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Series / Between the Lions

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

Between The Lions is 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, Sirius Thinking, Ltd. in New York City, and Mississippi Public Broadcasting (the latter PBS station co-producing from 2005-2010), 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 are also a lot of jabs at famous children's books, such as Dick and Jane becoming "Chicken Jane".

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

Tropes include the following:

  • Adaptation Species Change: Rumpelstiltskin is not an elf, but a troll.
  • An Aesop:
    • A variation involving a spelling lesson rather than a moral lesson: one Dr. Nitwhite sketch has him appear on a talk show, discussing his discovery that the letters "EA" always make the "long E" sound, which is what kids are usually taught in schools. The host's response? "That's really great."
    • The story "The Queen who Wanted to Touch the Moon" is a complete inversion of the usual aesop about determination. Because of her determination to touch the moon, the queen ended up falling to her death. It just goes to show that there is a difference between giving up and knowing when to turn back.
    • Gus’ introductory episode has him struggling with reading and writing because of an unidentified learning difference. The lions teach him that learning to read takes time and if you work at it harder, you’ll get there. With many schools having special classes for dyslexia, it has aged pretty well.
    • "Little Big Mouse" has Click learn that even if you may feel unappreciated or insignificant, even the smallest thing you do can make a big difference.
    • It goes without saying that the moral of "Pandora's Box" is not only "Curiosity killed the cat" but that "Great misfortune can beget hope".
    • "You Can't Catch Me" has Leona not wanting to say goodbye to the Gingerbread Man because of him getting eaten and on her birthday. Her parents sing her a song about how saying goodbye to someone we love is inevitable, but it doesn't mean that person has to truly leave, because we can still remember all the great things we learned from them and the times we've had together.
    • The song, "A Good Sad Book" features Theo teaching us how even the saddest things can make us feel better. It may be hard to handle emotional material in books, movies or television shows, but it can help us appreciate what we have.
    • In the same episode, Leona is dissatisfied with the tragic story of "The King and the Hawk", but after she snaps at Lionel, comes out of the experience learning two important lessons. First, the book (In-Universe) teaches her that you shouldn't lash out at somebody who's just trying to help you. Second, it's unfair to write off a story for being bad because it had a tragic ending. Sometimes, such stories are meant to teach you lessons that happy stories can't.
    • In the episode about "Rats", the two-part storybook about the rats of Ireland has a two-fold lesson about name-calling. The first half of the story teaches that name-calling can deeply hurt other people's feelings, even change how someone views themselves (something Leona could attest to). However, the second half of the story teaches that even though it hurts to be called names, never forget that such names aren't always true about who you are. Name-calling shouldn't stop you from being yourself or from doing what you love.
    • "The Good Seed" explores the simple lesson that honesty is the best policy, and as long as you've done your best, you've done enough. This is paralleled when Lionel tries to be a librarian for a day, only to accidentally infect the library's computer systems with a virus.
    • "The Boy who cried Wolf" classically presents the moral that you shouldn't needlessly cry for help unless you really need help.
    • "Five, Six and Thistle Sticks" has Lionel and Lenny read a book towards the end that teaches the two that just because two friends have different interests doesn't mean they have to end their friendship.
    • "But Mama But..." explores that it's okay to miss your mother, even if you're grown or independent.
    • "The Chess Mess" is about Theo teaching his children that winning or losing shouldn't effect how you enjoy the game. What's important is having fun, regardless of the game's outcome.
  • 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)
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Larry the rock, and later, Steve the bowling ball.
  • Animesque: The "Little Wendy Tales" sketches poke fun at Sailor Moon and anime clichés in general.
  • Anthropomorphic Food:
  • Anthropomorphic Typography: One segment features the Silent E, a character with a humanistic body, but with the letter e in place of its head. Other vowels also feature in the segment, each also with human bodies and letters for heads. It can be seen here.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: "Quest, Quest, Quest" discusses this trope when one of Babs Caplain's latest stories ends with the bad guy coming out on top by cheating. Leona voices that even she recognizes this is not a good thing, teaching kids that the only way to win at life is to cheat. This bit of constructive criticism leads to her revise the ending so the characters make the villain's scheme backfire.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Theo and Cleo leave home, and Lionel and Leona are babysat by Marmy Smartypants. While Theo and Cleo are gone, they throw a party. When Theo and Cleo come back, they are very upset...because they were left out of the party.
