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"Bob the Builder" TV Program: A Review by a Parent and Construction Worker

Updated on August 26, 2020
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Joy worked in construction for 7 years alongside her husband (25+ yrs. experience)—working on pole barns, grain bins, and barn repairs.

Reasoning Thwarted

When my son was three, my husband and I allowed him to watch several weekly episodes of the children's television program "Bob the Builder." As owners of a sheet metal contracting business, we wanted our son to be able to enjoy the show, which reminded him in small ways of his daily life.

We stopped the experiment after two months, as the show seemed to negatively influence his ability to think and reason, slowing our progress as responsible parents.

Instead, his understanding of what went on in our daily work in the construction field, and our efforts to teach him self-control and cooperation, were thwarted.

Members of Bob's Crew

These are a few members of Bob the Builder's crew, or "helpers". Each of their personalities is designed to highlight a single trait, and as such they are emotionally 2 dimensional.
These are a few members of Bob the Builder's crew, or "helpers". Each of their personalities is designed to highlight a single trait, and as such they are emotionally 2 dimensional.

Questionable Ethics

"Bob the Builder" is a TV show originally aimed at pre-schoolers and kindergarteners. Stretching across 250+ episodes, it focuses on a contractor who has "helpers" who assist in doing various jobs, from fixing a garden fence to building a sheep barn, including concrete work.

The tone is friendly, with ethics such as kindness and honesty being given high priority. However--as parents, business owners, and contractors, we believe it fails in all major areas.

The show's brand of "honesty", for example, involves saying you're sorry only because you were caught in the act of stealing.

"Kindness" involves making sure no one's feelings get hurt and no one gets disciplined, even if they have not changed their ways and don't intend to. Firm rebukes have no place. Self-control is consistently lacking.

These kinds of ethics are a recipe for the development of narcissistic personality disorder.

Let's look at a few more character aspects.

A Really Bad Day

Cooperation

Team work seems to be the main point of the show. Bob and all his helpers work together to get the job done. Each one is the best at something, and is encouraged to do his work cheerfully and with kindness.

This is a great premise.

But are the characters themselves worthy role models for a developing child, or indeed for anyone?

In my opinion, no. I wouldn't want my son or myself consistently hanging out with people who behave like these characters.

I'll tell you why.

Unchecked Character Flaws

We've already mentioned theft. In at least one episode, this was combined with gluttony (scarecrow). Lying also has been featured (also scarecrow). Lack of forethought is a normal precursor to disaster (nearly everyone). Chaos is average. Creating problems and expecting everyone around to fix them is also a regular theme. Destructive, habitual worry is pampered as a character trait (Lofty the boom truck).

Finally, on a lesser scale, we have unmanaged and unchecked hyperactivity, verging on mania, in the character "Dizzy". She is enthusiastic and cute in her way, but shows brain chemistry imbalance. Whether she is intended to portray ADHD, or perhaps shows signs of excessive sugar consumption, she ought to look into making some changes.

Dizzy in a Typical Moment

Dizzy is sympathetic and  lovable--but impulsive and lacking in common sense. She is intensely hyperactive.
Dizzy is sympathetic and lovable--but impulsive and lacking in common sense. She is intensely hyperactive.

Work Ethic

Next, we have concerns about the work ethic. Bob is portrayed as a hard-working, helpful individual . . . but if my husband and I ran our business like he runs his, we would starve. He spends inordinate amounts of time talking on his cell phone, and discussing moral dillemmas with his "helpers", who regularly create difficulties of both a business management and ethical nature. Bob also has a scattered schedule, with an average of four jobs needing attention on any given day. This means he rarely attends properly to any of them.

I don't want my son learning to work like Bob works.

Probable Real-Life Progression of Bob's Crew

Click thumbnail to view full-size
I am curious how any of Bob's crew would rate on an evaluation such as this interview checklist.Surely Bob uses a form similar to this one several times a week.Since Bob's overhead must be enormous, I am surprised this form does not come into play, just to salvage his business. Still, he somehow retains enough income to keep the crew around, and buy sandwich fixings and overalls.
I am curious how any of Bob's crew would rate on an evaluation such as this interview checklist.
I am curious how any of Bob's crew would rate on an evaluation such as this interview checklist.
Surely Bob uses a form similar to this one several times a week.
Surely Bob uses a form similar to this one several times a week.
Since Bob's overhead must be enormous, I am surprised this form does not come into play, just to salvage his business. Still, he somehow retains enough income to keep the crew around, and buy sandwich fixings and overalls.
Since Bob's overhead must be enormous, I am surprised this form does not come into play, just to salvage his business. Still, he somehow retains enough income to keep the crew around, and buy sandwich fixings and overalls.

