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Series / The Letter People

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"Come and meet the Letter People.
Come and visit the family.
Words are made of Letter People
A B C D, follow me!"
The Letter People Theme Song

First produced in 1972, The Letter People was an Edutainment Show created by the St. Louis PBS station KETC and was based on a phonics program for children that featured a cast of anthropomorphic letters. Using primitive puppets and simplistic backdrops, interspersed with Non Sequitur animated sequences, each episode would either introduce a Letter Boy or Letter Girl, or explore a new phonetic principle, such as "silent e" or the "ing" sound. Every Letter Person had his or her own special sound, demonstrated by their outfits and Mad Libs Catch Phrases. Living alongside the Letter People were the other denizens of Letter People Land, ranging from the Purple Peekaboo Palooklas to Game Show Host Monty Swell, who hosted the Show Within a Show, "The Catching Game", in which contestants sounded out words and won prizes that relate to them.

Soon after its premiere, the show began to gain popularity and spread to other PBS stations via syndication. Its popularity largely grew from the fact that, despite being based on the rather mundane topic of phonics, all of the characters have rather distinct personalities (Large Ham: Mister G, Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Miss O, The Cape: Mister S). Also, even with the show's simplistic nature, a number of the Letter People went through a good deal of Character Development and found themselves involved in a number of wacky hijinks. And according to The Other Wiki, the show has aired almost constantly since its premiere.

The complete series is now available on YouTube.

The Letter People's sounds are:

Miss A Achoo Mister N Noisy Nose
Mister B Beautiful Buttons Miss O Obstinate
Mister C Cotton Candy Mister P Pointy Patches
Mister D Delicious Donuts Mister Q Quiet
Miss E Exercise Mister R Ripping Rubberbands
Mister F Funny Feet Mister S Super Socks
Mister G Gooey Gum Mister T Tall Teeth
Mister H Horrible Hair Miss U Upsy-Daisy Umbrella
Miss I Itchy Itches Mister V Violet Velvet Vest
Mister J Jumbled Junk Mister W Wonderful Wink
Mister K Kicking Mister X MiXed Up
Mister L Lemon Lollipops Mister Y Yawning
Mister M Munching Mouth Mister Z Zipping Zippers

