Series / Between the Lions

"Announcer Bunny here. Don't touch that remote! Here comes Between... THE LIONS!"

Between The Lions was a PBS Kids show with puppet/marionette animal characters designed to teach reading. As the title suggests, the main characters are a family of lions who live in a library. The series, produced by WGBH Boston, ran from April 3, 2000 until November 22, 2010.

The series was known to have a writing team who sometimes forget that this is an Edutainment show and made it far too amusing to watch, be the age group younger or older. There were also a lot of jabs at famous children's novels, such as Dick and Jane becoming "Chicken Jane".

Yes, it's just as silly as it sounds.

Tropes include the following:

  • All Just a Dream:
    • Lionel's antlers turned out to be just that... to Leona.
    • There's at least one Cliff Hanger installment where Cliff wishes upon a star to be rescued from the cliff, after which the singers in the helicopter finally rescue him...only for the segment to reveal itself to be a dream, to Cliff's surprise...and later chagrin as he is still hanging from that cliff.
    Narrator: (as Cliff climbs the ladder dropped for him by the singers) Can all be well thanks to Cliff's wistful wish?
    Cliff: That's easy for you to say...
    Narrator: No, it is only a dream!
    (cue Cliff waking up; still hanging from the cliff)
    Cliff: A...dream...? (grips the tree root again)
  • Amusing Injuries: These keep happening to Chicken Jane.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: The letters used to make words. A big reason why this show is a Spiritual Successor to The Electric Company (1971).
  • Animesque: The "Little Wendy Tales" sketches. Pokes fun at Sailor Moon and anime clichés in general.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: The cast of the "Sam Spud" noir sketches.
  • Badly Battered Babysitter: Chicken Jane, as noted below.
  • Big Eater: The entire lion family when it comes to their meat.
  • Big "NO!": Lionel lets out one in "The Last Cliff Hanger" when he gets to the end of the final Cliff Hanger story.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Leona, dressed as a doctor, in "Clickety-Clack, Clickety-Clack!," looks at the camera, saying "Oh, no! You know what we need... a miracle!"
  • Butt-Monkey: Chicken Jane always ends up with a broken wing...and the kids always explain to the audience what has happened to her.
    • Buster cannot seem to catch a break from Walter and Clay or the many other antics in the library. Even the Narrator doesn't leave him alone.
  • Call on Me: Whenever Click was needed.
  • Catchphrase: Scott and Dot's simultaneous "Thank you, Chicken Jane", spoken after she saves them from danger for the umpteenth time at great cost.
    • Borrowed Catchphrase: When Chicken Jane is thrown out of her own book and into others, she provides similar assistance to Paul Revere and to Prince Charming (only with less injury in both cases), and both say the same thing verbatim. Later, when she lands in a cookbook and is almost cooked, the cook show host congratulates her for being an ingredient in much the same manner.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Prominent characters including Click, Walter and Clay Pigeon, among others, vanish almost entirely from later episodes of the series.
  • Cliffhanger: Parodied, lampshaded, played straight and taken literally all at the same time. "Cliff Hanger" features a man named Cliff Hanger hanging from a cliff. Each episode he tries - and fails - to escape his dangerous perch, and they always begin and end with him clutching a particularly loose branch and shouting, "Can't...hold...on...much...LONGEEEEER!"
  • Crossover: The series had featured cameos by some of the Sesame Street Muppets.
    • Three members from the current revival of Zoom appeared in a brief scene to sound out the title of their show.
  • Downer Ending: Theo transports himself, the family, and everybody into a storybook with the help of Click; unfortunately, she goes into sleep mode before getting them out once things have become too crowded. A man comes in hoping to check the same book out for a two-year voyage around the globe; cue a mass Oh, Crap! from everybody still trapped within. We never actually see Click get them out, but everybody emerges fine in the next episode regardless.
  • Dumb Blonde: Babs, the aspiring author who often needs a lot of guidance to write her short stories given her odd choices.
  • Edutainment Show
  • Everybody Cries: When everybody in the library was reading sad stories, no less.
    (as Theo is reading The Old Man and the Sea)
    Theo: Oh, that poor fish!
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys
  • Exact Words: When Cliff Hanger wished for the magical goat-in-a-boat to get him off this cliff, the goat complied... by putting him on another cliff. And so he kept on hanging.
  • Family Theme Naming: Theo, Cleo, Lionel, and Leona.
  • Fantastic Racism: Crossing over with Moral Guardians, this occurred when a group of angry birds attempted to get "The Fox and the Crow" banned from the library due to the crow losing her piece of cheese to the fox, which they took as offensive to birdkind. Leona and Lionel fixed it by writing a revised ending where the piece of cheese was so big it fell on the fox's head and sent him running off, proving that "not all birds are birdbrains!"
