Wishbone (1995–1998)

TVSeries


Wishbone (TV Series 1995–1998)

Wishbone the dog serves as a canine bridge between life and literature as he embarks on exciting journeys that include elements of action, adventure and comedy. In each of the 40 half-hour episodes, Wishbone the dog's escapades with the children and families of the fictional town of Oakdale, U.S.A., trigger a series of daydreams. In these daydreams, Wishbone imagines himself as a character in signature, modern-day scenes that parallel the storylines from classic literature, emphasizing the timeless and universal themes explored in these classic tales.
USA
IMDb   8.2 /10
TheMovieDb    8.6 /10
RottenTomatoes
FilmAffinity   5.8 /10
Creators
Creator Rick Duffield
Information
Release Date1995-10-09
Runtime30min
GenreAdventure, Comedy, Family
Content RatingTV-Y7 (TV-Y7)
Awards9 wins & 8 nominations.
CompanyBig Feats! Entertainment (a division of Lyrick studios)
CountryUSA
LanguageEnglish
Wishbone / ... 50 episodes, 1995-1997
Joe Talbot 50 episodes, 1995-1997
Sam Kepler 50 episodes, 1995-1997
David Barnes 50 episodes, 1995-1997
Mary Chris Wall
Mary Chris Wall
Ellen Talbot 50 episodes, 1995-1997
Wanda Gilmore 50 episodes, 1995-1997
Wishbone 50 episodes, 1995-1997
Baskerville Spirit / ... 25 episodes, 1995-1997
Man / ... 21 episodes, 1995-1997

Wishbone (TV series)

Wishbone is an American half-hour live-action children's television show produced from 1995 to 1997. It was originally broadcast on PBS and later rebroadcast 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 (4,600 m2) warehouse in Plano, Texas. Additional scenes were filmed in Grapevine, Texas.

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, more than fifty books have featured Wishbone, which continued to be published even after the TV series ended production. Reruns of the show continued to air on some PBS affiliates until September 2009. 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, although some PBS affiliates continued to air Wishbone until their license to do so ran out. The show continued to air in reruns nationally until August 31, 2001. The show was replaced on the PBS Kids schedule on September 3, 2001 by Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat. In 1998 the TV movie Wishbone's Dog Days of the West was aired.

The series aired on PBS Kids Sprout as part of its "Let's Go Show" block from 2007 to 2009. However, due to Sprout rebranding the next month, it was pulled from the schedule before it rebranded the channel.

A film adaptation of the series from Universal Pictures and Mattel Films is in the works with Peter Farrelly serving as producer.


Episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
140October 9, 1995December 1, 1995
210October 15, 1997December 4, 1997
TV movieMarch 13, 1998

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".


Cast

  • Soccer, also Slugger, Shiner, Phoebe, and Bear as Wishbone
  • Larry Brantley – Wishbone's voice
  • Jordan Wall – Joseph "Joe" Talbot
  • Christie Abbott – Samantha "Sam" Kepler
  • Adam Springfield – David Barnes
  • Mary Chris Wall – Ellen MacMillan Talbot
  • Angee Hughes – Wanda Gilmore
  • Jarrad Kritzstein – Jimmy Kidd
  • Julio Cedillo – Travis del Rio
  • Mikaila Enriquez – Melina Finch
  • Paul English, Jr. – Marcus Finch
  • Alex Morris – Nathaniel "Nathan" Barnes
  • Maria Arita – Ruth Vincent Barnes
  • Jazmine McGill - Emily Barnes (season 1)
  • Brittany Holmes - Emily Barnes (season 2)
  • Justin Reese – Nathaniel Bobelesky
  • Akin Babatunde – Homer Vincent
  • Adan Sanchez – Lee Natonabah/Dan Bloodgood
  • Rick Perkins – Mr. Bob Pruitt
  • Joe Duffield – Damont Jones
  • Taylor Pope – Curtis

Characters

Main

  • 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.
  • Joseph "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 Sam 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. In the series final Joe is considering playing the drums in the high school jazz band.
  • 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. Sam is a tomboy who enjoys soccer, roller hockey, photography, and drama. Her parents are divorced. Portrayed by Christie Abbott.
  • 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. David and his family aren't seen or mentioned in "Wishbone's Dog Days of the West". Portrayed by Adam Springfield.
  • 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 and The Barnes' 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, David, and Sam's teacher, Bob Pruitt, and is in a steady relationship with him. Portrayed by Angee Hughes.