Business Management Horrors

As a contractor's wife, I have to wonder:

  • When and how does Bob write his bids?
  • What does he charge per hour for his labor?
  • How deep in debt is he?
  • How does he maintain friendly relationships with his customers, given the number of disasters that occur on each episode?
  • Where is OSHA?
  • Are any of his workers undocumented?
  • What screening process does he use while hiring? Or does he actually hire anyone, instead relying on the goodwill of his "helpers" to get each job done?
  • How high are his insurance rates?

We have all probably known people who work like Bob. They are seldom in a hurry to get anything done. They waste mountains of time gabbing and gossiping. When they work, they work hard . . . but they rarely work. Perhaps these people make great friends, but I would hesitate to hire them for any job that mattered.

An Unsupervised Newbie

Safety Violations

A few issues that come to mind include:

  • Crew members constantly goofing around, resulting in damaged supplies and job do-overs (presumably at Bob's expense).
  • People racing around on the running boards of irresponsible machines with erratically moving hydraulics.
  • A boss or foreman not showing apprentices how to do jobs, and make sure they understand before they walk away, because they have an overrated sense of confidence in said employee to use logic and show proper initiative.

Irresponsible Behavior

I think of this scene as being a simplified version of Bob's attitude. (This is not a real quote from the show.)
I think of this scene as being a simplified version of Bob's attitude. (This is not a real quote from the show.)
Dizzy causes disasters and delays wherever she goes--typically by playing soccer on active job sites. The other characters contribute to the chaos in their own special ways.
Dizzy causes disasters and delays wherever she goes--typically by playing soccer on active job sites. The other characters contribute to the chaos in their own special ways.

Lack of Adaptability

Bob's crew, it turns out, are helpless without him. Whenever they run into a problem, they panic. Even when an appropriate course of action becomes clear to them, they somehow manage to drag out their decisions until Bob shows up. (Bob is usually stuck somewhere, clearing up the results of an "accident", or busy on his cell phone.)

I wish I had Bob's emotional stamina, as he continues to parent large machinery with applomb, through the same worries and types of problems episode after episode.

View of Nature

True to form, Bob and his work partner Wendy are concerned about the environment and nature. However, they are inconsistent.

When a hedgehog is discovered under some trash, he is turned into a pet.

When ducks and a cat come into potential conflict--with the cat (as I recall) being in a tree over-arching a pond--the machines buzz around like so many flies until Bob arrives to tell them how to pick up the cat, then dump the ducks into the (empty) cement mixer. I'm not sure why the ducks need rescued in this manner.

When birds build a nest on some building materials, the crew opts to postpone using those materials until the birds are hatched and grown. In Bob's world, this apparently happens in roughly 48 hours.

Dizzy and the Ducks

I have ducks. I have also used a cement mixer such as this one--and I can tell you that this is no place for a duck to play. Critters and equipment do not mix.
I have ducks. I have also used a cement mixer such as this one--and I can tell you that this is no place for a duck to play. Critters and equipment do not mix.

Standards of Job Excellence

Finally, we arrive at job quality. And ouch! I'm afraid that Bob and job quality don't mix. We as parents spend precious time trying to teach our children to work well, but Bob does not help us accomplish this aim.

My son entered his first job site at four months old. By the age of three, he could read fractions on a standard tape measure. By six, he was designing and building his own miniature pole barn trusses out of scrap lumber. So when he saw Bob and his helpers installing sheet metal--he began to lose interest in the show and confidence in Bob as a contractor.

Next, he watched in disbelieving amusement as Bob's "crew" poured a concrete slab, which magically set--and cured--in 10 minutes, being trampled by sheep upon completion! The sheep were saved from a storm which immediately followed, and this clinched his disbelief, as it drenched the newly built barn which was finished "just in time" (as usual).

