Few shows that are intended for kids also can count so many parents as fans, but Nick Jr.’s “Yo Gabba Gabba” is that odd show.
Since debuting in 2007, the preschool-targeted series has acted much like catnip to kiddos who fall under Gabbaland’s magical spell of music, monsters and simple storytelling mixed with visual nods to ’80s video games and psychedelic ’70s puppetry.
The show’s “Music Is Awesome” concert tour stops at Ovens Auditorium for two shows Sunday.
“That sweet spot is between 2 and 6,” says co-creator Christian Jacobs.
But parents are as likely to memorize dialogue and to sing along with musical guests like Devo, Weezer and Solange Knowles. And this may be their last chance to see “Gabba Live” – not because the tours are ending, but because their kids will be moving on to superheroes and SpongeBob.
“Around 7 and 8,” Jacobs says, “they start to feel the pressure from kids at school.”
When “Yo Gabba Gabba“ began taking its Sid and Marty Krofft-meets-MTV-style series to the stage in 2009, it was a fixture on the network. New episodes aired regularly, with guest stars like Jack Black and “Weird Al” Yankovic. Today, the series is relegated to the 2 a.m. slot, and a new episode hasn’t aired since last winter.
“With regular episodic television and shows that are more for adults, the demand can be instant if it’s popular,” Jacobs says. “With kids shows, there’s not as much of a demand. With cable, people can watch over and over. Kids tend to do that. Parents may say, ‘I’ve seen this one 10 times, I’m ready for new ones.’ Kids are like, ‘I have 100 viewings left in me.’ ”
While new episodes are in limbo, Jacobs and co-creator Scott Schultz have focused on the live show.
“Scott’s dad grew up as a live-performance director, and I’ve been in a band for 20 years,” says Jacobs, who sings for a rock band called the Aquabats. “With ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ the focus was always music at the core.”
The live show plays more like a greatest-hits concert than your typical musical, although last winter’s Christmas tour (out on DVD this week) follows that template.
“We always wanted the live tour to feel like a rock concert,” Jacobs says. “Most children’s tours are narrative. They’re kind of like an episode of a television show. That’s not something we wanted to do, and the last tour became that kind of a tour. We wanted to go back to the original idea … focusing on songs, dancing and crowd participation.”
For those parents mourning their children’s fading interest in “Yo Gabba Gabba,” Jacobs suggests waiting a few years.
“When my daughter was in middle school her friends found out her daddy does the ‘Gabba’ show. They said, ‘We love that show.’ She was like, ‘Really?’ Now she’s in high school and they watch it together.”
“We don’t necessarily try to make it for high school kids,” he adds. “It’s hip enough that we get that response. It is sad to see kids fade away from it, but they come back.”