PBS Kids is a children's block of Edutainment Shows on PBS that launched in 1993. It has aired on many, if not all, PBS affiliates. While most shows on the block are distributed to affiliates by PBS themselves, at times shows from American Public Television (which distributes shows to public TV stations outside of the PBS system) have been on the block; in some cases, local stations have broadcast APT-sourced shows under the PBS Kids branding (or a localized variant thereof), even if they were never a part of the national PBS schedule.
The block started under the name PTV, featuring the P-Pals, or anthropomorphized PBS logos as the mascots (voiced by such names as Oscar J. Castillo, Fran Drescher, and Jerry Nelson, among others), in the fictional setting of "PTV Park". It was used as a way to gather all children's programming on PBS under one centralized branding. However, since the shows had wildly varying demographics, from young kids to preteens, another block was created in 1996 to help remedy this; known as The Game, it featured interstitials with a stop-motion animated board game set. This block would air programming more centered on the older end of the child demographic, such as Bill Nye the Science Guy and Arthur.
Beginning in 1999, PTV and The Game were both retired and the block was rebranded into the PBS Kids that we all know today. The P-Pals were replaced with two new mascots, Dot and Dash, with a completely different theme. In what seems like a case of history repeating itself, another block called PBS Kids GO! was created in 2004 to again separate the shows aimed at older demographics. This was again dropped in 2013 when the PBS Kids block underwent a rebrand, though still keeping much of the same interstitial themes that started in 1999.
Up until November 2013, it also ran PBS Kids Sprout, a cable channel aimed at preschoolers, alongside Sesame Workshop, NBCUniversal (previously Comcast, but became a part of NBCU as result of the former's purchase of it), and Apax Partners (former owners of HiT Entertainment); it had replaced the little-known 24/7 PBS Kids Channel (which ran from 1999 to 2005, mostly seen on DirecTV). A number of the listed programs no longer airing regularly on most PBS stations (and even shows that never aired on PBS anywhere in the first place) could be seen on Sprout. About two years after NBCU bought its stake, the company bought the network outright, rechristening it Sprout. Until September 2016, Sprout itself ran a Saturday morning block on semi-sister station NBC called NBC Kids, with another block on NBC's Spanish network Telemundo called MiTelemundo. In September 2017, Sprout was rebranded as Universal Kids, and had dropped most of the PBS shows that were still on the channel at that point. As of March 2020, no PBS shows run on Universal Kids.
In January 2017, PBS launched a new 24/7 PBS Kids channel, which, in addition to being available as a subchannel through most of PBS' affiliates, can also be streamed live for free through their website and video app. However, the live stream, as well as the video app, are only available in the United States, so unless you have a US VPN, you're out of luck.
Shows that ran on PBS Kids and PBS Kids GO!:1993:note
- The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon (presented by American Public Television)
- Barney & Friends
- Ghostwriter (never officially on the block, but syndicated by PBS itself on many stations)
- Lamb Chop's Play-Along
- Long Ago and Far Away (only on the block for one year before being replaced by The Magic School Bus)
- Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
- Newton's Apple (one of few newnote programs since the block's inception to never use a PBS Kids logo at any point)
- Reading Rainbow
- Sesame Street (By far the longest running show on the block, predating PBS by a year. First-run episodes to 2016, repeats thereafter, with new episodes appearing 8 months after their HBO/HBO Max premieres)
- Shining Time Station
- Square One TV (only on the block for one year before being replaced by Bill Nye the Science Guy)
- Thomas the Tank Engine (These animated segments were part of the aforementioned Shining Time Station, before being broadcast as standalone animations.) (moved to Nick Jr. in 2018 until 2020, rights now owned by Netflix and Universal Kids)
- Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (a game show, PBS Kids' first)
- The Big Comfy Couch (Originally aired in Canada in 1992 on YTV, presented by American Public Television)
- Bill Nye the Science Guy (Originally aired in syndication the year before, produced by Disney in association with the National Science Foundation, Rabbit Ears Productions, and KCTS Seattle)
