Sprout is a cable channel aimed at preschoolers and young kids.  This line from its Wikipedia entry will tell you all you really need to know:
Sprout is co-owned by ComcastSesame WorkshopHIT Entertainment and PBS.
Sprout originally hit the cable pipes a few weeks before our oldest was born.  In our bleary early days we may have leaned on the TV a bit much, but it didn’t seem so bad when you had low-commercial options like Noggin, Disney Channel1, and to a great extent, Sprout.  Back around 2005, Sprout subsidized their rerun-recycling with about one commercial every half hour, usually for the Honda Odyssey, laundry detergent, or Quicken Loans2.  I was disappointed to see them go when we rolled back to analog cable to save money.
We decided to budget a few extra bucks for glorious HD this year — it was easy because I waited so long to buy a new TV, it basically cost half of what I was originally expecting to spend — and we were delighted to see Sprout back on our channel guide.  However, they’ve gotten an aggressive new sales staff and dramatically increased the commercial content.  Every ten minutes or so it’s commercials with Montel Williams hawking easy loans, and those terrible Huggies ads for those terrible Huggies that look like jeans3, and in my personal circle of commercial hell — Pillow Pets.  IT’S A PILLOW!  IT’S A PET!
Our oldest has two to three quality pillows on her big-girl bed, and a lovely unicorn that she got for her birthday from Build-a-Bear Workshop, but right now she is convinced her life is not complete without a shabby looking hybrid of the twain.  I don’t understand it myself, but hating Pillow Pets is like hating Soulja Boy.  Neither of them are made for someone like me.  I accept this and try to understand them4.
I am hearing these tipped as the hot holiday toy item, so if you get stuck between a rock and a soft toy as I am: save those stupid coupons Bed Bath and Beyond sends you.  Steal them out of your neighbors’ recycling if you have to.  There are two funny things about Bed Bath and Beyond coupons:
  1. The expiration date on each coupon is moot.  Clerks will accept any Bed Bath and Beyond coupon no matter when it expired.
  2. If you have a bunch with different values, the helpful BBB clerks will often select the ones that save you the most money.

I know you don’t want to go to Bed Bath and Beyond because it’s just such a cliche, but they actually have these Pillow Pets, though you may have to ask for them at the counter right now [a lot of the toys are off the sales floor during college move-in].  At least save a few bucks.

Back to grinding my main axe: Sprout.  There are a few things you can do to protect yourself.

Watch [and DVR] real PBS.  A lot of your local PBS stations have a second and a third channel now with the conversion to digital TV; sometimes these channels are a time-shifted version of the “prime” channel, so you may be able to watch PBS Kids shows at odd hours [in Detroit, WTVS 56.2 does this].  Some PBS stations use the second channel as a “Family” channel with an expanded kids lineup  [in Toledo, WGTE 30.2 does this].  Either way, these are real PBS stations with the standard sponsorship rules.  Sprout happens to carry shows that also air on PBS, and sometimes refers to themselves as “PBS Kids Sprout,” but most of their on-air graphics actually omit the PBS Kids branding in the flower, and you get the feeling that if PBS complained enough, they could quickly rebrand as, oh, I don’t know.  NBC Sprout.

Watch the Sprout shows other ways. Last I checked there was quite a bit of Dragon Tales on Netflix Watch Instantly.  Or you can get DVDs of the shows.  My local library is a terrific resource for so many of the shows we also watch on Sprout.

Can you reason with kids?  I can’t.  Avoid my fate.

BONUS: If you watched Sprout back in the day and liked Kevin reading cards on the Birthday Show, you will love him as a grown-up Ryu on the webseries “Street Fighter: The Later Years.”

  1. I bit the apple years before my children were born.  90% of the stuff that is pushed on Playhouse Disney viewers, like trips to Walt Disney World?  This life, I lead, is the stuff that happens between trips to Walt Disney World. []
  2. See?  Advertising works.  Especially when there’s less of it. []
  3. I want to take a moment to say here that there are few things cuter than real, small, baby-sized blue jean trousers.  Which makes these jean-colored Huggies even more bullshit. []
  4. On a related note, can someone teach me how to dougie?  Teach-me-teach-me how to dougie? []