The Charlie Horse Music Pizza is a short-lived spinoff of Lamb Chops Playalong that ran on PBS from January 5, 1998 to January 17, 1999, with reruns airing until September 5, 1999. It was a co-production between Golden Books Family Entertainment and KCET Los Angeles.
Like the former Lamb Chop's Play-Along, creator/puppeteer/ventriloquist, Shari Lewis, served as the show's anchor, and also featured her puppet creations Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy, and Charlie Horse. In this series, Shari is the owner/operator of a beachside pizzeria, named after Charlie Horse, and also employs an ensemble including Junior - a teenager who does a few odd jobs for the Music Pizza, Takeout - an anthropomorphic orangatan who makes deliveries, and Cookie - the Music Pizza's resident cook. The show's main educational goal was music, and each episode would focus on one or more themes of music education, whether related to vocals or instruments.
The series abruptly ended after just 23 episodes. The show had only taped three episodes of the second season before Shari Lewis was diagnosed with cancer in June 1998 and started chemotherapy. Sadly, she passed away on August 2, 1998, after which the show was officially cancelled. Laurel Lambert, a spokeswoman for KCET at the time, stated that, "There is no way to continue the show, because Shari was everything".
This series provides examples of:
- Actor Allusion: Cookie's afraid of bugs; in an episode of The Magic School Bus, Dom DeLuise played a baker who freaks out because he sees the shrunken eponymous bus being used to make a cake and thinks it's a moth.
- An Aesop: Along with the kind of Slice of Life content geared toward older children, the show has a content focus on music. It was developed in response to a trend of schools cutting funding for instruction in the arts from school budgets.
- And Starring: Dom De Luise as Cookie.
- Art Shift: Takeout and Fingers are far more detailed than the main trio. In part because they were made by the Chiodo Brothers, whose trademark style can be seen in their designs.
- Birthday Episode: "Spooky Opera Show" takes place during Cookie's birthday, and features a subplot in which Shari tries to put together a surprise party for him.
- Cut Short: The series' fate after Shari Lewis lost her battle with cancer.
- Canada, Eh?: Even though the exact location of the Music Pizza is never mentioned, the series was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, and many of the show's exterior footage was shot on location on the beach. Canadian puppeteer, Gordon Robertson (Zoboomafoo) also played Fingers, the large purple raccoon.
- Close on Title: The closing sequence begins with a shot of the words "Charlie Horse Music Pizza" written out in sand on the beach. It's video footage, run backwards so it looks like the words were washed onto the sand by a wave.
- Cross-Dressing Voices: Not just Shari providing the voices for Hush Puppy and Charlie Horse, but in-universe, Lamb Chop discovers she has a talent for perfectly imitating other people, including Charlie Horse, and uses this talent to put on a one-sheep show of Little Red Riding Hood, in which she plays all of the characters, using different voices for each (specifically using Charlie Horse's voice for the Big Bad Wolf).
- Dumpster Dive: Not just diving, but Fingers actually lives in the dumpster behind the Music Pizza, and lives off the discarded food thrown into it.
- Educational Song: Half of the songs in each episode would cover whatever the lesson of the story was. For example, in one episode, Shari teaches Lamb Chop how to play Chopin's Prelude in E Major, making up lyrics about using repeats to help you remember a song's rhythm to go with its melody.
- Edutainment Show
- Gratuitous Italian: Cookie, and not just because of Dom DeLuise. Cookie's father actually came to America from Italy.
- Halloween Episode: "Spooky Opera Show", in which a recent series of hauntings at the Music Pizza inspire Shari to put on an opera based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
- Limited Wardrobe: Shari and Lamb Chop are the only ones who subvert this. Justified with Takeout and Cookie, whose respective signature outfits are essentially their work clothes.
- Local Hangout: Naturally, the Music Pizza is this for Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy, and Charlie Horse. Lots of other kids drop in, too.
- Mysterious Past: The former owner of the restaurant, who sold pies, returns out of the clear blue, and even says that he and Junior go way back, though Junior clearly holds contempt for the man, though he never says or explains why. It is implied, however, that Junior worked for him before Shari bought the restaurant and turned it into the Music Pizza.
- Nice Hat: Junior's backwards red ball cap, Cookie's bright yellow chef's hat, and Lamb Chop's little collection of various different beach and summer hats.
- People in Rubber Suits: Takeout is a full-bodied costume character, but also doubles as Serkis Folk.
- Saving the Music Pizza: In "Whistle While You Work", the gang learns that Shari plans on selling the Music Pizza to the owner of a chain of t-shirt shops, and that it's mainly because she feels her kids are too young to accept the responsiblity involved in helping her run the restaurant.
- Short-Runner: Ran for only 23 episodes, with the second season only lasting 3 episodes.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Played with with the above mentioned cool grandfather, as Charlie Horse has difficulty practicing his harmonica, but then receives an extra little pep-lesson from the grandfather via thought bubble. The grandfather in the thought bubble even corrects him whenever he makes a mistake.
- Team Mom: Shari is Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy, and Charlie Horse's mother (she even refers to them as her kids), though she also serves as the overall mother figure on the show.
- That Reminds Me of a Song: Given that this is a musical series, this trope is pretty much utilized every episode, and often multiple times.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: In "Charlie's Ants", Cookie's father is coming to visit, which intimidates him, because his father was always overbearing on him (it's even suggested that he was The Unfavorite to his brother, Sal). Cookie also mentions to Shari that his father always told him he was never ready to go out on his own and become a chef. During the visit, Cookie learns that the real reason his father kept discouraging him from going out on his own was because he actually was the favorite and he didn't want him to leave home.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Cookie goes berserk over bugs, especially ants. In fact, in "Charlie's Ants", the kitchen suddenly has an ant infestation (so bad that ants are crawling all over the sweet pie Cookie baked for his father's visit), and the blame falls on Charlie Horse, because of his new antfarm, though he insists they're not his ants in the kitchen.
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Dom DeLuise appeared as himself in the Lamb Chop Passover special, where he catered for Shari and her family (as well as Robert Guillaume, Alan Thicke, and about half a dozen other fifth graders).