The episode highlighted below is even more absurd.

A Barn Building Episode

Gaslighting

In the episode shown below, Bob's crew lay paving in a yard for a lady who loves her statues.

The paving stones get broken, resulting in a change of pattern--about which the lady is not consulted.

Secondly, a statue also is damaged--and no one confesses. In fact, Wendy, usyalky the most stable crew member, misleads the owner into believing nothing is wrong.

In real world terms, we call this manipulation tactic both lying and gaslighting.

Job Not as Advertised; Fibbing

But it Is Only a TV Show, Right?

Why are these silly things a big deal?

To see why, let's dissect a couple episodes. I will detail the barn stacking episode shown above, but first would like to list what I recall of an episode that seems to have mysteriously disappeared. (I've seen this missing episode in part at least three times, yet it appears in no available playlists.)

Building a Sheep Barn

In the missing episode, in which Bob and his helpers build a new barn to save a flock of sheep from a rain/snow storm, I recall several things amiss.

Let's suppose that we want to instill in our children not only a pure work ethic, but an understanding of real-life problems. So--

Here are the discrepancies between real life and Bob's world.

When Bob builds a barn, there is:

  • No foundation prep work
  • No footing poured
  • No reinforcements (unless the mix happens to be fiber mesh)
  • No work on the freshly poured concrete to level it or finish the edges
  • No concrete drying time
  • No concrete curing time of even 24 hours, let alone the recommended 3 days to a week
  • No resulting hoof marks when the sheep jubilantly stampede into the barn on the fresh concrete
  • No planning. Concrete should not be poured prior to an impending storm.

Let's continue with the basic construction flaws in the barn itself.

  • Sheet metal will blow off with Bob's method of installation, possibly injuring livestock or farmer.
  • The walls are not anchored, either in concrete or by burying posts. Even when an outbuilding is built on skids, it is anchored with stakes.

Finally, observations about sheep, which are familiar animals to our family, as we have a small flock.

  • Sheep don't bed well on concrete.
  • Sheep don't run into new strange places without being coaxed or coerced. They especially don't stampede into a new barn while the weather is fine, with smiles and sighs of relief.
  • No responsible farmer or sheep rancher of Western breeds would attain or breed a flock without having shelter available.

Barn Building #2

The episode included above is beyond absurd . . . especially since it is about characters who have been building things and making repairs for several years.

  • Wendy gets trapped in a "grain house" loaded onto a truck, while attempting to close the door--from the inside. Yeah.
  • Bob rescues Wendy, but meanwhile . . .
  • Bob's crew team up to play with pre-constructed barns as if they are so many child's blocks.
  • When said barns inevitably crash, they are miraculously still usable.
  • No one sues, and Bob retains his privileges of managing a construction crew, and operating heavy machinery.

Work Expectations

All of these considerations beg a serious question: Why would we intentionally indoctrinate children during their most impressionable ages with this chaotic viewpoint, then switch our expectations when they reach adolescence or puberty?

If a child doesn't work well at anything, he generally has been indoctrinated not to work.

If he has been trained to expect others to fix his mistakes or cover for his ignorance, he will continue doing so into adulthood.

If he has never been disciplined to think ahead and to consider how his actions affect others, he will create no end of chaos for those who are most intimate with him, no matter what position he may attain in life.

No Good for Us

In short, we wouldn't let a dog behave the way the characters on "Bob the Builder" behave, without taking carefully-planned steps to train him to do better. Why should we allow our children to spend time with these undisciplined fools? Children often have no strong ability to differentiate emotionally between television and real life. (For that matter, most adults don't either.)

As far as my son's development, this show has done nothing to make him more cooperative, smarter, or happier. Nor has it made him environmentally aware, which is another obvious slant. It has failed to help him be ready to face reality, nor has it stimulated his imagination in a healthy way.

I would be afraid to hire Bob and his friends to build anything more important than a scrap-lumber sandbox, and I certainly don't want them teaching my child right from wrong.

What Is Your Opinion of "Bob the Builder"?

See results

Deeper and Darker

Apparently I'm not the only one who believes there is something deeply wrong with this show. Have fun with the theories postulated in the video below.

Dark Theories Surrounding "Bob the Builder"

© 2020 Joilene Rasmussen

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