I have to admit that I'm not the parent of a young tyke or anything like that. I just stumbled onto the cover art for "Move Those Feet" -- a collection of episodes from the Discovery Kids series Hip Hop Harry -- and knew I'd have to give this DVD a spin.
Think Barney with a little more flava. Every episode, a multiethnic gaggle of kids pile into the Hip-Hop Center to drop it like it's hot, and they learn dance moves and all sorts of life lessons from Hip Hop Harry, a pear-shaped, golden teddy bear. They chat about their problems, sing, dance, learn...y'know. The core premise really isn't that different from half the shows on TV aimed squarely at the preschool crowd, setting itself apart from the rest of the bunch with more of an emphasis on -- you guessed it! -- hip-hop and dancing. Three episodes of the Emmy-nominated series have been tossed onto this volume.
"I didn't know there was that much water in my body. Cool!"
There's a dance contest at the Hip Hop Center, and sisters Savannah and Sophina wind up on different teams. Someone's gonna get served, and Savannah doesn't want to hurt her sister's feelings if she's the one who takes home the trophy. Hip Hop Harry belts out rap numbers about staying properly hydrated and how healthy competition can be.
I Like to Move
Hey, it's Fitness Fun Day! When I say "fitness", you say "fun"! Fitness! Fun! Fitness! Fun!
Miss Kelly drops in to teach the kids about proper physical fitness, all set to drum loops and thumpin' bass, of course. Meanwhile, Scott has to write a poem, so Hip Hop Harry lends him a hand on coming up with rhymes about...hey, Fitness Fun Day! There's also some hip-hop hula-hooping and another note about how essential it is to stay hydrated if you wanna throw down.
You Can Dance
Katie is a dancing queen, but she's not having the time of her life. See, Katie's spent the past couple of years learning ballet, but she really doesn't know all that much about hip-hop. Still, she's strolled into the Hip-Hop Center, so I guess she's come to the right place. After rapping about how we learn things step by step, Hip Hop Harry gives Katie a run through all three levels of hip-hop, helped out by his pals Pinky, Riddles, and choreographer Shane Sparks. After talking about the importance of stretching and tearing through a couple of dance lessons, Hip Hop Harry and the kids show off everything they've learned and rap about all the different types of ways there are to dance.
. . .
Okay, seeing as how I'm pushing thirty and am not even close to being a parent, I'm pretty clearly outside the target demographic for Hip Hop Harry. It's kind of earnest and goofy in a way I think preschoolers would appreciate, and with as much as I've seen my younger relatives bop around to The Wiggles and the Doodlebops, a hip-hop-themed kids' show seems like the next logical step. The songs are all upbeat and wholly positive: no boasting, no beefs, and no bling. They're not especially catchy, though, and this being a children's series and all, the lyrics are naturally kind of clunky.
This is definitely a show for particularly young children, and I have a tough time picturing even a five or six year old having much interest. The kids in the show speak so slowly and repetitively that I'd think even a kindergartener would feel like he's been talked down to. I understand that reinforcing lessons is important for young children, but Hip Hop Harry can be a little too heavy-handed. Each episode on this DVD runs around 24 minutes, but once you lose the lengthy "learning is fun!" recaps at the end, the dancing over the end credits, and Harry's memory game, you can trim off a third of that time.
Hip Hop Harry isn't a show I'd want to sit down and watch with my younger relatives, but it seems alright for what it is. You don't have to take my word for it, though. As I write this, at least, Hip Hop Harry still airs daily on TLC and Discovery Kids, so if you'd like a sample, set your DVR or make it a point to tune in. This obviously isn't a show bogged down by continuity or anything, so whatever you watch ought to be a reasonably decent sample.
Video: The 4x3 video is pretty much indistinguishable from what I'd expect out of digital cable. The image is really bright and colorful, yeah, but it's plagued by mosquito noise and looks kind of clumsily compressed. The quality also varies greatly depending on the angle; tight shots are sharp and well-defined, but the image starts to look smeared when the camera pulls back. I really doubt there'd be much of any difference between this DVD and just TiVo-ing the show off of cable for free.
Audio: The stereo audio, encoded at 192Kbps, is pretty lousy, mostly since a big chunk of the dialogue has a muffled, slightly distorted quality to it. This being a hip-hop-themed show and all, it kinda follows that there's a thumping, meaty low-end, but pretty much any moment where someone's talking sounds like it's creaking out of the built-in speakers on a ten year old portable DVD player.
Extras: Each of the three episodes on "Move Those Feet" closes with a memory game with Hip-Hop Harry lobbing out trivia questions about what they've just watched, and those have also been included as extras on the disc. A seven and a half minute snippet from Ready Set Learn!, also themed around learning how to dance, is the only other extra.
Conclusion: Yeah, yeah, I know the show's been kind of a regular punching bag on The Soup, but Hip-Hop Harry means well. It's an earnest, upbeat show skewed really heavily towards the preschool set, and with this DVD going for just a few bucks right now online, it's not a bad buy to give kids who religiously tune into the show something to watch on the road. The quality's pretty lackluster, though, and I'd bet most kids would be okay just tuning into episodes on-demand or off the DVR.
Related Links: There's a plug for the DVD on the Hip Hop Harry website, and it gives a pretty good feel for the show if you want a teaser.