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:

  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Faux to Guide: Cliff Hanger's survival manual provides the right instructions, but something always goes wrong in the payoff.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Trouser Space - Pretty much Arty Smartypants' whole shtick.
  • 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.