Wishbone (TV series)
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Wishbone is a half-hour live-action children's television show that was produced from 1995 to 1997 and broadcast on PBS Kids. The show's title character is a Jack Russell Terrier. Wishbone lives with his owner Joe Talbot in the fictional town of Oakdale, Texas. He daydreams about being the lead character of stories from classic literature. He was known as "the little dog with a big imagination". Only the viewers and the characters in his daydreams can hear Wishbone speak. The characters from his daydreams see Wishbone as whichever famous character he is currently portraying and not as a dog. The show won four Daytime Emmys, a Peabody Award, and honors from the Television Critics Association. Wishbone's exterior shots were filmed on the backlot of Lyrick Studios's teen division Big Feats! Entertainment in Allen, Texas, and its interior shots were filmed on a sound stage in a 50,000 square foot warehouse in Plano, Texas. Additional scenes were filmed in Grapevine, Texas.
|Created by||Rick Duffield (Executive producer)|
Mary Chris Wall
Julio Cedillo (Season 2)
Mikaila Enriquez (Season 2)
Paul English Jr (Season 2)
|Voices of||Larry Brantley as Wishbone|
|Theme music composer|
|Opening theme||"What's the Story, Wishbone?"|
|Ending theme||"What's the Story, Wishbone?" (Instrumental version)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||50 (list of episodes)|
|Production location(s)||Plano, Texas|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Big Feats! Entertainment|
|Distributor||Mattel Creations |
Lyrick Studios/HIT Entertainment
|Original network||PBS (1996-1999)|
PBS Kids (1999-2001; 2013-present, reruns)
PBS Kids Go! (2009-2013, reruns)
|Picture format||480i SDTV|
|Audio format||Dolby Surround|
|Original release||October 9, 1995 –|
December 4, 1997
This show garnered particular praise for refusing to bowdlerize many of the sadder or more unpleasant aspects of the source works, which usually enjoyed a fairly faithful retelling in the fantasy sequences.
The show also inspired several book series. Altogether, there are more than fifty books featuring Wishbone, which were published even after the TV series ended production. Reruns of the show continued to air on some PBS affiliates until early 2008. In 2006, when a PBS Kids Go! digital channel was announced, PBS planned to air Wishbone on the channel. However, when the digital channel was canceled, Wishbone returned in reruns on the PBS national program service. Wishbone clips came to the PBS Kids Go! website. The return to PBS lasted a short time, though some PBS affiliates continued to air Wishbone until their license to do so ran out. The show continued to air in reruns until August 31, 2001. The show was replaced on the PBS Kids schedule on September 3, 2001 by Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat.
Wishbone was conceived by Rick Duffield after brainstorming with his staff about "making a show for kids that was told from a dog’s point of view." Duffield recalled to The New Yorker that he had a habit of putting a voice to his dog's expressions. His eureka moment came when he was staring at a row of books on his shelf. "The one that caught my eye that day was Frank Magill's Masterpieces of World Literature. Well, what if a little dog with a big imagination could take us into some of the greatest stories ever told? And, why not make him the hero?" Duffield asked.
Inspired, Duffield produced a seven-minute pilot for the show. He spent three days casting for the dog star at a motel courtyard in Valencia, California in the summer of 1993, looking at between 100 and 150 dogs. "[A]n extraordinary little Jack Russell named Soccer walked up and dazzled us all," he explained. "I filmed the teaser, which captured Wishbone’s character and suggested the format of the show, and brought it to Alice Cahn at PBS. I suppose convincing someone that it was a good idea came down to executing a pretty fetching dog trick!"
"Keeping up with the variety in the series is the biggest challenge," Duffield told Entertainment Tonight." "Because Wishbone is the central figure of each show, and plays an integral role in the contemporary story and the literary story, he's in almost every scene. So he has a lot to do and designing scenes that can work with a dog, with period actors and period sets, as well as kids in a contemporary world is a big challenge."
"I didn't know what the dog looked like and they give (me) the barest of information, 'there's going to be this great new kids show with this dog that talks and we want you to come in and we want you to be funny' so I went to the first audition having no idea what to do," Brantley explained. "In the callback I actually got to meet Soccer for the first time...It was basically a five minute impromptu audition...I never really read from the script, I was supposed to, but I didn't. Rick Duffield, the executive producer, said, 'well, watch the dog and just kind of follow along and see what he's doing right now.' Soccer was obsessing like over this tennis ball...and he wasn't interested in me or Rick Duffield or anybody else in the room, it was like tennis ball. And he would stare at the tennis ball. I want the tennis ball...So it was like five minutes about a tennis ball and I walked out of the audition saying, 'I can't believe I just did five minutes about a tennis ball.' And then I got the job. We may never understand."
Ultimately, Duffield wanted Wishbone to be an "entertaining way for kids to get their first taste of great books." "We believe this show can cultivate a new appetite for reading by making kids think it's fun to get to know these books," he said. "And it's intended to be fun, action packed, clever and a way to get their first taste of great stories that can become a valuable educational stepping stone in their lives. The dog makes it all the more endearing and entertaining."
Despite acclaim from critics and educators, only 50 episodes were produced; all in a one-year time frame. Duffield told author Michael Brody that PBS halted production because the show did not have "merchandising potential."
A standard episode of Wishbone consists of an opening scene, introducing Wishbone's and his family's current situation (for example, Arbor Day planting a tree, or Joe catching a lunch lady attempting to donate food to a homeless shelter). When one of the main characters decides to get involved in the noble act, Wishbone flashes to a famous work of literature it reminds him of, usually with him playing the lead role, in costume. Wishbone may not play the lead role if the character is difficult to relate to (he plays Sancho Panza in Don Quixote) or is female (in the show's "Joan of Arc" episode, he plays Louis de Conte). By the end of both stories, the real-life situation usually follows the work of literature closely such as the King saving Robin Hood at the last minute, and the Principal saving Joe at the last minute. The last two minutes of nearly every episode feature Wishbone narrating some background description of how the episode was produced, including showing how stunts were performed, how costumes were designed, or how the visual effects were created.
The series also featured a clip show episode called "Picks of the Litter".
- Wishbone: The protagonist and titular character of the series. He is a well-read dog who sees parallels between classic literature and the dilemmas he and his human friends face every day. Wishbone is a male tri-color Jack Russell Terrier (white with brown and black markings), who lives with the Talbots at their home on Forest Avenue in Oakdale. In his normal contemporary life, his voice is only heard by those watching the program, and not by anyone he is around. Sometimes people say things that seem to coincidentally repeat or answer what he just said. He often laments: "No one ever listens to the dog." In the classic literature stories in which he imagines himself, the other characters can hear him and they perceive him as the human character he is imagining himself to be. Soccer the dog was the trained dog portraying Wishbone, while his thoughts are voiced by Larry Brantley. In one episode, Wishbone tries out for a part in a dog food commercial where his "lines" are read by Larry Brantley himself, which seems to confuse Wishbone.
- Joe Talbot: Wishbone's teenage owner, the only child of Steve and Ellen Talbot. Joe has brown hair and a great interest in sports, particularly basketball. He is a player on the Sequoyah Middle School basketball team. His best friends are Samantha Kepler and David Barnes. His father Steve, a basketball coach, died from a rare blood disease when Joe was six years old. Portrayed by Jordan Wall.
- David Barnes: Joe and Sam's best friend from school and Joe's next door neighbor. He lives with his parents, Nathan and Ruth Barnes, and his younger sister, Emily. David aspires to be a scientist. Portrayed by Adam Springfield.
- Samantha "Sam" Kepler: Joe and David's best friend from their school. Her father, Walter Kepler, owns and runs the local pizzeria, Pepper Pete's. She has long blonde hair and is the most outgoing and adventurous of the three friends. She is allergic to coconuts. Her parents are divorced. Portrayed by Christie Abbott.
- Ellen Talbot: Joe's widowed mother, who, like him, has dark brown hair. She works as the reference librarian at Henderson Memorial Library in Oakdale. It is revealed in an old high school yearbook that her maiden name is MacMillan. Portrayed by Mary Chris Wall.
- Wanda Gilmore: The Talbots' slightly eccentric next-door neighbor. Wanda is the owner of the Oakdale Chronicle newspaper and president of the local Historical Society, as well as a volunteer in other different venues. She is a very friendly and cheerful person but hates it when Wishbone digs up her flower beds and therefore finds him a nuisance at times (although she reconciles with him in a later episode "A Fleabitten Bargain"). She has a crush on Joe's teacher, Bob Pruitt, and is in a steady relationship with him. Portrayed by Angee Hughes.
- Robin: Joe, David and Sam's friend. She loves playing basketball. Portrayed by Codie Brooks.
- Damont Jones: The antagonist of the series. He is Oakdale's bully, always up to no good, who usually causes trouble with his friend Curtis. Wishbone loathes Damont to the point of doing some comedic harm to him especially during Oakdale's Halloween scavenger hunt. In one of the final episodes, an older and wiser Damont tentatively apologizes to Joe for his previous unfriendly attitude, and it is implied that they make peace and Damont starts having a good friendship with him afterwards. Portrayed by Joe Duffield.
- Jimmy Kidd: Damont's obnoxious cousin. He appears in the second season of this series. Portrayed by Jarrad Kritzstein.
- Emily Barnes: David's mischievous little sister who is often seen with her friend Tina; a running gag seems to involve an adult telling Emily and Tina to be good, to which they reply in unison "we will", before giggling insincerely and making a plan to cook up some mischief. Emily also has an overt affinity for Wishbone; in the Season 1 episode Homer Sweet Homer, she had him for show and tell, but she wanted to keep him for herself until Joe, David and Sam came to get him back. She also plays t-ball for the Oakdale Tigers. Portrayed by Jazmine McGill in season 1 and by Brittany Holmes in Season 2.
- Amanda Hollings: Samantha's academic rival who always tries to prove she is smarter than Samantha. Portrayed by Elena Hurst.
- Mr. Bob Pruitt: Joe, David and Sam's English teacher, who has a genuine love of the subject, and is very encouraging of his students, teaching them how to express themselves through written works. Later, Bob becomes a love interest of Wanda and enters a relationship with her. Portrayed by Rick Perkins.
- Walter Kepler: Samantha's dad and a former friend of Joe's dad, Steve Talbot. He owns and operates Pepper Pete's Pizzeria in the later episodes. Portrayed by Bob Reed.
- Nathaniel Bobelesky: A geeky kid who is terrible at sports but is still friends with Joe, David, and Sam. After he shows a natural talent for swiftly catching things, Sam helps Nathaniel become a hockey goalie, which earns him the respect of several players, including Damont. In another episode, he is revealed to be allergic to many things, especially dogs, although most of his allergies were in his imagination. Portrayed by Justin Reese.
- Homer Vincent: David's maternal uncle. He is the storyteller of traditional African folklore. He appears in the first-season episode "Bark That Bark". Portrayed by Akin Babatunde.
- Lee Natonabah: A Native American who is a college professor in Dances with Dogs. The actor Adan Sanchez performed as Oakdale's postman Dan Bloodgood throughout the show's second season.
- Travis Del Rio: Oakdale's Sports and Games store owner. He only appears in the second season of this series. In the Season 2 episode Halloween Hound, it is revealed that he likes dogs, and he assures Joe that Wishbone is more than welcome in Oakdale's Sports and Games. Portrayed by Julio Cedillo.
- Melina Finch: Travis Del Rio's niece and Marcus Finch's sister. She only appears in the second season of this series. Portrayed by Mikaila Enriquez.
- Marcus Finch: Travis Del Rio's nephew and Melina Finch's brother. He only appears in the second season of this series. Portrayed by Paul English, Jr.
- Mr. King: A real-estate developer who is an occasional antagonist of Joe and Sam. Portrayed by John S. Davies.
- Soccer, also Slugger, Shiner, Phoebe, and Bear as Wishbone
- Larry Brantley - Wishbone's voice
- Jordan Wall - Joe Talbot
- Christie Abbott - Samantha Kepler
- Adam Springfield - David Barnes
- Mary Chris Wall - Ellen Talbot
- Alex Morris - Nathan Barnes
- Angee Hughes - Wanda Gilmore
- Justin Reese - Nathaniel Bobelesky
- Akin Babatunde - Homer Vincent
- Adan Sanchez - Lee Natonabah/Dan Bloodgood
- Rick Perkins - Mr. Bob Pruitt
- Julio Cedillo - Travis del Rio
- Mikaila Enriquez - Melina Finch
- Paul English, Jr. - Marcus Finch
- Joe Duffield - Damont Jones
- Jarrad Kritzstein - Jimmy Kidd
- Taylor Pope - Curtis
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- Academy of Television Arts & Sciences First Honor Roll of Children's Programming, 1999
- George Foster Peabody Award, 1998
- Emmy Award - Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design, 1997
- Emmy Award - Costume Design/Styling, 1997
- Emmy Award - Graphics and Title Design, 1997
- Emmy Award - Costume Design/Styling, 1996
- Emmy Award Nominations, 1998, "WISHBONE's Dog Days of the West"
- Directing in a Children's Special
- Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design
- Main Title Design
- Costume Design/Styling
- Television Critics Association - Best Children's Show, 1996 and 1997
Only a handful of the Wishbone episodes have been released to VHS and DVD. There were also a few computer games in 1996, such as Wishbone Activity Center, Wishbone Print Tricks, and Wishbone and the Amazing Odyssey. Wishbone has also inspired several book series: Wishbone Classics, Wishbone Mysteries, and The Adventures of Wishbone, which is similar to the TV series.
In 2004, Hit Entertainment released 4 DVDs of the show: "Hot Diggety Dawg", "The Impawsible Dream", "The Hunchdog of Notre-Dame" and "Paw Prints of Thieves".
On February 15, 2011, Lionsgate released the Wishbone DVD, The Little Dog With a Big Imagination, which only includes the four previously released episodes.
- "Frankenbone". Wishbone. Season 1. Event occurs at 26:40.
- "The Exchange: Rick Duffield". The New Yorker. October 21, 2009. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
- "On Set with Wishbone - Interview with "Wishbone" Executive Producer Rick Duffield". Entertainment Tonight (archived on The Texas Archive of the Moving Image). 1995. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
- "On set with Wishbone - Interview with Larry Brantley, the Voice of Wishbone". Entertainment Tonight (archived on The Texas Archive of the Moving Image). 1995. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
- Brody, Michael (January 16, 2013). Seductive Screens: Children's Media—Past, Present, and Future. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 73. ISBN 9781443845823. Retrieved August 10, 2018.
- Press, The Associated (April 3, 1998). "'Ellen' Wins Peabody Award". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
- Staff, Variety (May 11, 1998). "PBS early Daytime Emmy leader". Variety. Retrieved October 10, 2017.