The Letter People provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Miss E's name refers to Exercise, and she's stated to be one of the strongest Letter People alongside Flying Brick Mister S.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Most of the Letter People tend to use words that start with their sound.
  • Alien Abduction: Mister R and the Letter Girls are kidnapped by Empress Mung of the planet Snickers in order to make use of her Divided Catching Clue Box.
  • Alliterative Name: Charlie McChoo, and his engine, the Chewy Cherry Choo-Choo
    • The Thing
    • And lots of others
  • All Just a Dream: Miss U's experience with the Unforgettable Underground Uglies. Or Was It a Dream?
  • All Your Powers Combined: The Letter People combine their sounds to make words.
  • Animated Actor: A variation. Puppets would be reused as different characters, each one wearing a different outfit.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The show's opening was an animated sequence of kids and a dog skipping through the archway to Letter People Land.
  • Art Shift: Again, a variation. The initial few episodes had very simple sets with largely black backgrounds. Then, there was a very sudden change to the sets, which came to include buildings, street signs, roads, and landscapes.
  • Ascended Extra: A number of throwaway characters from the initial, introductory episodes reappeared later in the series in more story-focussed episodes.
    • Detective Nardo, for instance.
  • Berserk Button: Do NOT add anything to Mister V's velvet vest, such as pointy patches, beautiful buttons, or zipping zippers.
  • Blessed with Suck: Mister N's nose goes crazy when he hears a word that starts with his sound.
    • In the Classroom version, poor Mister N's nose goes crazy anyhow and he couldn't always control it. There was even a sympathetic story about how insecure he was because of his Noisy Nose and how he felt like he didn't fit in with anyone.
    • Miss I has an invisible Fairy Companion, Itchy Itch, who tickles her when she hears a word that starts with her sound.
      • In the Classroom version, she still loves her companion anyway.
    • Mister X's letter makes whatever it's put on to go "all wrong." At least until he gets a sound.
  • Big Eater: If it's not enough that Mister M's sound is "Munching Mouth", his song cements his status this way as he lists foods starting with M that he loves to eat. And if that's still not enough, his introductory episode had him at a market, eating foods beginning with M, making a mess.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: All the Letter Girls are largely human in form, while most of the Letter Boys have much more bizarre forms.
    • Mister T is essentially an orange rectangle with an enormous mouth.
    • Mister F has gigantic feet.
    • Mister N has a multi-colored trunk that makes random noises.
    • Mister X is the most ordinary-looking of the lot. He can't even get wrongness right!
  • Blithe Spirit: The Runaway Words. They don't want to follow the rules, but still want to recognized as words.
    • Examples: To, Are, Cold, World, Great, etc.
      • In later episodes, they would become a Running Gag.
  • Breakout Character: Miss O, to a degree. The sheer number of sounds that the letter O produces meant she was the star of a disproportionate number of episodes. In a number of later episodes, she was often thrown into the background in crowd scenes and such.
    Miss O: I beg your pardon! It's the letter O, and I'm Miss O. And my sound is the same sound that starts Obstinate. I also have my long sound as in the word "go". Mr. R and I make the "or" sound together. Miss I and I make the "oi" sound together as in "coin." And I make the "oy" sound in the word "joy." Oh, and then of course, we all know that Miss U and I make the "ou" sound as in the word "shout." And I also make the "ow" sound with Mr. W as in "town," and the long o sound with Mr. W as in "show." And wow, I make two sounds with myself. The long double o "oo" sound as in the word "pool," and the short double o "oo" sound as in "look". Oh, my goodness, I'm so proud of myself!
  • Camp Straight: Mister B and Mister D have high-pitched, campy voices, but never show romantic interest in other male characters.
  • Catchphrase
    • Mister B - "Boy oh boy!"
    • Mister H - "Hubba hubba! Hey, hey, hey!"
    • Mister S - "Darn my socks!"
    • Mister Z - "Zowey!"
    • Monty Swell - "Goodbye everyone, and kissy-kissy!"
  • The Cape: Mister S is a Flying Brick superhero.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: "News flash! Dolly the Dancing Dragon disappeared yesterday..."
    • Lampshaded in a later episode where the radio actually responds to Mister J's questions.
  • Collector of the Strange: Mister J. He owns a junkyard.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Whenever the Letter People decide to play the Catching Game, the exact Letter People needed for the word they want to make are always present.
  • Circus of Fear: Not so much the circus, but the funhouse nearly scares Miss A, Miss U, and Mister W to death.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mister H
    Mister H: "You know, Miss O, I think you should sing tenor."
    Miss O: "Tenor?"
    Mister H: "Ten or twelve blocks away!"
  • Demoted to Extra: Unfortunately, possibly due to budget from the TV show, not all off the Letter People got to be seen much and few such as Mister Z and Mister V were Put on a Bus. In the Classroom version, they appeared more and you were allowed to use a Letter Person or more into a story or lesson as much as you desired. The same happened with the Word Machine. In the TV Show, he only appeared in one episode and was invented by Professor Foghorn. In the classroom version, we don't really know where the Word Machine came from, but he appeared more then just one story and he needed the Letter People to help him make words rather then just simple letters like in the TV show. Plus, a lot of the Letter People got involved in the Runaway words mishap then just Miss O.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Frequently
  • Distracted by the Shiny: Mister T gets his toothache fixed while he's trying to listen for his sound.
  • Disco Dan: Frantic Freddie. When the series was first made (in the 1970s), he probably wasn't intended to be this, but he comes off this way to some modern viewers.
  • Easily Forgiven: Most of the villains get off pretty lightly. Once they're thwarted, they pledge to change their ways, and the Letter People usually find somewhere in Letter People Land that their talents would be useful.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Mister T. He has huge teeth and a Texan accent.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Empress Mung of the Planet Snickers. She borders on Laughing Mad. Constantly.
  • Food Porn: You'll probably be craving donuts after listening to Mr. D's song.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • The two-part episode that introduced syllables centers around a new character, Chopper, and makes almost no mention of the actual Letter People.
    • The last episode (of 60) in the series barely featured the Letter People. It was about the characters playing a baseball game but focused entirely on the announcers in the booth.
  • Genius Bruiser: Miss E is super strong, writes songs, and is an excellent piano player.
  • Genius Ditz: Professor Foghorn, inventor of the Word Machine. He constantly forgets even the simplest things and his favorite food is bologna and jelly sandwiches.
    • Also Miss I in the classroom version, even though she was girly and silly, she was still intelligent, imaginative and creative.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Miss A, Miss E, Miss O in the Classroom version. Miss U in the TV Show version. Also Yolinda and Cindy.