- FutureQuest (one of few new projects since the block's inception to never use a PBS Kids logo at any point)
- In the Mix (a newsmagazine aimed at a teenage audience, never officially on the block, but syndicated by PBS itself on many stations; it is, to date, the only PBS Kids program to have a rating higher than TV-G)
- Kidsongs (presented by American Public Television)
- The Magic School Bus (first new national PBS Kids program since the P-Pals debuted, would later Channel Hop to Fox Kids, Discovery Kids/TLC, and Qubo for reruns)
- The Puzzle Place
- Rabbit Ears Productions (Only Storybook Classics showed up on PBS, while the rest of the series showed up on Showtime)
- Storytime (Originally a locally-produced program broadcast on KCET since October 1992)
- Katie and Orbie (originally made the year before, in Canada)
- Square One TV Math Talk (an educational 15-minute version of Square One TV which served a similar purpose to 3-2-1 Classroom Contact; most of its episodes were the only ones in the Square One TV franchise to end with the P-Pals logo, with the first two ending with the regular 1992 PBS logo in use at the time)
- Adventures from the Book of Virtues
- Arthur (The longest running animated show on the block, and the second longest running show on the block in general)
- Kratts' Creatures
- Theodore Tugboat
- Tots TV (originally made three years before, in the U.K. only)
- Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego
- Wimzie's House (Originally made two years before, but was only airing in Canada. Currently airing in repeats in syndication.)
- Magic Adventures of Mumfie (Channel hopped from Fox Kids and only ran for a brief period of time in the summer of 1997. It then channel hopped again to Fox Family Channel, where it stayed for four years.)
- Charlie Horse Music Pizza (Follow-up series to Lamb Chop's Play-Along, originally made one year before, in Canada only)
- The Noddy Shop (the Noddy segments of this show were originally made 6 years before in Britain. The CGI reboot Make Way For Noddy also aired on PBS in 2005.)
- Someday School
- Teletubbies (originally made one year before, in the UK only; rights now owned by Nick Jr.)
- Dragon Tales (one of the few shows to be co-produced by a major Hollywood studio- in this case Sony Pictures Television with Sesame Workshop)
- Redwall (presented by American Public Television, notable for being one of the very few non-educational children's series to air on PBS)
- ZOOM - the revival
- The PBS Kids Bookworm Bunch (programs based off of kids' books; a joint venture with Nelvana and various Canadian networks):
- Elliot Moose
- George Shrinks (aired as a stand-alone when the block dissolved)
- Marvin the Tap-Dancing Horse (currently on Qubo)
- Seven Little Monsters (aired as a stand-alone with The Berenstain Bears after the block dissolved)
- Timothy Goes to School (later seen on Discovery Kids and currently on Qubo)
- Between the Lions
- Caillou (originally aired in 1997 in Canada)
- Clifford the Big Red Dog (Clifford's Puppy Days spinoff began in 2003)
- Anne of Green Gables: The Animated Series (was later presented by American Public Television, later seen on Qubo)
- Jay Jay the Jet Plane
- Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat
- Angelina Ballerina (Later given an all-CGI revamp as Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps in 2009)
- Dragonfly TV
- Its My Life
- Liberty's Kids
- VeggieTales (aired as a one-time special to premiere The Star of Christmas before its VHS release).
- The Berenstain Bears (2003 series)
- Clifford's Puppy Days
- Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks
- Peep and the Big Wide World (presented by American Public Television and also aired on Discovery Kids/TLC)
- Maya & Miguel
- Postcards from Buster (Spin-Off of Arthur)
- Curious George (another series to be co-produced with a major Hollywood studio, in this case Universal as they own the Curious George animation rights)
- FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman
- Seemore's Playhouse
- Franny's Feet
- It's a Big Big World
- Bali (initially premiered in 2005 in Canada; presented by American Public Television and only aired on certain PBS affiliates)
- The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!
- Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood (Animated spin-off of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood)
- The Gruffalo
- The Gruffalo's Child
- Space Racers (originally presented by American Public Television, previously a web series in 2011 as Space Race)
- Odd Squad
- Mack & Moxy (presented by American Public Television, only ran on certain PBS-affiliated stations)
- Ready Jet Go!
