Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top 10 T.V. Shows: 8. Foster's Home for Imagine Friends

It starts, as most programs do, with the theme song. A series of rising harmonics, followed by what sounds like a bunch of instruments winding up, launch us into a plonky, almost clunky, somehow mischievous melody, played simultaneously on a piano and, appropriately enough, a kazoo. It's wonderful. A girl once played it for me on the piano, and I remarked that it was one of the sexiest things I'd ever seen. I stand by that.

Few shows have run as fully with a premise as Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Not only is the idea, a foster home for abandoned imaginary friends owned by an eccentric old lady with a seemingly endless (and pretty much unmentioned) fortune, a great one, but look at the designs! I don't believe I've ever seen a show where there's so much variety in the composition of the characters. The imaginary friends are allowed to inhabit an incredibly wide variety of styles. Watch it some time with a knowledgeable visual arts student. They'll spend the episode pointing out all the shout-outs to different influential designers.

But, the ongoing evidence of Gossip Girl aside, a show cannot get by on looks alone. There was always a heart to Foster's, as you always got the sense that characters genuinely like and care for one another. At the core is the relationship between 8-year-old Mac and his 5-year-old imaginary friend, Blooregard Q Kazoo. "Bloo," if you prefer. The most remarkable thing about this show is the way their relationship always feels genuine. They drive each other nuts, they make each other angry, and they don't always make the best choices, but at the end of the day, they'll end up on the floor together, laughing hysterically over the same thing. That you can not only observe, but always feel the relationship between them is, I think, the most impressive part.

Over six seasons, Foster's never allowed itself to become formulaic, which is commendable in any normal program, but astonishing for a program aimed at children. And it should be praised for that. But, more than anything else, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends should be lauded for knowing the secret to making a lasting kids' program, and never condescending to its audience. It's a show you can watch at any age and find something to appreciate.

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