  • Balloonacy: A "bunch" of balloons (only four) floats past Cliff Hanger. When Cliff grabs them, he floats away. A bunch of pigeons start do pop the balloons, but he doesn't come down until there is only one balloon left!
  • Balloon Belly:
    • At the end of "The Popcorn Popper", the pigeons Walter and Clay had MASSIVE bellies after eating all the popcorn. This happened to them again at the end of "The Good Seed".
    • This happens to the cat after it ate the hen and later the hen after it ate a bag of seeds in "Farmer Ken's Puzzle".
  • Big Eater: The entire lion family when it comes to their meat.
    • Walter and Clay Pigeon may also qualify. In one episode, they managed to clean the entire roof by eating up all the popcorn.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Dr. Nitwhite and Dr. Watson, Captain Ahab and Mr. Starbuck, the Lone Rearranger and Russell Upsome-Grub...
  • Big "NO!": Lionel lets out one in "The Last Cliff Hanger" when he gets to the end of the final Cliff Hanger story.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "A King and his Hawk" has Leona somberly realize that in her quest to rid the library of the titular book, she nearly made the same mistake as the king by lashing out at Lionel. So, she returns the book its rightful spot, coming to terms that some sad stories are meant to teach important lessons. She even solemnly recommends the book to someone.
  • Bo Diddley Beat: Used in the song "Ten Small Words".
  • Bowdlerise: In "Hug, Hug Hug", Pygmalion's problem is that he can't hug his statue. This is of course different from the original myth, where he wanted to have sex with it.
  • 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!"
  • Brick Joke:
    • After the first chapter of some episodes, a Busterfield skit is shown that isn't concluded until the very end of the episode.
    • At the beginning of one episode, Dr. Nitwhite tells Theo and Cleo that he has discovered that "hen" is the only three-letter English word containing the letters "en." Theo says, "Let me go get my pen," causing Nitwhite to leave in disgust. At the end, he says he has done further research and discovered that "hen" and "pen" are the only two three-letter words containing "en." Then the narrator says, "This is The End."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: The title of every Chicken Jane and Cliff Hanger book.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: How Babs Caplain's story in "Quest, Quest, Quest" is resolved in the final revision. The villain gives the story's heroes a test, where they must chose a bad piece of paper (and be sent to the dungeon) or a good one (and claim the chest they've been questing for). The trouble is, he marked both pieces as the bad paper. When our heroes choose the bad paper, they suspect there's cheating afoot. So they throw the bad paper into the fire, then expose the other bad paper, claiming that it means the chosen paper they threw in the fire was the good paper after all. The villain has no choice but to admit defeat and honor his agreement.
  • The Chew Toy: Bad luck always seems to befall Sam Spud in his skits, and almost all of it is wholly undeserved.
  • Childish Tooth Gap: Sam of the "Sam's Lab" segments sports a childish tooth gap.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Despite still appearing in the intro, major characters, such as Busterfield, Heath, Walter, Clay, Martha, the Vowelles, among others, vanish almost entirely from later seasons 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!"
  • Cliffhanger Cop Out: Played for laughs in several Cliff Hanger episodes. For example, in one episode, Cliff hears two scientists talking about their desire to see a "yodeling yellow yak." So Cliff disguises himself as a yellow yak and yodels...but the scientists naturally assume that the "yak" was meant to be on the cliff and leave without him.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The beginning of every Lone Rearranger episode, ever.
    Russell Upsome-Grub: (sees a horse riding a cowboy) Does this seem odd to you, Lone?
    Lone Rearranger: Yup, didn't have a seat belt on.
  • Covered in Gunge:
    • Thanks to Chicken Jane's penmanship skills, this trope was narrowly averted by the cook who was trying to boil her...although we wish we could say the same for Jane herself.