  • Faux to Guide: Cliff Hanger's survival manual provides the right instructions, but something always goes wrong in the payoff.
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Walter and Clay Pigeon's main schtick, owing to their dim-witted nature.
  • Fix Fic: In-universe. Leona is distraught by the story "The Queen Who Wanted to Touch the Moon" ending with the queen failing to touch the moon and insists on a happier ending. Lionel writes what he claims is a better version of the story, but it turns out just to be a song about himself. Cleo ends up writing a book with Leona as the queen where instead of asking her assistant (Lionel) to pull a piano out of the bottom of the giant stack she had built to reach the moon, Leona spies the moon's reflection in the lagoon and dives into it, allowing her to touch the moon.
  • Fly in the Soup: The episode "There's A Fly In My Soup" was focused entirely on fly jokes, which featured different variations.
  • For the Evulz: The Un-People seem to exist entirely on this trope.
  • Fox-Chicken-Grain Puzzle: Why, Farmer Ken's Puzzle, of course!
  • Fully Dressed Cartoon Animal: B.B. the King of Beasts, Theo's musical alter ego, sports a suit, shades and fedora.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Four words; Bobby the Hopping Robot. After an entire day of struggling to make Bobby hop, which they only failed to do because of incorrect instructions that came with the toy, the lion family finally gets him to work. The result? Bob hops so much that he ends up destroying the library's ceiling, before outrunning the family entirely. Leona and Click rush to call the company once more.
  • Happily Married: Theo and Cleo, to the point where they openly flirt with each other during their cooking segments.
  • Humiliation Conga: The attempts made by Lionel's family to help him get over the fact he has antlers. Sure, they all mean well, but it's no less embarrassing... especially the "coat rack" bit.
  • It's Been Done: Dr. Nitwhite often announces that he's discovered "the only word in the English Language that X" (has the same consonant at the beginning and the end, is spelled with a given sound). When his assistant responds, it's always with words that just happen to prove that the rule is more general than poor Nitwhite thought.
  • Karma Houdini: The Evil Un People are never actually nabbed for their constant sabotage of innocent bystanders.
  • Lampshade Wearing: Subverted. In the episode where Lionel infect the library's computer system with a virus he uses antivirus software to destroy it. When the software restores the library's computer system one of the things it restores is New Year's Eve pictures of Theo wearing a lampshade somewhere. We don't know where because he cuts himself off mid-sentence in surprise.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: Leona misconstrues the term "meteor shower" as "meat shower." She creates her own storybook about her family experiencing said meat shower, and the lions fantasize in song about all sorts of meat raining down on them. Theo and Cleo in particular are really into it.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Cliff Hanger, who appears in a series of animated vignettes, and is even the subject of one or two episodes. His life is Failure Is the Only Option in terms of actually getting off the cliff. (He does get off the cliff once, but he ends up following a sign that leads him right back onto it - in his defense, though, the sign CLEARLY said "Cliff"!)
  • Long-Runners:
    • The show itself ran for exactly ten years, from 2000 to 2010.
    • In-universe. The Cliff Hanger books apparently lasted over 3785 issues.
    • In the episode "The Good Seed", it's revealed that "Monkey Pop-Up Theater" lasted at least 2040 volumes.
  • Malicious Misnaming:
    • Walter and Clay, the pigeons, constantly annoy Barnaby B. Busterfield III with this. (He doesn't like being called "Buster".)
    • Incidentally, another character, Dr. Nitwhite, gets ticked off when his assistant, Watson, calls him "Dr. Nitwit." Given the irony of how he always lives up to that title, also may count as a case of Meaningful Name.
  • Medium Awareness: In the episode "Stop That Chicken", Chicken Jane manages to get into a Colonial America history book after a mild kerfuffle between Lionel and Leona. The first thing about Chicken Jane anyone points out is that she has a different art style from the rest of them.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Happens in one episode during the story of a king and his faithful falcon who try to find their way home when they happen upon a stream. The king goes for water but when the falcon urges him not to, the king slays him with his sword. Upon realizing that the water had been tainted by a serpent, the king is left to mourn the friend he betrayed. Traumatized by the story, Leona tries to hide the book. When Lionel tries to stop her, she nearly hits him with it out of grief, before stopping to realize she nearly made the same mistake as the king.
  • Musical Episode: Be Bop.
  • Narm: In-universe - The story "The Old Man" turns out to be this, when it's meant to be scary. So the author tries to make it scarier, but each attempt seems funnier than the last.
  • Nice Hat: Lionel sports one.
