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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Chapter One Hundred Twenty-Eight, in which Books are found on Television

Few television executives have figured out how to make books profitable for them. Masterpiece Theatre does a decent job dramatizing the classics. C-SPAN offers the venerable Book-TV which focuses on non-fiction. Weekends they fill with interviews--the best have been entire afternoons with authors such as Shelby Foote and Isabel Allende--and events such as readings and signings and panel discussions. Charlie Rose seems to interview a lot of authors. Do we see a not-for-profit pattern?

If you don't mind something not quite so serious, there are a couple wonderful shows geared toward children. Between the Lions is about a family of well-to-do lions that lives in a mansion and likes to read books. There are a lot of segments that are similar to what we remember about Sesame Street: a recital of words ending in -at, a celebration of the letter e; sounding out words. There is also a white-haired man who makes noises and is generally a little bit creepy. But then there are the wonderful parts that delight the viewer: Brian McKnight sings a love song about homonyms; Dr. Ruth Wordheimer helps troubled readers; and the antics of the lion cubs are fun. In today's episode, they followed a treasure map that told them to "Turn left" then "Turn left" then "Turn left"--at which point they were baffled, bemused, and resigned--then "Turn left again" then "Take twenty-seven steps to the left." They end up in the library and are instructed to remove the seventh book from the left on the second shelf. They find it, entitled, appropriately enough, The Seventh Book from the Left on the Second Shelf. Our favorite regular feature is "Gawain's Word" hosted by Sir Gawain in full armor. He introduces us to two knights who will ride at one another and form a word. Sir Gr and Sir Ape charge hard and crash into the word grape. Excellent!

An even better show is about a dog named Wishbone. This little Jack Russell loves to sit, stay, and read. (He also has his own series of books, with titles like The Hunchdog of Notre Dame.) And as soon as his paws start turning the pages, his mind begins imagining himself in the story. A voice-over tells the audience what is going through his canine cranium. He might become a four-legged Robin Hood, complete with pointed green feathered Erroll Flynn cap, bow, and arrows. In the mean time, his pack leaders are involved in some sort of drama that is similar in theme to the book Wishbone is all barked up over. This dog enacts all kinds of classic literary scenes and makes them fun. After he turns the last page, he lays his head down and, one would assume, dreams about cats or bones or the Eukanuba World Championships. The pack leaders learn something from their experience, and we learn that a tired dog is a good dog. Roof!


  1. Sounds great - just wish we could get something like that in the UK.

  2. I love Between the Lions. I didn't know about the mansion--I thought they were always in the library. Gotta love Chicken Jane. And yes, the man with the white hair is very creepy.

  3. The Lions own and work in the library. It isn't a mansion. They live outside the library out in the open.

  4. Rinn was right. Thanks for the correction, Anon.