    • This trope is pretty much the point of "Sloppy Pop," apart from words that rhyme with pop.
  • Crossover:
    • The series 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.
      • For that matter, one episode that played a music video for the definition of the word "clobbered" featured footage from Zoom of a pinata being broken.
    • One episode featured an appearance by Antiques Roadshow host Dan Elias.
    • A recurring alphabet song featured an appearance by Steve Thomas & Norm Abram from This Old House reading one of their show's own books.
  • Dame with a Case: Spoofed in this "Sam Spud: Par-Boiled Potato Detective" segment.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "Little Big Mouse" for Click. "Stop That Chicken!" for Chicken Jane. "Dance in Smarty Pants" for Arty and Marmy Smartypants. Several for Cliff Hanger, as well as for Busterfield and the pigeons.
  • Determinator: The queen who wanted to touch the moon is a negative example. She is so obsessed with the moon, she doesn't notice that the tower she built to reach it is unstable. She ends up falling to her death.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Theo puts a pen on a stack of books. But by pulling a book out from the middle of the stack, he knocks the pen off, causing a chain reaction that practically destroys the library and sends Cleo flying through the air to land on Theo!
  • The Ditz:
    • 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.
    • And most of all, Cliff Hanger.
  • Downer Ending: Theo transports himself, the family, and everybody into a storybook with the help of Click; unfortunately, things become too crowded, and Click goes into sleep mode before getting everybody out of the book. 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.
    • The episode "A King And His Hawk" is about Downer Endings, and how just because a story doesn't have a happy ending, doesn't necessarily mean it's bad.
  • Dumb Blonde: Babs, the aspiring author who often needs a lot of guidance to write her short stories given her odd choices.
  • Dumb Dinos: Inverted. Heath the Thesaurus is one of the smartest characters on the show.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: This mostly happens in the first season:
    • In The Lucky Duck and The Fox and The Crow (which may have been the first two episodes ever produced), Leona's hair was light yellow and messier (instead of being orange and neater), Cleo's eyes were a different shape, and Theo's voice was deeper. Also in the latter episode, Walter and Clay's voices were slightly different as well.
    • In the (possibly) first filmed Not As Smart As a Puck segment (despite being shown late in Season 1), Arty Smartypants and Marmy's puppets are noticeably different. Their voices (Marmy's in particular) are not as developed, either.
    • In two of the Fred Says segments, the background is different, implying that they're the first ones to be made.
    • Originally, Heath's body was completely different as it had short, stubby legs, and it looked more cloth-like. It was later redesigned to look more realisitic. Also, he was voiced by Tyler Bunch instead of Peter Linz.
  • Edutainment Show: It's a show about reading and grammar. note 
  • The End: Parodied several times. See Brick Joke and Overly-Long Gag for examples.
  • Everybody Cries: In an episode where 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!
  • Exact Words:
    • In one Cliff Hanger episode, Cliff sees two moose standing on a platform. The moose are cheerleaders for "Kiss a Moose Week." Above them is a banner that says "Kiss Me, I'm a Moose." After Kiss-a-Moose Week is over, Cliff tells the moose cheerleaders to "get me off this cliff." The moose rip the word "me" off the banner and parachute off the platform. And so Cliff kept on hanging.
    • Two other Cliff Hanger episodes used similar jokes, and they both involved Literal Genies. (See below.)
    • In another episode, a marching band shows up and Cliff asks if he can join them. The band leader asks him to play first, so Cliff plays his tuba. The leader is impressed, but there are already too many tuba players in the band. Cliff asks them to at least give him a hand...and they applaud him.
    • In yet another episode, Cliff sees a group of chickens standing on the edge of the cliff, and asks them to "get him down". They give him their feathers.
  • Extremely Overdue Library Book: Almost inevitable, as this takes place in a library. A customer comes in with a book that he claims is 15 years overdue. Lionel and Leona attempt to use it to make Theo angry.