  • Noodle Incident: It never is revealed what upset Leona so much that she hid underneath the table in Pebble Trouble. Lionel goes crazy at the end when she doesn't want to discuss it.
  • Parental Bonus: Lots, being a PBS show.
    • Theo and Cleo, during their cooking segments, display a lot of sexual tension. You can't help thinking that after they're finished devouring that (as always, uncooked) hunk of meat, they'll start devouring each other.
  • Public Domain Artifact: One of the episodes was titled "Pandora's Box" and covered this story.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Cliff Hanger's "Can't. Hold. On. Much. LONGER!!!"
  • Pungeon Master: Sam Spud describes the other characters he meets with food-based expressions. (eg, "She was a real peach. As a matter of fact, she was a peach!")
  • Punny Name: Cliff Hanger.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: This was essentially what the series was trying to promote, though it also focused on the basics of learning to read.
  • Read the Fine Print: Shown in one episode where Lionel gets a package from the "Mane Club For Cubs" in order to get a grown-up mane. A video in the package displays a message, while at the same time announcing it saying their system is guaranteed to give you a grown-up mane in one day... or not. Problem is, the "or not" is shown in smaller text than the rest of the words and whispered by the announcer, so Lionel doesn't notice that the first time around.
  • Shout-Out: Lionel's "42" jersey, confirmed in The Salmon of Doubt by one of the show creators to be a reference to Douglas Adams. One of the show's major staff was Christopher Cerf, who was a good friend of Adams.
  • Spiritual Successor: This show, to The Electric Company (1971).
  • Stealth Pun: The title is not only a pun on "between the lines", but it also refers to the fact that there are lion statues near the entrance of the library, which you must walk between to enter. This is a Shout-Out to the lions at the main branch of the New York Public Library.
  • Stock Footage: The show never made more than a handful of each short, often no more than three, meaning many familiar clips would be shown again and again in later episodes.
  • Surfer Dude: Gawain from "Gawain's World", except he prefers hosting jousts to surfing.
  • Tagline - "Get wild about reading."
  • Take a Third Option - In "Bobby the Hopping Robot," Theo is sure that either he or the toy robot must be defective because he can't make it work, but Leona calls the help number and finds out that it's actually the instructions that are wrong.
  • Title Theme Tune: "Between the Lions, between the covers of a book, it's time to look Between the Lions!"
    • Thematic Theme Tune: The title sequence comes off as though the production team dolled up one of the show's inserts and decided to use it as the opening.
  • Tongue Twister: Trixie the Tricky Pixie offers to help Cliff Hanger if he can say, "six thick thistle sticks." By the time Cliff succeeds, night has fallen, and Trixie says she has to go to a picnic in Dixie. At the end of the segment, Cliff gets his catchphrase mixed up, saying it as "Cant...hold...on...luch...monger!"
    • The same episode featured Lionel claiming he could say any Tongue Twister in the book...and then getting tangled up when Leona twists the in-universe example "Peter Piper picked a peck of purple pickled peppers" into "A purple pickled pepper picked a peck of Peter Pipers."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Cliff Hanger.
    • Scot and Dot, who never think to get out of the way when danger approaches, forcing Chicken Jane to take the punishment for them.
    • Walter and Clay Pigeon, who cannot finish a thought without the help of the other.
    • The Lone Rearranger, who usually needs his partner to point out when it's time to do his job.
    • Captain Ahab and Captain Starbuck of the Moby Duck segments, who are unaware that the fabled duck is right behind them.
    • Dr. Nitwhite, the aptly named professor of vocabulary who is constantly making "discoveries" of the English language that his assistant Watson inexplicably points out are already common knowledge.
  • Totally Radical: Gwain, the host knight of the "Gwain's Word" segments.
  • Trouser Space - Pretty much Arty Smartypants' whole shtick.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Theo becomes this in one episode where he takes a book out from the middle of a tall stack, causing a highly unlikely chain of events that results in the library getting trashed by its many eccentric patrons. Cleo mentions that this is a bad habit of his.
    • In another episode, Lionel is left in charge of the library and against Click's warnings, opens a suspicious email that unleashes a dangerous computer virus that wreaks havoc on the entire library.
    • Leona fashions herself a hat that is green on one side and red on the other, and soon a massive fight in the library breaks out over what color the hat actually was, eventually forcing Leona to march through the crowd once more to show them the fuller picture.
  • Victory Is Boring: Cliff Hanger's cartoonist decided to retire his comic, and had Cliff get off of the cliff and onto a beach. Cliff enjoyed it at first, but soon lost his sense of purpose.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: "Silent E".
  • Visual Pun: Click the Computer Mouse looks like the rodent of the same name.