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"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:

  • Adaptation Species Change: Rumpelstiltskin is not an elf, but a troll.
  • 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)
    "AND THAT'S WHY HE'S CALLED CLIFF HANGER!!"
  • Amusing Injuries: These keep happening to Chicken Jane.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Larry the rock and later Steve the bowling ball.
  • Animesque: The "Little Wendy Tales" sketches. Pokes fun at Sailor Moon and anime clichés in general.
  • Anthropomorphic Food: The cast of the "Sam Spud" noir sketches.
  • 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.
  • Badly Battered Babysitter: Chicken Jane, as noted below.
  • 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!
  • Big Eater: The entire lion family when it comes to their meat.
  • 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.
  • 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 continued 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.
  • Call on Me: Whenever Click was needed.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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." Besides words that rhyme with "Pop," of course.
  • Crossover: The series had 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.
  • Edutainment Show
  • The End: Parodied several times. See Brick Joke and Overly Long Gag for examples.
  • 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:
    • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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 birdkind. 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, which featured different variations.
  • For the Evulz: The Un-People seem to exist entirely on this trope.
  • 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.
  • Gag Nose: The Lone Rearranger has a banana on his 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 is more general than poor Nitwhite thought.
  • Jerkass: The singers from the Cliff Hanger skits.
  • Karma Houdini: The Evil Un People are never actually nabbed for their constant sabotage of innocent bystanders.
  • A King and His Hawk: The title of one episode.
  • 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: Two examples using similar jokes.
    • 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", Chicken Jane manages to get into a Colonial America history book after a mild kerfuffle between Lionel and Leona. The first thing about Chicken Jane anyone points out is that she has a different art style from the rest of them.
  • Musical Episode: Be Bop.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.
  • Never Say "Die": Notoriously averted in "A King and His Hawk."
  • Nice Hat: Lionel sports one.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: A character named Tiger Words stepping up to a T.
  • 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.
  • Overly Long Gag: At the end of an answer 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: 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.
  • 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.
  • Reality Ensues: 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.
  • Rhyming List Song: The "If You Can Read..." songs.
  • 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.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Just ask Chicken Jane!
    • Walter and Clay Pigeon are also equally likely to suffer amusing injuries. In at least one episode, Clay got injured while Walter remained in good condition: Walter tried to tickle Clay, and was just about to give up when Clay suggested blowing in his ear. When Walter did so, he blew Clay across the room and she hit the wall.
    Busterfield: I don't know about her, but that sure tickled me.
    • In the "Sloppy Pop" music video, the first person to be Covered in Gunge, as well as the one covered in the most gunge, is actually a woman.
  • Something Completely Different: "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.
  • Spiritual Successor: This show, to The Electric Company (1971).
  • 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.
    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", 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.
  • 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 "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."
    • Sven said ten tents/Ted sent ten cents...
  • 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, 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 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, and the furious king 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.
    • In another episode, 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.
  • 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 silent).
  • Visual Pun: Click the Computer Mouse looks like the rodent of the same name.
  • Who's on First?: An example very similar to the original gag. In one skit, 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 plate...in my kitchen...in 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.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Played for laughs. During the song "That Ram is On the Run", the ram (not ewe) knocks over both Marmy Smartypants and the female singer who is singing the song.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The premise of almost every Cliff Hanger book, ever. Cliff gets off the cliff, but ends up back on.

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