Recurring

  • Robin: Joe, David, and Sam's friend. She loves playing basketball. Portrayed by Codie Brooks.
  • Nathaniel "Nathan" Barnes: Ruth's husband, David and Emily's father, Homer's brother-in-law, and Steve and Ellen's best friend. Nathan adores his family. Portrayed by Alex Morris.
  • Ruth Vincent Barnes: Nathan's wife, David and Emily's mother, Homer's sister, and Steve and Ellen's best friend. Ruth always reminds Emily and Tina to be good. In "Bark That Bark" it is revealed that her maiden name is Vincent. Portrayed by Maria Arita.
  • 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 best 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. In Season 1 Emily is in kindergarten. In Season 2 Emily is in 1st grade. Portrayed by Jazmine McGill in season 1 and by Brittany Holmes in Season 2.
  • Amanda Hollings: Sam's academic rival who always tries to prove she is smarter than Sam. Amanda is jealous of Sam. Portrayed by Elena Hurst.
  • Mr. Robert "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: Sam's dad and a friend of 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 and Emily's maternal uncle, Ruth's brother, and Nathan's brother-in-law. 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 and Melina and Marcus' uncle. He only appears in the second season of this series and in the TV movie. 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' sister. She only appears in the second season of this series and in the TV movie. Melina enjoys singing and is a member of the Oakdale Glee Club. Portrayed by Mikaila Enriquez.
  • Marcus Finch: Travis Del Rio's nephew and Melina's brother. He only appears in the second season of this series and in the TV movie. Portrayed by Paul English, Jr.
  • Mr. King: A real estate developer who is an occasional antagonist of Joe, David, Sam, and Wishbone. Portrayed by John S. Davies.

Production

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". In an interview with The New Yorker, Duffield recalled that he had 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?"

Inspired, Duffield produced a seven-minute pilot for the show. In the summer of 1993, he spent three days casting for the dog star at a motel courtyard in Valencia, California, United States, North America, looking at between 100 and 150 dogs. He elaborated in the interview with The New Yorker:

"n extraordinary little Jack Russell named Soccer walked up and dazzled us all. 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!"

Duffield told Entertainment Tonight:

"Keeping up with the variety in the series is the biggest challenge. 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."

Larry Brantley, the voice of Wishbone, said he got the job through:

"...the weirdest audition I think that's ever been or will ever be. 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. 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. 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 within a one-year time frame. The first 40 episodes were shown as a single season run in 1995, while the remaining 10 episodes became a second season in 1997–1998. Duffield told author Michael Brody that PBS halted production because the show did not have "merchandising potential."


Broadcast and home media

The show also aired on Nickelodeon in the UK and Ireland, and on Nine Network in Australia.

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.


Awards

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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

Proposed film adaptation

On July 15, 2020, it was announced that Universal Pictures and Mattel are developing a film adaptation of the series. Peter Farrelly will produce the film while Roy Parker will write the screenplay and Robbie Brenner will executive produce. In a statement by Brenner, "Our deep library of iconic franchises continues to offer cinematic storytelling opportunities. We’re thrilled to be working with Peter Farrelly, Roy Parker and Universal to take the beloved dog classic into a new direction with a modern reimagination of the franchise."

It will be the first theatrical collaboration between Universal and Mattel and the ninth Mattel Films project in development. The first movie in the "Wishbone" franchise was the popular 1998 TV movie Wishbone's Dog Days of the West.