- Splash and Bubbles
- Stick Man
- Molly of Denali
- Esme & Roy (exclusive to the 24/7 channel and originally premiered one year before on HBO)
- Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum
- Clifford the Big Red Dog (2019)
- Hero Elementary
- Elinor Wonders Why
- Donkey Hodie (second series based on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood)
Tropes commonly present across PBS Kids branding:
- A Cappella: Almost all of the early Dot and Dash bumpers had their background music done in this.
- Art Evolution: The original six bumpers used a pretty standard thick line and simplistic animation style with predominantly solid colors. Starting in the mid 2000s, a more detailed construction paper style took place, though overall bearing the same basic look. In 2013, the theming was again reverted to a simplistic flat color design, but with a more lineless look and all the characters getting something of a design overhaul.
- The Artifact: Despite the major facelift for the 2013 bumpers, Dash still retains the old design theme on the logo.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall / Self-Deprecation: This lunch table meme made by KLRU (the PBS station in Austin, Texas) is hilariously meta and groups the shows based on similarities they share (such as Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat and Liberty's Kids both ending after one season).
- Commuting on a Bus: Dash only appears on the logo proper in the 2013 bumpers, but otherwise is nowhere to be found.
- Early Installment Weirdness: The PTV era can be considered this if you're used to the current PBS Kids branding. Since the current brand began almost two decades ago, it can be a bit strange to see the original branding where Dot and Dash are nowhere in sight, and with a completely different art style to boot. The Game could be considered this even more so, with its unusual stop-motion style that has never been seen since.
- Fanfare: Dun dun dun dun...Doink, PBS Kids! Was later changed to be instrumental only.
- Long-Runners: Nine shows on the block have run new episodes for a decade or more:
- Mister Rogers' Neighborhood ran for 30 years, predating both the block and PBS itself.
- Sesame Street is their longest running show, as it has been making new episodes for half a century.
- Reading Rainbow ran from 1983 to 2009 (26 years).
- Barney & Friends, which ran from 1992 to 2010 (18 years).
- Arthur, the second longest-running animated series on American TV after The Simpsons.
- Caillou ran new episodes from 2000 to 2014 on PBS Kids (14 years).
- Cyberchase began in 2002 and still runs new episodes to this day.
- Curious George began in 2006 and is still making episodes.
- Dinosaur Train ran from 2008 to 2020 (12 years).
- SciGirls has been airing new episodes since 2010.
- Mr. Imagination: Non-character example. The "Use Your Imagination" song bumper that ran in the early 2000s to signal the start of the block and also played on VHS tapes distributed by PBS pretty much is this trope, encouraging children to, well, use their imagination. It even says "if it's raining, you can make the sky blue" in the most cheerful manner possible.
- Never Trust a Trailer: This tends to happen to shows that have reboots that also air on PBS Kids like the original incarnation of the show, since PBS just tends to re-uses bumpers for the previous incarnation of the show no matter how different the two shows are. The first show to have this happen was Make Way For Noddy, which used this coming up next promo for The Noddy Shop that focused more on the puppets than Noddy. The second show to suffer this was the 2015 version of Bob the Builder, which had an up next bumper using footage from the previous installment that they had aired, which has vastly different character designs.
- No Name Given: From Labor Day 1999 until Labor Day 2006, Dash and Dot were referred to as the PBS Kids Boy and Girl.
- Parental Bonus: This is Your Brain on Books, an obvious take on the famous anti-drug PSA "This is Your Brain on Drugs." The homage is extremely unlikely to be caught by the target audience of the average program on the block.
- The Resolution Will Not Be Identified: Many of the block's shows have ended this way, to the point where they have their own section on the trope's page.
- Roger Rabbit Effect: Happens once in a while in a few of the bumpers that combine live action footage with animated PBS shows. For instance, the "Action Pig" bumper features Arthur in it with some live-action kids and a live-action pig.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: During their PTV era, a series of shorts called "Another Pointer From Paula Poundstone" was run that focused on Paula Poundstone teaching kids lessons such as eating healthy food and sticking to their plans.
- Stop Motion: "The Game" block in the late 90s used this.
- Thick-Line Animation: The first set of Dot and Dash branding used this.
- Time Skip: Dot is grown up in the 2013 branding.