FROM AUSTRALIA AND DISNEY CHANNEL Upcoming Wiggles shows evoke adults' memory of Beatle-mania
The fast-moving show for children is wholesome entertainment.
By JOHN BENSON
When attending any dinner party or business meeting, all it takes is one reference to "Do the Monkey" or "Hot potato, hot potato, cold spaghetti, cold spaghetti" to identify who in the room has kids that watch the Disney Channel's insanely popular show "The Wiggles."
As embarrassing as such an admission may be to some people, especially with the up-and-down arm movement ("Monkey") or fist-on-top-of-fist hand motion ("Hot Potato") that invariably accompanies such a common bond, it only goes to show how this Australian children's television show has been sewn into the fabric of growing up red, white and blue.
To some parents (or grandparents) who are old enough to remember Beatle-mania, the frenzy of seeing The Wiggles live, the troupe comes through Pittsburgh on Saturday for two shows at the Mellon Arena, is reminiscent of Fab Four hysteria.
"It's been pretty crazy lately," said Murray Cook, the red Wiggle, calling from Atlanta, Ga. "I think we've struck a chord with kids and parents as well. It's really big, really taken off, since we've been on the Disney Channel. We come over here three times a year for about a month at a time and take a pass through the country, and it's so amazing."
Though The Wiggles began entertaining kids Down Under in the early 1990s, it wasn't until the Disney Channel picked up the series a few years ago that Wiggle-mania ensued.
From a parent's perspective, the appeal of The Wiggles stems from what the outfit isn't -- boring.
In a children's television world filled with tubby creatures from a bizarre la-la land or a talking purple dinosaur (no, not Prince) who takes well-known children's melodies and egregiously adds his own lyrics (really, it's not Prince) with impunity, there is something refreshing about the acoustic-friendly quartet that mixes fun songs with goofy characters and life lessons.
"What we do is mainly try to aim [the humor] at the young children, but because we are doing it ourselves, quite often the humor is something that adults can enjoy," Cook said.
"But we try not to have that sort of knowing, nod-and-a-wink element, where children might be aware that there is a joke that they don't get."
Such wholesome entertainment is also applicable to The Wiggles' live stage show, which is coming through Pittsburgh with a high-energy production that features new songs, as well as inflatable characters and a flying Captain Feathersword.
"The feedback we get from the children and the parents is: Everyone has a great time," Cook said. "But sometimes the young kids freak out when they see us, because they think we live in the television and they can't figure out how we got out."