PBS series in which Wishbone, a well-read Jack Russell Terrier, would dream and imagine himself as the hero of various stories and novels.Wishbone was a real dog whose thoughts were expressed as a running voice-over. All of the other characters in the stories being dramatized are humans. For instance, kids would get to see an otherwise dead-serious dramatization of Pride and Prejudice in which Mr. Darcy is a cute little dog in a suit. And everyone else is human. And everyone acts as if the fact that Mr. Darcy is a talking dog is absolutely nothing at all out of the ordinary. Then again said dog is the one re-telling the stories and placing himself as certain characters.In between the story-telling, there was typically a scenario in the real world that would mirror the events of the story, usually involving Wishbone's owner Joe and his friends David and Samantha. Sometimes, Joe's mother Ellen and their next-door neighbor/gardener/historical society member Wanda get involved, as well as other residents of their generic suburban settlement of Oakdale, Texas. Whether it is supposed to be the real Oakdale is unknown.In 1998, the TV movie, 'Wishbone's Dog Days of the West' was released.Several book tie-in series were made, including The Adventures of Wishbone (a series in the parallel-plots style of the show), Wishbone Classics, which omitted the Joe et. al. plots in favor of less compressed adaptations. This was the first of the tie-in novels series to be released, noticably due to not being under the "Big Red Chair Books" label, Wishbone Mysteries, which were mysteries involving Wishbone, Joe, and his friends, removing the classic story, and Wishbone: The Early Years, which was a Spin-Off Babies series about Wishbone as a puppy, in smaller stories such as Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc., and were for younger readers.
Tropes in this series include:
Academic Alpha Bitch: Sam's rival Amanda. She spends most of one episode gloating over how her team is going to win the class spelling bee.
Academic Athlete: Samantha “Sam” Kepler from Wishbone participates in every sport her male friends do and is picked for her class team captain spelling bee because she's always reading.
Actor Allusion: One episode has Wishbone audition for a dog biscuit commercial, with the actor doing the narrating for him played by his actual voice actor in the show.
Aliens Steal Cable: Invoked in a Wishbone Mysteries book involving a UFO sighting in Oakdale. Trying to unmask a hoaxer pretending to be an alien over IRC, David asks him what his favorite human TV show was in an attempt to catch him violating the speed of light. The hoaxer doesn't fall for it; he responds with I Love Lucy.
Bowdlerize: Generally averted- with the exception of Don Quixote, the show was pretty good about keeping sad endings in books that had them.
This troper recalls that the show's ending to Cyrano de Bergerac was significantly more cheerful than in the original work.
They sometimes made endings seem nicer by omission — that is, ending it at the point of the Snicket Warning Label. For example, their version of Frankenstein ends with Dr. Frankenstein ill in bed and the monster promising to go away and never hurt anyone. What they leave out is the part following this in which Frankenstein does indeed die as well as the fact that the monster was planning to kill himself when he went away.
In the Tom Sawyer episode, the character Injun Joe is given the less offensive name "Crazy Joe."
In the Time Machine episode, Weena is explicitly Spared by the Adaptation. But hey, every movie adaptation of the novel does the same anyway. And the Wishbone version may be the only screen version in which she doesn't get Promoted to Love Interest (Weena used to the Trope Namer for that, actually).
Cash Cow Franchise: Four book series, clothing, toys, videos, DVDs, lunchboxes, calenders, food sets (plates, bowls, etc.), coloring books...you name it!
Clip Show : Wanda brings over a dog to keep Wishbone company, and Wishbone recounts to the dog all his previous imaginary adventures.
Compressed Adaptation: Obviously, Door Stoppers are brought down to be half of a thirty-minute show. As such, they are usually reduced to their Signature Scenes. However, the fact that they do not add anything, just compress the original plot, hilariously makes the Wishbone adaptations some of the most faithful ones ever. This review of the Phantom of the Opera episode, by The Phantom Reviewer, is mostly negative, but the reviewer can't help but be amazed that it's probably more faithful to the original novel than any other screen version of the story.
The Oliver Twist episode is perhaps the most compressed as a lot more time was spent on the contemporary story than usual. The Artful Dodger becomes a Composite Character of every underworld character in the novel. Nope, not even Fagin gets mentioned. It ends with Mr. Brownlow taking in Oliver, with this portrayed as Happily Ever After.
Dawson Casting: The main kids are supposedly in middle school but are pretty obviously in high school. Jordan Wall for example, at age 15 and 16 was playing a 6th grader.
Actually, by the time the main kids' actors hit 14/15/16, the characters moved up to high school.
Darker and Edgier - Believe it or not, the series sendoff 'Dogs Days of the Wild West' reveals some pretty seedy parts of Oakdale's past, namely how Wanda Gilmore inherited parts of Oakdale through back alley deals and horsetrading. And also features a decent shootout, despite the dog not being able to hold a gun.
Missing Mom: Sam's parents are divorced, and she lives with her father. It's mentioned she visits her mother, but she's never shown. David's the only one of the main kids with an intact family.
And despite this near perfect set up, Joe's mother and Sam's father never actually hook up.