  • Family Theme Naming: Theo, Cleo, Lionel, and Leona.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Cliff Hanger will never get off that cliff. The one time he does, he inevitably finds himself perched there again as he had lost all sense of self after finally escaping.
  • 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 birds 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.
  • Flanderization: Happened to Cliff Hanger. Never has he been the sharpest tool in the shed, but in the very first Cliff Hanger episode, Cliff was smart enough to realize that he just needed to let himself drop onto a bed, even if he needed his survival manual to drop a letter 'B' onto an 'ed', turning it into a bed. His dependence on his survival manual was flanderized until Season 6, when he threw out a rope in favour of a yak costume because his survival manual told him to dress up as one!
  • Fly in the Soup: The episode "There's A Fly In My Soup" was focused entirely on fly jokes, and featured different variations.
  • For the Evulz: The Un-People seem to exist entirely on this trope.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: "Sausage Nose." In this episode, the lions watch a movie, but the couple from the movie leave home for the library at one point. The lions reach that point right when the couple arrives at the library...which happens to be the Barnaby B. Busterfield III library. At the end of the episode, the couple leaves the library, and the lions unpause the movie, which is inexplicably at the point when the couple returns home.
  • Fox-Chicken-Grain Puzzle: Why, Farmer Ken's Puzzle, of course!
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: At the end of the "Meat Shower" number. Look closely and you'll see there was apparently just no fitting a bib around Theo's mane.
  • Fully-Dressed Cartoon Animal: B.B. the King of Beasts, Theo's musical alter ego, sports a suit, shades and fedora.
  • Furry Reminder / Stock Animal Diet: Theo and Cleo sure love raw meat, as seen at the end of each "What's Cooking?" segment. Even if the meat dish they are preparing takes a very short time to cook (even three seconds in one segment), they'll always say "Naaaah!" and start devouring the raw meat like real feral lions do.
  • Gag Nose:
    • The Lone Rearranger has a banana on his nose.
    • The episode "Sausage Nose" revolved around a woman with a sausage on her nose.
  • Gave Up Too Soon: Inverted in that the Butt-Monkey isn't the one who gave up: Cliff Hanger asks Trixie the Tricky Pixie to help him off the cliff, and she refuses unless he properly says a very difficult Tongue Twister. Cliff takes more than five hours to say it correctly, but when he finally does it, Trixie has just left for a picnic in Dixie.
  • 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.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Several variations involving the target sound:
    • "Lionel's Antlers" and "The Ram in the Pepper Patch" both focus mainly on the "short A" sound, but briefly focus on the "AR" sound. "Shooting Stars" does the opposite.
    • "The Lost Rock" and Pandora's Box" both focus mainly on the "short O" sound, but briefly focus on the "OO" sound.
    • "Something Fishy" focuses mainly on the "short I" sound and "The Lucky Duck" and "The Roar that Makes them Run" on the "short U" sound, but they all briefly focus on the "vowel Y" sound.
    • "The Chap with Caps" focuses mainly on the "short A" sound, "Little Big Mouse" and "The Boy who Cried Wolf" on the "short I" sound, and "Hug, Hug, Hug" and "Giants and Cubs" on the "short U" sound, but they all briefly focus on silent E turning short vowels into long vowels.
    • "Piggyback, Piggyback" focuses mainly on the "short A" sound, "A King and His Hawk" on the "short I" sound, and "Shooting Stars" on the "AR" sound, but they all briefly focus on the "IGHT" sound.
    • "Red Hat, Green Hat" focuses mainly on the "short E" sound, but briefly focuses on the "EE" sound.
  • Happily Married: Theo and Cleo, to the point where they openly flirt with each other during their cooking segments.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: The episode "You Can't Catch Me!" uses a birthday song sung to the tune of a pre-existing song on the show, "Dance In Smarty Pants".
  • Here We Go Again!: The episode "The Lost Rock" focused on The Lion Family helping a rock named Larry find his book. After Larry gets back into his book, a Bowling Ball rolls down the stair banister and can't find his book!
  • The Hero Dies: Mentioned by Theo as a Tear Jerker trope in "A King and His Hawk".