  • Grand Finale: "Sentences, Part 2." Although there's nothing to overtly indicate it's a finale the ending song features a fair chunk of the cast parading by the camera and Monty Swell saying goodbye.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Captain Zemo is actually an anthropomorphic boar, and has a habit of falling asleep at the drop of a hat. Even when he's on stage, playing a villain in a melodrama!
  • "I Am" Song: Each Letter Person has one.
    • Also the Word Machine and 'The Thing'(from the books)in the TV version.
  • The Igor: Mister Q's assistant, Bottomsly Ups-Down.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The monks that train Chopper to break words into parts are called the Order of the Silly Bull. Get it? Syllable, silly bull?
    His name has just been spoken,
    So words must now be broken!
    No time! No time to explain in full!
    Watch out! Watch out, for the Silly Bull!
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Miss O's sound is "Obstinate", and she can be a prima donna at times, but she ultimately means well.
  • Large Ham: Mister G and Mister H both have very hammy introductory songs.
  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: "I'm Mister/Miss [letter], and my sound is the same sound that starts '[namesake phrase]'."
  • Mistaken for Subculture: The Letter People are mistaken for a rock band when they pitch the idea for "The Catching Game."
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Mister M, Mister T, Miss A
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Mister Q, who can build a machine capable of producing objects and cured Miss O after she lost her voice.
  • One-Letter Name: Obviously—each letter person's name is Mr./Ms. and then a letter.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The Thing is, for all appearances, a ghost, but it's actually some ill-defined creature that haunts an old theater. It also has two sounds.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Dolly the Dragon managed to disguise herself as a daisy and a Dalmatian.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: This seems to fit Miss U cause she has her Umbrella and is pretty, graceful, feminine, polite and innocent.
  • Parental Bonus: More than you'd expect. Mr. T sings Johnny Cash, and Miss I tells Detective Nardo, "You know how to stop an itch, don't you, Nardo? You just spread your fingers apart and... scratch."
  • Political Overcorrectness: The current version of the Letter People program. Not only have the genders of the characters been changed to make half of the letters boys and the other half girls, but a lot of the traits of the characters have been changed to be happier or more positive. For example, Mr. H's Horrible Hair is now Happy Hair, Mr. J and his junk have been swapped for Miss J and her Jingle Jacket, and don't even count on Mr. D having Delicious Doughnuts anymore since he now does Dazzling Dances. Mr. X gets it the worst—his namesake phrase no longer includes his letter!
  • Power of Friendship: Solves a lot of problems.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Rather than introduce the letters in alphabetical order, the show introduced those that had the most potential to appear in single syllable words (M, T, F, N, H, B, A). They then introduced word building (The Catching Game) and built both of them up simultaneously.
    • That's how many kindergarden handbooks for teaching to read are constructed.
      • The classroom version started out like that too.
  • Private Detective: Detective Nardo isn't part of the police force, as at one point in the series, he takes a job as a night watchman in a museum.
  • Quarter Hour Short: All 60 episodes of the 1970s series ran for roughly 15 minutes each.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Mister V has the accent, behaves very courteously, and is well-dressed in his Violet Velvet Vest.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Surprisingly Averted in a number of places, but played straight in others.
  • Rule of Three: Look carefully at the sets. Whenever there is three of something (trees, arches, etc.), those three things will probably be used as Clue Boxes for playing a Catching Game at some point in the episode.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Miss I. She has sass, but is much more mellow than most examples.
  • Say My Name: The Letter Girls' (the vowels) long sounds are their names.
  • Shout-Out: Whenever a Runaway Word shows up, it shouts, "Hi-ho Silver, away!" as it runs away.
  • Show Within a Show
    • The Catching Game
      • The game was played two ways. Contestants would sound out words and call out the corresponding Letter People to stand in the Clue Boxes (Starting, Catching, and Ending). Then, the Letter People would make their sounds "catch" to create the word.
      • Or, the letter people would already be in the Clue Boxes, and the contestants would have to figure out what word they were spelling by sounding it out.
    • Frantic Freddie's Rocking, Hopping, Dancing Party
  • Shrinking Violet: Mr. X is a rare male example of this; being very shy around the other letter people due to his X causing everything to go all wrong. He comes out of his shell a bit once Mr. K and Mr. S let him borrow their sounds, which cancels his "all wrong" effect.
  • Smurfette Principle: Only the vowels are girls, resulting in five Letter Girls and 21 Letter Boys.
    • Averted with most of the minor characters, as there seem to be roughly even numbers of both genders.
      • In the classroom version, they made only the girls vowels to show that they can't spell out most words without a Letter "Girl".
      • This has been changed has far as the current modern incarnation of the Letter People are concerned; see Political Overcorrectness above.
  • Supreme Chef: Mr. D and his Delicious Donuts.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Mr. J's introductory episode had a police officer named Jasper Jabberwocky who was tasked by a judge to evict Mr. J from his junkyard. Officer Jabberwocky even admitted he didn't want to do the eviction, but had to uphold the law and do his job. Fortunately Mr. J was able to convince the judge of the value of his junkyard to the community and change her mind.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: No one ever interrupts the Letter People when they talk about their sounds and words that start with them.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Most characters would sing a song about their sound or their characteristic in their first appearance. For instance, Mister S sang about his "Super Socks."
  • Title Theme Tune
  • Uncommon Time: "Mrs. E" has a few bars in 5/4, while "Mr. J" is in 7/4 (which shows up more often in the European folk it's based off of)
  • The Voice: Tom Bargo, who is apparently the announcer to every TV show in Letter People Land
  • The Voiceless: Mister Q was this until Miss U stood next to him.
  • Weirdness Magnet: The Letter People seem prone to meeting unusual people.
    Mister H: "Psst, how do we find these guys?"
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Mister H is always scared of Squoosh Boxes. They're sharp and pointy!
    • In the classroom version, he's scared of all things sharp and pointy because they hurt and you can get cuts. And he thinks the same applies for his hair, which is why he never gets a haircut.
  • Zeerust: The Word Machine, which makes words, was meant to be a rather advanced computer (It talks!), but it's covered in glowing windows and lights, while making a lot of boops and beeps.