Possibly because the writers wanted to throw in some hints that Joe and Sam may like each other, and wanted to avoid the setup so it wouldn't become incest(?)
Disneyfication: Noticeably averted for the most part, though most of the stories are shortened at times, usually only to fit the 30-minute time frame.
Earworm: What's the story, Wishbone? What's this you're dreaming of~?
Everyone Went To School Together: In the last episode, Joe's Mom, David's parents and Wanda reminisce about their high school years. They mention that Damont's Dad went to high school with them too.
Fade to Black: Usually in the middle of an episode, unusual for a PBS series as they don't have commercials in between episodes and the show didn't have any short that aired in between like Arthur or Clifford the Big Red Dog. This could have been made if the show was considered for syndication, which never occurred (or for international broadcasts)
Flyover Country: Averted. The series takes place in Texas, several of the lead characters have noticeable East Texas accents, and there's a gratifying lack of goofy stereotypes.
For Want of a Nail: In one of the mystery books, Joe and Sam become worried when David doesn't turn up for a study group and leaves no message as to why he isn't coming. After they find David, (he was locked in a equipment shed near town; long story), they ask why he didn't leave a message and he very confusedly responds that he did. The humans dismiss it as a coincidence but Wishbone realizes that earlier he had knocked over the answering machine at the Talbots' and erased the message by accident. Wishbone at first considers admitting this and apologizing but then realizes that if the message HADN'T been erased, David would have been trapped even longer than he was. And since the story was set as fall changes into winter...
Though averted with Joe who's a jock too (they seem to have a similar amount of talent) but nice.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: Only a handful of episodes has been released to VHS, and a few on DVD in 2004. Lionsgate is currently releasing DVDs of the show, which might end up saving the series. Mainly averted if your PBS station still reruns the show.
Lost In Imitation - Mostly averted. For example, the Wishbone version of Frankenstein follows the novel in portraying Frankenstein as a naïve young student rather than a Mad Scientist and the monster does not have green skin, bolts in his neck, etc. Wishbone as Frankenstein still brings the creature to life by running electricity into a corpse, however.
Mood Whiplash: In "A Tail in Twain Part 1", the episode ends with Wishbone being discovered by a potentially dangerous man and Joe jumping out while yelling "Don't hurt my dog!"...and then comes the Earworm of closing credits. The next episode "A Tail in Twain Part 2" inverts this with the theme cutting to Wishbone and the kids running in fright from said potentially dangerous man.
Moral Guardians - Were even on this show's case. According to IMDB, the episode 'The Canine Cure' was banned from some syndication because it somehow encouraged the Aesop that kids should challenge authority figures, apparently ignoring the fact that the overprotectiveness of some parents that was portrayed in this episode is, in fact, Truth in Television.
The Movie: 'Wishbone's Dog Days of the West', the Grand Finale to the series when PBS didn't renew for another season.
Mr. Fanservice: A good amount of the female fanbase thought of Joe as this in season two.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Interestingly there is an episode where this trope is both played straight and averted. Basically Sam insists on going into a condemned barn to look for a special horseshoe and the trio gets trapped inside. That would be the playing it straight. Later the barn catches on fire and Sam manages to get herself and the boys out with minimal injuries. She then proceeds to apologize to which the boys respond by pointing she saved their lives.
She Cleans Up Nicely: Sam gets a bit of this in the contemporary story to the "Count of Monte Cristo" episode. She comes over to David's house after ballroom dance lessons dressed neatly in a white dress, short gloves and with her hair down. The boys are momentarily stunned and Joe tries to compliment her, but she quickly cuts him off.
Sitcom Arch Nemesis: Wishbone tended to regard Wanda this way. Wanda was actually pretty friendly though and was just annoyed by having her neighbor's dog constantly wrecking her yard. Wishbone and Wanda came to terms somewhat in an episode where he actually ended up inside her house, but subsequent episodes followed this up with Aesop Amnesia since Status Quo Is God.
Spit Take: Sam does a rather spectacular one in "Furst Impressions" after it is pointed out to Joe that his dress shirt is on inside out and backwards. Wishbone even comments "EW! It went up her nose!"
Technology Marches On: The episode "One Thousand & One Tails" features a bad '90s understanding of the Internet. Joe and Sam ooh and awe as David logs onto the Internet for the first time, repeatedly gasping "Go to that one!" before he's even online. Also, the Internet is apparently a Viewer-Friendly Interface, labeled "Internet Online Access" and consisting of a few icons. David accesses a coded chatroom run by cybercriminals by clicking on the oh-so-not-suspicious icon of someone wearing a Conspicuous Trenchcoat, which is helpfully labeled "Private" and is apparently one of only four chat groups which exist on the Internet. He accidently logs into his dad's bank account while investigating this chatroom, which somehow causes three million dollars to get transferred into his dad's bank account. FBI agents show up at their house about five minutes later. Where to start??
Wham Line: In "A Doggoned Expose", when the trio confronts Amanda about the smear campaign against Sam, her response is one of these: (while handing Sam a smear flyer against her: Why would I do this to myself?)