  • Hiccup Hijinks: An episode of called "Pandora's Box", where Lionel and Leona get the titular box out of the book. They peek inside and accidentally release a curse that causes everyone in the library to have hiccups. Eventually, they're cured by dragging the box back inside and tricking the curse until returning to the book.
  • Hope Spot: Anytime it looks like Cliff Hanger has found a way out of his predicament, something will go wrong that causes him to end up right back where he started.
  • 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.
  • Hypocrite: Lionel expresses shades of this when he learns his best friend Lenny has given up Cliff Hanger in favor of another "hero", Justin Time, who lies in a hammock and does nothing until all manners of weirdness have approached him first, only acting after he is inconvenienced. While Lionel's observation that he "just sits in his hammock" is justified criticism, he fails to acknowledge that his own hero Cliff isn't actually performing any heroic feats of his own in his usual struggles.
  • Inverted Trope: In one episode, the lions read the story of Rumpelstiltskin. It Was His Sled that the title character can turn hay into gold. Meanwhile, the pigeons are trying to turn gold into hay.
  • 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 applies to more words than poor Nitwhite thought.
  • Jerkass: The singers from the Cliff Hanger skits. They consistently fly past Cliff in their helicopter at the beginning of every installment without even trying to rescue him.
  • Karma Houdini: The Evil Un People are never actually nabbed for their constant sabotage of innocent bystanders.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The Lions actually sing the phrase "key change" near the end of the Pecos Bill number.
  • 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"!)
  • Literal Genie:
    • 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.
    • In another Cliff Hanger episode, Cliff asks a genie the same thing. The genie gives him a book called "Off This 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", a mild kerfuffle between Lionel and Leona causes Chicken Jane to be thrown out of her book and start ricocheting around the library. Eventually, she ends up inside a book about Colonial America, where the first thing anyone points out is that she has a different art style from the rest of the book's characters.
  • Morton's Fork: Babs Caplan's story "The Quest for the Chest" has Lady Esther and Lester the Jester faced with the corrupt Count Chester the Congested, who doesn't want to give up his chest to the two. As a final test, Chester tells Esther and Lester to pick one paper out of his hands to see if they will keep the chest. Ostensibly, one says "chest", meaning they get to keep the chest, and the other says "guest", meaning they'll be his prisoners for life. But Chester cheats by making both his papers say "guest." In the final cut, Esther and Lester find a loophole by throwing the paper they picked into the fireplace and pointing out that the other says "guest." Unable to defeat this logic without admitting he cheated, Chester is forced to give up his chest.
  • Motor Mouth: Monkey Pop-Up Theater speeds up quite a bit during "Sven Said, Ten Tents, Ted Sent Ten Cents".
  • 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's venom, 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.
    • In another episode, this time being "Icarus's Wings", the pigeons make Busterfield a pair of wings so he can fly, but he ends up flying away from them, which makes them realize it was a mistake.
  • 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.
  • Never Learned to Read: Gus apparently has some kind of reading disability that he’s embarrassed about. Theo and Cleo explain to Gus that everyone learns to read at different speeds and ages. Lionel then decides to help him learn by becoming his designated reader. Later episodes even show that Lionel’s teaching is paying off.
  • Never My Fault: In "The Popcorn Popper", Theo and Cleo catch on to what Lionel and Leona did with the popcorn maker when they see Walter and Clay Pigeon fattened up from willingly consuming all of it on their own. Even though the popcorn maker was her idea, Leona tries to leech all of the blame onto Lionel.
  • Never Say "Die": Notoriously averted in "A King and His Hawk."
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: A character named Tiger Words stepping up to a T.
  • No Fourth Wall: In-Universe, with Click's ability to "drag and drop" the lions into books and websites and book characters into the library.
  • 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.
  • Out Of Control Popcorn: One of Arty Smartypant's tricks has him put the words "Popping" and "Popcorn" in his smarty pants. After he says the magic word and does his magic dance, popcorn starts popping right out of his pants.
    • In one episode, Lionel and Leona pull a magical popcorn popper out of a book to make popcorn; however, they lose the instructions and don't know how to turn it off, resulting in a popcorn flood.
