Shining Time Station was a children's television series created and produced by Britt Alcroft which ran on PBS from January 29, 1989 to June 11, 1993, with reruns airing on the network until 1998.It primarily concerned station manager Stacy Jones (Didi Conn), scheming arcade manager Schemer, and Stacy's nephews, Matt and Dan, both of whom became friends with Tanya and Kara, the granddaughters of Harry Cupper, the titular station's engineer and mechanic.The children would often be told stories of Thomas the Tank Engine by the magical Mr. Conductor, a strange six-inch tall man who secretly lived at the station. These stories would occasionally have elements that paralleled events at the station.In addition, various characters would request songs from the jukebox, and these songs (typically re-arranged versions of classic folk songs like "Jesse James" and "Cannonball Blues") were played by a band of puppets who lived in the jukebox, courtesy of Flexitoons.The show, though geared at children, also appealed to adults, and generated a few "family specials".
This show contains examples of:
Big "NO!": Mr. Conductor's Evil Twin does this when Kara uses glue to turn him back into a picture.
Breakout Character: Schemer became the most popular character on the show and even had a series of home videos dedicated simply to his character.
Catch Phrase: Various (especially Stacy): "There's just something about this place..."
Stacy: Shining Time Station, Stacy Jones speaking.
And Schemer's inversion: "This place is haunted!"
Schemer: Genius time!
Schemer: He's a doer, he's a dreamer, he's absolutely Schemer and he's me!
Cousin Oliver: Schemer's nephew Schemee, added sometime later in the show.
Doing It for the Art: The third season was written as the last, with "How the Station Got Its Name" as the intended finale. Unexpectedly, they were offered a chance to produce a fourth season, but they decided instead to pool their budget into four feature-length specials. This allowed them new sets, better effects, location shooting, and guest stars.
Easy Amnesia: Stacy once lost her memory after sniffing some flowers that Mr. Conductor had sprinkled with a potion that was supposed to make bees forget they had to take nectar from the plants. Her nephew and Mr. Conductor jogged her memory, and she made a full recovery after taking a nap.
Evil Twin: George Carlin's Mr. Conductor had one that could be brought to life from a picture with sparkle dust and caused trouble around the station. This may have also been what introduced kids to George Carlin's darker side, and since then, the episodes with Mr. C's evil twin have gained a somewhat small following.
Green Aesop: The episode "Stacy Cleans Up." The local dump closes and garbage bags pile up around the station, and an engineer with a trainload of garbage keeps picking up more, but no one wants to let him unload it in their town. The solution ends up being to weed out the recyclable materials, which ends up reducing the volume.
Heel-Face Turn: J.B. King, the superintendent of the Indian Valley Railroad, where the station resides, goes through this when he initially intends to close down the station in favor of a much larger one in another town, but changes his mind when he finds out that Mr. Conductor lives at the station. In a later episode, he reveals that when he was a boy, he had missed his train home and Mr. Conductor kept him company until adult help arrived.
Large Ham: Brian O'Connor, the one time stand up comic who plays Schemer is a walking personification of this trope. From his hysterical histrionic breakdowns to the very loud, very ugly suits he wears.
Lethal Chef: Schemer in one episode tries to make a sandwich spread from his mother's recipe, but mistakes "C. Powder" for cocoa powder instead of chili.
Schemer: Sure I know the difference. Chili powder you use in chili con carne, and cocoa powder you use in cocoa con carne...
Long Bus Trip: The original Mr. Conductor (played by Ringo Starr) leaves kind of abruptly, and we think it's just for a while. But then the other Mr. Conductor (George Carlin) takes over and we never see the original again.
Harry was put on the bus twice — first to explain why his brother was working at the station in the Christmas special, then with the big cast change in the Season 2 premier. He does show up again, though, in one of the last specials.
Man Child: Schemer is a full grown adult and doesn't know how to take care of himself
Rich Bastard: Hobart Hume III, the leader of a club which Schemer tries to join (until Schemer refuses to cut off his hair curl to be accepted in.
Shout-Out: In one episode the kids ruminate on forming a band. "I used to play in a band.", Mr. Conductor (AKA Ringo Starr) chirps. And toddlers all over America wonder why Mommy is falling off the sofa laughing....
Mr. Conductor (George Carlin) once mused that a wise man told him there are no blue foods - an obvious reference to one of George's best known routines.
Stock Footage: Except for using original songs, many of the picture machine's music videos are remarkably similar in style to modern-day Fan Vids.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The second season replaced half the cast with different characters in essentially the same role: Matt and Tanya were displaced by Dan, Kara and Becky; Harry was replaced with Billy Twofeathers; and Mr. Conductor was replaced with... a different Mr. Conductor. The in-universe reasons for all of this are laid out at the beginning of the second season's first episode.
Averted in a few episodes of season 2, which feature the Matt and Tanya alongside the new cast of kids (mostly for group activities like baseball).
Too Soon: The episode "The Mayor Runs For Re-election" featured a Richard Nixon parody, and aired shortly after Nixon's death. It was pulled immediately afterward.
The show was over before Nixon's death. Nixon died in 1994, the show ended in 1993.
Ultimate Job Security: Schemer does some outrageous stunts, and is often rude to the children and Stacy, but is never fired for any of it.
To be fair Schemer may not have been actually employed by the station, but simply rented some space in which to put up his arcade. At least once J.B. King told him he had to renew his contract. Although why he didn't simply refuse to renew is beyond this troper.
Subverted in one episode where Schemer tries to host a live radio show out of the arcade. He goes on unprepared, forgets what he's been asked to announce, and everyone in the station tries to get in on the show. He then gets a call from the station, saying they pulled him off the air.
Weaksauce Weakness: On one occasion when Schemie is caught misbehaving (insofar as you could call it "misbehaving" given the example he follows), Schemer unfairly, and quite reluctantly, punishes him by combing flat the family cowlick.
What Could Have Been: Plans were in place back in the nineties for a Shining Time movie. The plot involved an evil circus leader kidnapping Mr. Conductor and the kids helping a circus performer overcome her fear of horses. Highlights would have included the Jukebox Band becoming separated and reuniting through a song, and Schemer being shot out of a cannon.