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PBS Launches Six New Kids’ Series

September 27, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ A stuffed bear, a moose, a raccoon starting kindergarten. Seven monster siblings, a tiny boy and a dancing horse with taps on his (horse)shoes. What do they all have in common?

Well, starting this weekend on PBS, these disparate characters lay claim to a new three-hour block aimed at the preschool set. Their star power _ and that of the books that introduced them _ propel the six series making up the PBS Kids ``Bookworm Bunch.″

Here’s the roster (all times EDT):

_ 8 a.m.: ``Corduroy,″ the cartoon adventures of a cuddle toy and the little girl who cuddles him. A gentle frolic through a big city and its diverse life, ``Corduroy″ comes from Don Freeman’s best-selling books about the winsomely upholstered bear.

_ 8:15 a.m.: ``Elliot Moose,″ a mixed bag of cartoons and live action with callow Elliot (note how this youngster’s antlers are little more than buds) and his animal friends. What happens when King Lionel is about to receive the award for loudest roar, but then, suffering from stage fright, loses his voice? Find out on this series, from the ``Elliot″ books by Andrea Beck.

_ 8:45 a.m.: ``Timothy Goes to School,″ in which our cartoon hero, a 5-year-old raccoon, faces the thrills and trepidations of starting school. ``I wonder what it’s gonna be like,″ says Timothy, trying and failing to sleep the night before. It’s created by author-illustrator Rosemary Wells.

_ 9:15 a.m.: ``Seven Little Monsters,″ an animated series set in the loving household of Mom and her monstrous offspring. It’s adapted from the book by Maurice Sendak, the world-renowned writer-artist whose ``Little Bear″ is now a hit series on Nickelodeon.

_ 9:45 a.m.: ``George Shrinks,″ an animated odyssey about a boy 3 inches tall whose Lilliputian stature doesn’t keep him from standing up to the normal-size world he inhabits. Or, for that matter, from taking care of business. When nature calls, George straps suction cups on his hands and feet and, then, like a mountaineer scaling the Matterhorn, climbs to the rim of the toilet bowl.

``George Shrinks″ springs from the nimble mind of author-illustrator William Joyce, who also conjured up the irresistible ``Rolie Polie Olie″ for cable’s Disney Channel.

_ 10:15 a.m.: ``Marvin the Tap-Dancing Horse,″ whose star has the fleet-footedness of Fred Astaire _ with twice the feet. Marvin has an equally quick wit: ``I can’t do my tribute to `Singing in the Reins’ without reins,″ he quips.

This cartoon series about the carnival where a 9-year-old kid takes a summer job comes from Betty and Michael Paraskevas, whose books include ``The Tangerine Bear.″

_ 10:45 a.m.: A second 15-minute segment of ``Corduroy.″

The current ``Bookworm Bunch″ slate is in place for two years, says John Wilson, PBS’ senior vice president for programming services. But ``Bookworm Bunch″ _ the network’s first-ever foray into Saturday morning _ is here to stay.

``It’s absolutely a commitment,″ Wilson declares. And, pointing to the seven hours of children’s programming aired each weekday by PBS, he adds, ``This gives us a great opportunity to identify shows that we might then want to bring out to the full Monday-through-Friday schedule.″

Produced by Toronto-based Nelvana Communications Inc., ``Bookworm Bunch″ was designed to fill a void.

``There’s a lot of kids’ programming on Saturday mornings,″ Wilson allows. ``But it’s not necessarily age-appropriate for a preschooler. And it certainly doesn’t carry with it the age-appropriate, pro-social curriculum that you’d expect to find on PBS.″

The PBS alternative, he says, promotes ``good behavior, conflict resolution, problem-solving, functioning as part of a group _ the sort of things that 4-year-olds need to prepare them for school.″

Indeed, each series has a stated educational mission, which parents can review on the ``Bookworm Bunch″ Web page. ``George Shrinks,″ for instance, emphasizes ``working within one’s limitations, creatively solving problems and overcoming obstacles.″

It also has a really cool theme song, arranged with boogie-woogie stylings: ``Well, the boy’s kinda small/ But it doesn’t show at all/ ’Cause he’s always acting tall/ George Shrinks, George Shrinks he’s called!″

Which is to say, PBS and Nelvana haven’t forgotten to make the ``Bookworm Bunch″ swing.

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On the Net:

http://www.pbs.org/bookwormbunch/

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Elsewhere in television ...

HBO DEALS: HBO has entered into a first-look deal with AntEye.com, the cable network announced this week. The new deal allows HBO exclusive access to the talent and concepts that feed AntEye’s ``virtual studio engine,″ which culls film and video material from around the world. AntEye, located at www.anteye.com, harvests and showcases undiscovered filmmakers on its site. Since launching in March, AntEye has received more than 1,000 programming submissions. Commented Chris Albrecht, president of HBO Original Programming, ``HBO will now get the first look at some of the Web’s hottest filmmakers.″

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Frazier Moore can be reached at fmooreap.org

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