  • Overly-Long Gag: At the end of an episode involving a "very, very, very, very, very big piece of cheese," the narrator says, "This is The End," and the camera zooms away from the library. Then the narrator says, "This is the very end," and the camera zooms out again. Then the narrator says, "This is the very, very end." And so on up to "very, very, very, very, very end."
  • Pale Females, Dark Males: Cleo is as bright yellow as most fictional lions, while Theo looks like a fatter and decidedly more pleasant version of Scar with glasses. Walter and Clay Pigeon are also a straight example, while Lionel and Leona are a downplayed inversion.
  • Parental Bonus:
    • Theo and Cleo display a lot of sexual tension during their cooking segments. You can't help thinking that after they're finished devouring that (as always, uncooked) hunk of meat, they'll start devouring each other.
    • Dr. Ruth Wordheimer is a parody of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a famous sex therapist.
  • Pesky Pigeons:
    • Subverted with Walter and Clay Pigeon. They're friends with the lion family, but Busterfield doesn't get along with them very well.
    • Played straight in one of the Cliffhanger segments where a flock of pigeons pop the balloons Cliffhanger himself was holding.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: In-Universe, "A King and his Hawk" ends with the titular King returning to his kingdom after an arduous quest with no food or water. This would normally mark a happy ending, except he's returning with a heavy heart, as he had slain his friend the Hawk in anger when he wouldn't let him drink water (which unknown to him was poisoned with serpent's venom.) In short, he returns home, but alone and having slain his companion who saved his life.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A rare justified example. All that Sergeant Mark from the "Vowel Boot Camp" skits trains the vowels to do is say their "short" and "long" sounds at the appropriate times. This is used to teach the viewers about the following rules:
    When two vowels stand side by side, they say the first one's name with pride.
    When E's on the end, it plays a no-talking game, but the vowel before it says its name.
  • Portal Statue Pairs: The library has two lion statues in front of its entrance (likely an homage to the New York City Library).
  • Public Domain Artifact: One of the episodes was titled "Pandora's Box" and covered this story.
  • Pun-Based Title: The show's title is a pun on the expression "reading between the lines".
  • 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, e.g. "She was a real peach. As a matter of fact, she was a peach!"
  • Punny Name: Cliff Hanger, aka Cliffhanger.
    Narrator: We find Cliff Hanger where we left him last — hanging from a cliff!
  • "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.
  • Recurring Riff: There is a certain combination of four notes (G, G#, F, G) that always appears in some way in one of Sloppy Pop's songs.
  • Retool: In Season Five, the show stopped having one single story and had two ten minute stories (each of which contained new sketches instead of old ones). The show’s concept on learning to read later became The Artifact and the stories would just tie into the themes of the episode. Also, despite still appearing in the intro, Busterfield, the pigeons, Heath, Martha Reader, and Dr. Nitwhite also vanished from the show. The library set was also greatly reduced, with just one small section serving as the primary location.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Click says "Glug, glug!" when she swallows a fly.
  • Series Fauxnale: In-universe, the author of the "Cliff Hanger" books decides to end his series with Cliff getting off his cliff and washing onto a beach because he has run out of ideas for his books. However, due to the lions helping him remember how to get ideas (as well as the fact that the helicopter singers from the books were bothering everyone) he soon starts the series back up with Cliff being washed off the beach and getting blasted back onto the cliff by a whale (presumably the same one that helped him get off).
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • This line from "Ten Little Words":
      The ten little words were all partying on
      They danced on the table, they danced on the lawn!
  • 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" talks like one, 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.
  • Tempting Fate: When the entire library gets trapped inside a book about ships and find themselves horribly cramped in a single compartment, they are horrified to find that Click is in sleep mode and thus can't get them out. Leona mentions that "it could be a lot worse", to which the entire room screams "NO, IT COULDN'T!!" Not ten seconds later, a ship captain tries to check the book out for his two-year voyage at sea; cue Mass "Oh, Crap!" from everyone present.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: The unnamed man and woman who appear in every Lone Rearranger episode, ever. The man has a blond mustache and is pint-sized, while the woman is a tall redhead with glasses. Unfortunately, in the "horses riding cowboys" episode, her horse still broke her back.
