If you never watched Wishbone after school in the 90’s, you missed out on a classic. I loved this show, and it became a staple in my education.
Wishbone was a half-hour live-action children’s television show that was produced from 1995 to 1998, and broadcast on PBS Kids. The title character was a Jack Russell Terrier living with his owner Joe Talbot in the fictional town of Oakdale, Texas. This imaginative pup spent his days daydreaming about being the lead character of stories from classic literature, and was known as “the little dog with a big imagination”.
In the show, there was a real-world life of Wishbone and his owner Joe, along with some other characters. In this aspect, Wishbone was a regular dog, but – in his fantasy world – Wishbone took on the job of main character and hero in many classic tales. Only the viewers and the characters in his daydreams could hear Wishbone speak, while portraying whichever famous character he was playing at the time; in the doggiest way possible.
A standard episode of Wishbone consisted of an opening scene, introducing Wishbone’s and his family’s current situation. These situations ranged from a variety of topics, and when one of the main characters got involved in a real-world situation, Wishbone would be reminded of a classic tale.
He would usually play the main role, in costume, but sometimes he would portray a support character if the role was too difficult for him to play (he played 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 the stories, the real-life situation of Wishbone’s family usually followed the work of literature closely, and came to a similar end.
One of my favorite of Wishbone’s adventures was a play on Homer‘s “The Odyssey “. In this story, Wishbone plays the part of Odysseus, and follows through the grueling journey originally portrayed.
I’m not going to spell out everything in the episode, but my favorite part was when Wishbone shoots his bow and arrow through all 12 ax heads to reclaim his place as King. It was ridiculously shot with a tiny bow, which the other suitors could not use; similar to Odysseus’ bow in the original Homer version, which only he knew how to use.
Wishbone’s character was actually played by several different dogs – includingSoccer, Slugger, Shiner, Phoebe, and Bear – and was voiced by Larry Brantley, a former stand-up comedian and radio spokesman.
In 2006, when a PBS Kids Go! digital channel was announced, PBS planned to air Wishbone on the channel, but the digital channel was canceled. The show returned as reruns on the PBS national program service, but it lasted a short time. However, some PBS affiliates continued to air this classicuntil their license to do so ran out, which let the reruns continue to air until August 31, 2001.
Although Wishbone is no longer airing, it will forever hold a special place in my childhood. But, if you can find a VHS player, there are still copies of episodes out there to add to your own video collections!
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