September 10, 1995 (1995-09-10) – August 31, 2001 (2001-08-31)
Wishbone is a half-hour children's television show that aired from 1995 to 1998 (though it aired in reruns until August 31, 2001) in the United States on PBS. The show's title character is a Jack Russell Terrier. Wishbone lives with his owner Joe Talbot in the fictional modern 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 whatever famous character he is currently portraying and not as a dog. The show won four Daytime Emmies, 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 square meter) warehouse in Plano, Texas.
The theme song was written by Tim Cissell and Lynn Adler.
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, there are more than fifty books featuring Wishbone, which were published even after the TV series ended production. The show continues to air reruns by some PBS affiliates. 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, though some PBS affiliates continued to air Wishbone until their license to do so ran out.
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 trying 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 2 minutes of nearly every episode feature Wishbone narrating some background description of how the episode was made, such as showing how stunts were done, how costumes were made, or how the visual effects were created.
The series also featured a clip show episode called Picks of the Litter.
Wishbone: 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. In his normal contemporary life, none of the humans can hear Wishbone speak, though the audience can. Sometimes people say things that seem to coincidentally repeat what he just said. He seems to be under the impression that humans would hear him if they just paid attention and he often bemoans the fact that they do not do so. In the classic literature stories he imagines himself in, humans can hear him and they apparently perceive him as a human. He is portrayed by Soccer the dog; his thoughts are given voice by Larry Brantley.
Joe Talbot: Wishbone's teen-aged 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 Samantha 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.
David Barnes: Joe and Sam's best friend and Joe's neighbor. He lives on Forest Avenue with his parents, Nathan and Ruth Barnes, and his younger sister, Emily. David aspires to be a scientist. Portrayed by Adam Springfield.
Samantha "Sam" Kepler: Joe and David's best friend. 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 coconut. Her parents are divorced. Portrayed by Christie Abbott.
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. Portrayed by Mary Chris Wall, who is the real-life mother of Jordan Wall.
Wanda Gilmore: The Talbots' 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's teacher, Bob Pruitt, and is in a steady relationship with him. Portrayed by Angee Hughes.
Robin: Joe, David and Sam's friend. She loves playing basketball.
Damont Jones: The local 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. In one of the final episodes, an older and wiser Damont tentatively apologizes to Joe for his previous meanness, and it is implied that they make peace and become good friends after that. Portrayed by Joe Duffield.
Emily Barnes: David's mischievous little sister who is often seen with her 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 being bad. Emily also has an overt affinity for Wishbone; in one episode, 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. Portrayed by Jazmine McGill.
Amanda Hollings: Samantha's academic rival who always tries to prove she is smarter than Samantha.
Mr. Bob Pruitt: Joe and David'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.
Walter Kepler: Samantha's dad and a former friend of Joe's dad. 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 and allergic to everything, 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.
Lee Natonabah: A Native American who is a college professor in Dances with Dogs. The actor appeared as Dan Bloodgood the mailman in later episodes.
Mr. King: A real-estate developer who is an occasional antagonist of Joe and Sam.
Soccer, also Slugger, Shiner, Phoebe, and Bear as Wishbone
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
Television Critics Association - Best Children's Show, 1996 and 1997
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 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. Wishbone also appeared in a segment in the video called "Kids for Character: Choices Count" a sequel to the 1996 video Kids for Character.
On February 15, 2011, Lionsgate released the Wishbone DVD, The Little Dog With a Big Imagination.