  • 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 "Can't...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."
    • Sven said ten tents/Ted sent ten cents...
  • Too Dumb to Live: Cliff Hanger, especially starting around the fifth season.
    • Scot and Dot in the "Chicken Jane" stories. Chicken Jane always ends up hurting herself in some way when getting Scot and Dot out of danger, but at least they thank her for it.
    • The brave police officer chasing down Silent E. Every time he succeeds in capturing the fugitive, he is easily tricked into giving the villain something with which he can use his powers to change into a tool for escape. Said officer should really be more mindful of what his nemesis is capable of even behind bars.
    • The two sailors trying to track down Moby Duck, which is literally sitting right behind them.
  • Totally Radical: Gawain, the host knight of the "Gawain's Word" segments.
  • Trouser Space: Pretty much Arty Smartypants' whole shtick.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change:
    • The first verse of the song "Double O, OO" is in Eb major. The second verse is in E major.
    • Most of "Grubby Pup" is in D major, but the final verse is in E major.
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Arty and Marmy Smartypants invert this trope twice, giving us the hot girl's ugly son.
  • Uncommon Time: The verse of "Irish Step Dance" is in 4/4 time, but the chorus in 6/8 time.
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: "A King and His Hawk". While Never Say "Die" is firmly in place for all the other season 1 episodes, this episode averts the trope... and boy, does it ever. Worse is the Story Within a Story: the king and the hawk are stranded in a desert with no food or water. It takes a long time for them to find an oasis. Every time the king tries to drink from the oasis, the hawk stops him, king becomes furious and kills him. As he is about to drink one more time, he noticed that the oasis is poisoned and he killed his best friend for saving his life! The hawk is also the only time a corpse is shown in the show's entirety.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Very Special Episode: "Humph, Humph, Humph!" This episode introduces us to Gus, a rabbit who Never Learned to Read. This episode teaches viewers about people with learning disabilities. Unlike most examples though, Gus shows up in later episodes.
  • 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". One of those examples where it'd likely be a true Villain Song had he sung it himself (though of course he wouldn't, since he's, well, silent).
  • Visual Pun: Click the Computer Mouse looks like the rodent of the same name.
  • Vocal Evolution: In Seasons 9 and 10, Lionel's voice has become noticeably deeper.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The Season 6 episode "The Goat in the Coat" is the same as the Season 3 episode "Two Coats, One Goat, and One Boat", except with added inserts where Lionel and new character Sierra the Mountain Lion recap the story, with Sierra doing her parts in Spanish.
  • Who's on First?: An example very similar to the original gag. In one skit called 'The Question Scouts', a scout leader asks the scouts for their names, which unfortunately are Who, What, Where, and Why. The ending is especially similar:
    Scout leader: All right! So you're Why, you're Who, you're Where, and you're what.
    Scouts: Right!
    Scout leader: Fine. Now when...
    When: (arriving late) Here!
    Scout leader: What?
    What: No, I'm What!
  • Wishing for More Wishes: At least two variations:
    • At the end of "Sausage Nose:" "I wish for the sausage on my nose to come off my nose and appear on this my my house with a..." and then they continue to mention things they want in their new house.
    • Walter Pigeon mistakes a magic pebble for a peanut and eats it. Busterfield tells him that the "peanut" is really a magic pebble, and Walter responds, "Yes, and it was delicious! I wish there was a million more of 'em!" Guess what happens next.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The premise of almost every Cliff Hanger book, ever. Cliff gets off the cliff, but ends up back on.


Video Example(s):


Busterfield Loves Fuzzy Wuzzy

Barnaby B. Busterfield III is generally annoyed by the library's antics. But in the episode "Fuzzy Wuzzy, Wuzzy?", it's revealed that even he loves Fuzzy Wuzzy, much to the disbelief of the pigeons.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / NotSoAboveItAll

Media sources: