So, if there is a Monster Meltdown in progress in your home, you might tune in to HBO’s Esme & Roy, an animated creation of Sesame Studios that features Esme, a young girl, and Roy, a large, friendly yellow monster. They are the most sought-after Monstersitters in the town of Monsterdale. Like Sesame Street, the series is primarily for the four- to five-year-old set. It’s fun, positive and unlikely to set most adult teeth on edge (which is huge), though the theme music will stick to your limbic brain like Elmer’s glue. Esme and Roy team up to solve the kinds of everyday problems faced by preschool-aged monsters: Not wanting to try new food, being a bit resistant to having to dress for the weather, having a sibling’s annoying behavior standing between you and the thing you want to be doing. The big stuff.
The show is about managing emotions and problem-solving, whether it’s making up a song and dance to creatively get a young monster to put on her raincoat or teaming up to defeat stage fright at a talent show. Esme giggles a lot, but not in a way that will make you break out in hives; she is an all-around excellent role model, handling daily challenges with creative thinking, reminding all the monsterlings to take a deep breath and get centered when facing a challenge, and generally being ultra-competent. Roy has a more adult-scale voice and seems a bit older than Esme, and his monster perspective is a helpful foil as the pair make sure everyone has had a healthy snack.
For parents of young people, if your kid is hooked on a TV show that makes you wish you were having a root canal instead of watching it, Esme & Roy is likely to be a welcome alternative. (I only got through my daughter’s Thomas the Tank Engine phase by challenging myself to see how extreme I could get with incredibly vulgar theme lyrics). It’s not whiny, it’s not saccharine and it’s not weird. It has a well-worn sort of familiarity to it, by which I mean there’s nothing ultra-groundbreaking about it and also that it’s familiar in a good way for kids in an age bracket where familiar is a super big deal.
So, HBO is not PBS. Esme and Roy is a show you have to decide if you want to pay for (if you don’t already pay for HBO). That’s a little bit of a drag. If you don’t currently have access to HBO, the show isn’t necessarily something that should prompt you to upgrade your cable situation. But it is well-written, non-toxic TV for preschoolers and kindergarteners and if it’s available in your living room, it’s hard to imagine the person who’d regret letting their child sit in front of it for 20 minutes. This is solid young child programming with a light hand, a positive outlook, and an emphasis on imbuing kids with a feeling of agency, and that’s all good.
Good luck getting the theme music out of your head.
Esme & Roy premieres Saturday, August 18 at 9:30 a.m. on HBO.
Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer who really likes that you can multi-task by reviewing television and glasses of Cabernet simultaneously. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.