In the preview of children's television shows in last Sunday's TV Week, the network carrying "The Avengers" and "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century" was listed incorrectly. It is Fox Broadcasting. (Published 09/30/99)
The just-launched, 24-hour PBS Kids Channel is still just a promise to much of the country -- including Washington -- so much of the real news in children's television is being generated by Fox. Hay caramba!
The broadcast and cable arms of the potty-mouthed network lead the way with new programming this year -- about 20 series. Several are quite entertaining.
But unless you count social values, good luck finding much educational material in any network's new offerings. That was last year's initiative, one that became a near-fatal ratings blow to most shows so labeled.
So, with an assist from a few children, here's one man's guide to a new season of children's programming:
Attention, class! Though not as learned as "The Magic Schoolbus," there are plenty of sophomoric studies of school life:
More imaginative than anything ever seen in art class, Fox Family's "Angela Anaconda" uses cutout-style animation to show an odd 8-year-old's payback fantasies.
Mundane grade-school matters also take on exaggerated importance for "The Kids From Room 402" on Fox Family.
The WB's "Detention" promises an educational, insider's look at Benedict Arnold Middle School outsiders.
And HBO's live-action "The Worst Witch" is centered around a school for young sorceresses.
Young children receive gems from two vastly different sources:
Predictable PBS turns out another gentle series, "Dragon Tales," in which a young brother and sister travel to Dragon Land, where fire-breathing is used only to prepare popcorn (and the series backgrounds are lovingly painted by hand).
Meanwhile, Fox Family Channel has gone to the PBS well for "It's itsy bitsy Time!" from the "Teletubbies" creators. There are four fantasy shorts: The Animal Shelf, Charley & Mimmo, 64 Zoo Lane, and Tom and Vicky.
Fox Family also has "Jellabies," six happy and colorful blobs who giggle as they pump jelly from a lake to make rainbows. Now that's educational.
One of the most-tapped resources of years past has lost some luster since the call for educational programming. But some series still rely on ideas from the slim page-turners:
Fox's "The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot" is an action-packed rendition of the Dark Horse comic.
Fox Family's "Avengers" gives animated life to the Marvel superheros.
Fox's "Spider-Man Unlimited" allows the webslinger to return to Saturday morning action.
Pax has the animated sci-fi series "Archie's Weird Mysteries," a twisted variation on the old comics. Jugheads will recall that characters from ABC's "Sabrina, the Animated Series" got a start on Archie's pages as well.
Listen for the following prime-time stars:
Gregory Hines (as the father), Phylicia Rashad, (mother) and Ruby Dee (grandmother) in Nickelodeon's "Little Bill," based on Bill Cosby's books.
Melissa Joan Hart, from the live-action "Sabrina," as aunts Hilda and Zelda in ABC's "Sabrina, the Animated Series." Hart's younger sister Emily plays the bewitched seventh-grader.
Twins Tia and Tamera Mowry in the WB's "Detention."
Pamela Segall as the red-headed boy robot and Gabrielle Carteris, Stephen Root and Kathy Kinney in Fox's "The Big Guy and Rusty."
Rene Auberjonois as the title character in Fox's "Xyber 9."
Henry Gibson on Nick's "Rocket Power."
Arnold Stang with several voices on Cartoon's "Courage, the Cowardly Dog."
Rik Mayall as "Jellabies."
And Mindy Cohn, learning the facts of student life in Fox Family's "The Kids From Room 402."
A DEAL ON WHEELS
Much of the audience is still using training wheels, but hipper forms of transportation are available on several series:
The stock car world goes animated in Fox's "NASCAR Racers."
Hot rods rule in the fast-moving "Weird-Ohs" on Fox Family.
Futuristic hot rods move even faster in Fox Family's stylized "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century."
And Nickelodeon catches the extreme wave with "Rocket Power," about four friends who are forever chasing the ultimate adrenaline rush on skateboards, roller blades and surf boards.
It's good vs. evil with a comic twist in "Beast Machines" and "Beast Wars" on Fox.
On CBS, a human boy and alien girl save Earth from intergalactic villains in "Blaster's Universe," based on the CD-ROM.
Three infants are heroes on Fox Family's "Mega Babies" (totally separate from "Mega Man.")
And in what some parents might consider evil vs. evil, Pokemon gets a knockoff competitor with Fox's "Digimon: Digital Monsters."
REAL LIVE ACTORS
Not all children's shows are in cartoon form. Among the live-action choices:
Disney Channel's "The Jersey," a coming-of-age series based on the cable special "The Magic Jersey." The old football jersey allows a 13-year-old and his cousin to jump into the lives of sports stars. Pro athletes guest.
"100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd," a bully is transformed into a dog and must perform good deeds to regain his human form.
Fox Family details the adventures of 16-year-old do-gooder Robin Hood in "Back to Sherwood."
The cable channel also follows the exploits of a seven-member British pop band in "S Club in Miami" and a four-member Australian quartet in "The Wiggles." And lip-syncing, wanna-be rockers are showcased on "The Pretenders."
Nickelodeon has its own star with "Amanda," a Saturday evening sketch comedy featuring Amanda Bynes of "All That."
And Discovery chases weekend adventures with "Outward Bound" and "Sci Squad," and allows 10- to -14-year-olds to produce their own dramas in "Story Studio."
The Cartoon Network is churning out two more animated series in November. "Mike Lu & Og," from "Rugrats" creative producer Chuck Swenson, follows a sophisticated female exchange student from New York who finds comic adventures with two islanders.
"Courage, the Cowardly Dog" chronicles the life of a timid dog that must defend an elderly farm couple from paranormal elements. John R. Dilworth's pilot was nominated for a short-film Academy Award in 1996.