PJ Masks: Gekko Saves Christmas/Gekko's Nice Ice Plan (2015)

The only thing we knew about the animated show PJ Masks before turning on this episode was that it has a lot of toys targeted at the preschool set.

The premise is that three kids turn into animal-themed superheroes at night (once they don the pajamas of the title) and defeat super-villain kids while learning simplistic morals. It's based on a series of French picture books, and the show is a collaboration between Canadian and French animation companies and is distributed in the U.S. by Disney.

It's visually and structurally somewhat reminiscent of Super Why. Each 15-minute story has a clear moral from the beginning and a repetitive structure that will have some kids yelling at the characters in frustration.

In Gekko Saves Christmas, the villain Luna Girl is stealing all the Christmas decorations and presents. Catboy and Owlette easily stall the villain several times, but they need Gekko to take her hoverboard. He's too frightened of failing to really try to stay on the board. Finally, he learns today's lesson and sticks with it long enough to get the hang of it. They end up inviting Luna Girl to celebrate the rest of Christmas Eve with them.

The second half of the episode was just winter-themed, rather than Christmas. In fact, it takes place in summer, which makes it a candidate for Christmas in July. Gekko's the one with the lesson again, in this case, it's that he should speak up for himself when he has a good idea. (The idea being that he can use his sticky powers to catch up to a villain who's turned the town icy with a freeze ray.)

I have to admit that I was impressed by the amount of superhero-ness. The characters had old-school cheesy catchphrases and themed tech. Unfortunately, the show isn't actually good.

The kid villains are very one-note, and our heroes stop them without (at least in these episodes) any long-term ramifications. The villain just runs off to make mischief another day, and there's no direct violence. The plot and dialogue are both very formulaic. "PJ Masks all shout hooray, because in the night, we saved the day!"

However, it's not quite as offensive to the eyes and brain as some kids shows. I could imagine people with a strong resistance to simplistic children's television being able to watch an episode with their kids without too much pain.

I do wonder what parents make of the fact that there are basically no adults in this show, and that these are little kids running around alone late into the night. You could make the case that it's a dream sequence: there are no other people in the city aside from the villain and their pajamas give them powers. But come on, at least the Powerpuff girls always saved the world before bedtime.

If you're looking for an educational superhero show for kids, we instead recommend Word Girl.