. The entire show has a very Liberal hippie vibe to it, as Paul and Joe were themselves veterans of this era and brought those political ideals into the program. All of the episodes are available to view for free on YouTube, each one is written with more wit and intelligence than any other children's program before or since. Even though not all of them contain political messages, each episode is well written, crafted and performed.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (6 ):
Kids say (18 ):

The kids' mistakes create the show's most humorous situations, and viewers laugh because they understand the daily ups and downs these cartoon kids go through. The main characters may represent an ideal group of friends rather than a group that might actually be found on a typical playground. But Recess delights in presenting the obsessions of childhood, which kids sadly outgrow as self-consciousness kicks in, as perfectly normal.

TV Details

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