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Series / Wishbone

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What's the story, Wishbone?

A PBS series from the mid-late 1990's in which Wishbone, a well-read Jack Russell Terrier, would dream and imagine himself as the hero of various stories and novels.

Wishbone was a real dog whose thoughts were expressed as a running voice-over, while all of the other characters in the stories being dramatized are humans. For instance, kids would get to see an otherwise dead-serious dramatization of Pride and Prejudice in which Mr. Darcy is a cute little dog in a suit and everyone else is human. And everyone acts as if the fact that Mr. Darcy is a talking dog is absolutely nothing at all out of the ordinary. Then again said dog is the one re-telling the stories and placing himself as certain characters.

In between the story-telling, there was typically a scenario in the real world that would mirror the events of the story, usually involving Wishbone's owner Joe and his friends David and Samantha. Sometimes, Joe's mother Ellen and their next-door neighbor/gardener/historical society member Wanda get involved, as well as other residents of their generic suburban settlement of Oakdale, Texas. Whether it is supposed to be the real Oakdale is unknown.


The series ran for 50 episodes from October 1995 to December 1997. In 1998, the TV movie, Wishbone's Dog Days of the West was released.

    Full list of stories adapted by the series 

Several book tie-in series were made, including:

  • The Adventures of Wishbone - a series in the parallel-plots style of the show, including adaptations of some of the actual episodes.
  • The Super Adventures of Wishbone - double-length books in the style of The Adventures of Wishbone.
  • Wishbone Classics - a series which omitted the Joe et. al. plots in favor of less compressed adaptations. It was the first of the tie-in novels series to be released, noticeably due to not being under the "Big Red Chair Books" label.
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  • Wishbone Mysteries - mysteries involving Wishbone, Joe, and his friends, removing the classic story, but including sub-plots in which Joe, and occasionally Sam or David, would read a mystery story related to the plot.
  • Wishbone Super Mysteries - double-length books in the style of Wishbone Mysteries.
  • Wishbone: The Early Years - a Spin-Off Babies series about Wishbone as a puppy, in smaller stories such as Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc., and were for younger readers.

Tropes in this series include:

  • Abridged for Children: The show and the Adventures of Wishbone books are the more familiar version, with modern-day scenes interspersed with the abridged literature with one of the characters being played by a dog. Wishbone Classics was just the abridged novel with occasional commentary from Wishbone from the sides; some of that was also summaries of skipped scenes.
  • Academic Alpha Bitch: Sam's rival Amanda. She spends most of one episode gloating over how her team is going to win the class spelling bee.
  • Academic Athlete: Samantha “Sam” Kepler participates in every sport her male friends do and is picked for her class team captain spelling bee because she's always reading.
  • The Ace:
    • Sam is a skilled athlete and a well-read student.
    • Joe's father seemed to be this in life, to the point that a grieving Joe decides he's sick of learning about his dad's story because of the jealousy that mixes in with his pain.
    • Sam's rival Amanda is set up as this in the Ivanhoe episode.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Sometimes it happens to the main cast, though it never persists:
    • Joe when running a grocery-delivery business and using Sam and David as his (unpaid) employees because he believes in The Chains of Commanding rather than working as a team. Eventually they leave when Sam gets injured racing with David and Joe yells at her for the waste of groceries that she spills on the pavement. His mother lampshades it when Joe tries to look up "friendship" in business handbooks.
    • One aversion was Wishbone winning the part for Mr. MacPooch, but justified in that Wishbone wanted to Be Yourself and only did his best at the audition to show off and make Joe happy. He chokes his performance during filming because of the costume he's wearing and his "voice actor".
    • Joe has another spell of this when some cool kids see his jump shots and invite him to hang out with them, albeit in the You, Get Me Coffee situation. He ends up ignoring Wishbone, Robin, Sam, and David.
    • David when working with Wanda's cousin, an artist, and adopting her arrogant attitude briefly. He grows out of it when the artist leaves town without building the statue she was commissioned to do, and Wanda does it instead.
    • In the mystery novel Stage Invader, Crystal, the star of the show, reveals that she had attained this, pulling the potentially dangerous pranks to "liven up rehearsals". Director Justin replaces her with Amanda and reports Crystal to the principal.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Some of Wishbone's fictional avatars, diverting from the original source material:
    • Aeneas is more honest with Dido about why he has to leave her in Carthage, in that the Gods have sent him a message to depart and he would stay if he could. Aeneas was more of a Jerkass about it in the original source material, which led to Dido's suicide.
    • King Midas begs the gods to take away his golden touch long before he accidentally turns his wife and daughter into gold.
    • Ichabod Crane does not appear to have any interest in inheriting Katrina's fortune through marriage.
    • Odysseus on-screen at least doesn't submit to Calypso's forceful advances, is much less arrogant when Poseidon confronts him and he chases away the suitors with slapstick combat rather than brutally slaughtering them and the maids that betrayed his wife to them.
    • Romeo doesn't kill Juliet's cousin Tybalt on-screen (justified as that killing was) or her fiance Paris.
    • Quasimodo is framed for kidnapping Esmeralda rather than actually doing the deed.
    • Cyrano de Bergerac is still a Deadpan Snarker but not an Honor Before Reason Starving Artist. He agrees to help Christian woo Roxanne because he wants Roxanne to be happy, and doesn't confess on his deathbed.
  • Adaptation Species Change: In "King Midas", Silenus is changed from being a satyr to being a human.
  • Adult Fear: Let's see. There's the confrontation with that grave digger, the time the main trio got locked in that condemned barn, the incident with the new kid falling in with a local thief and nearly dragging Joe along for the ride, the incidents involving David in the mystery books mentioned below under Nightmare Fuel...Wow; even in the 90s, PBS was kinda scary.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: Invoked in a Wishbone Mysteries book involving a UFO sighting in Oakdale. Trying to unmask a hoaxer pretending to be an alien over IRC, David asks him what his favorite human TV show was in an attempt to catch him violating the speed of light. The hoaxer doesn't fall for it; he responds with I Love Lucy.
  • Allegory Adventure: The fulcrum of the series is Wishbone's penchant for comparing events in his life to classic literature and early theater.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Sam Kepler loves horses. One episode centers on her finding an alleged lucky horseshoe in an abandoned barn. She also has a treasured glass unicorn.
  • Ancient Grome: Averted in the episodes based off Classical Mythology — "The Odyssey", "King Midas", "Hercules and the Golden Apples", and "The Aeneid". Whether a deity is called by their Greek or Roman name depends on the myth and its source. The only exception is the tale of "Hercules and the Golden Apples", will the title character is using his Roman name in a Greek setting (although since every adaptation of Hercules does pretty much the same thing, this can be forgiven).
  • And the Adventure Continues: Wishbone's version of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer ends this way: "This is where the story of Tom Sawyer leaves off. It doesn't really end. It just stops for a while until the next story begins." And before you ask, the show did not adapt Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, unless you count a spin-off book.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: David's little sister Emily. In some episodes, she has a partner-in-crime named Tina.
  • As You Know: In the episode based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frollo's first appearance has him helpfully explaining his identity to Quasimodo. He starts with the words, "You know who I am." It's framed as him angrily berating Quasimodo for leaving the cathedral and becoming the King of Fools at a local festival.
  • Black Best Friend: David. Robin is the female version, though she shows up less often.
  • Bloodless Carnage: This happens any time the "literature" half of a plot involves combat. Justified in that one, Wishbone is a kids' show and two, half the time the "person" doing the fighting is a dog.
    • Averted slightly with the Red Badge of Courage episode, wherein Wishbone plays protagonist Henry Fleming. He's said to get grazed with a bullet; what we see is a bandage with a red smear.
    • Also somewhat averted in the Joan of Arc episode when Joan takes an arrow to the shoulder. There's no blood but she is clearly in great pain.
  • Bowdlerize: Generally averted, with the exception of Don Quixote. The show was pretty good about keeping sad endings in books that had them. There were exceptions, though:
    • The show's ending to Cyrano de Bergerac was significantly more cheerful than in the original work. When Cyrano confesses that he wrote the letters under Christian's name, he was dying in the original; here, Roxanne and Cyrano are alive and well, if much older, and Roxanne is the one who figures it out.
    • They sometimes made endings seem nicer by omission — that is, ending it at the point of the Snicket Warning Label. For example, their version of Frankenstein ends with Dr. Frankenstein ill in bed and the monster promising to go away and never hurt anyone. What they leave out is the part following this in which Frankenstein does indeed die as well as the fact that the monster was planning to kill himself when he went away.
    • They didn't show the beheadings in A Tale of Two Cities, but they did show a cabbage being cut in half by the guillotine, with several of the characters in the background staring at it in horror.
    • In the Tom Sawyer episode, the character Injun Joe is given the less offensive name "Crazy Joe."
    • In the Time Machine episode, Weena is explicitly Spared by the Adaptation. But hey, every movie adaptation of the novel does the same anyway. And the Wishbone version may be the only screen version in which she doesn't get Promoted to Love Interest (Weena used to the Trope Namer for that, actually).
    • They ended the Oliver Twist episode right at the point where Mr. Brownlow takes in Oliver, implying Oliver was Happily Adopted. In the actual book, it's much more complicated than that.
    • For The Count of Monte Cristo, Fernand isn't Driven to Suicide by his reputation being slandered.
    • In the Journey to the West episode, Sun Wukong leaves a paw-print on the Buddha's finger instead of urinating on his finger, as he did in the original story.
    • The Aeneid episode omits Dido's suicide, only showing Aeneas leaving her behind in Carthage.
    • In The Odyssey, Odysseus and his son expel the suitors with a slapstick fight rather than killing them.
      • In their computer game adaptation of the above story, instead of actually blinding Polyphemus by stabbing his eye out, Odysseus merely puts a blanket over his head, covering his eye (though Polyphemus still screams in pain).
      • In the game's climax, Odysseus proving his identity is enough to make the suitors run away immediately, and he doesn't have to fight them at all.
    • In the Faust episode, it is not explained why Gretchen ended up dying in a dungeon. In the original play, Faust got her pregnant out of wedlock and she was sentenced to death for committing infanticide.
    • For The Hunchback of Notre Dame, they end with Quasimodo rescuing Esmeralda and this is portrayed as a simple happy ending. No one dies, not even Frollo. Also, the novel's religious themes are dropped entirely. In fact, there is no reference to religion whatsoever, which is pretty remarkable for a story centered on a cathedral.
  • Burn the Witch!: What happens to Joan of Arc, though the episode leaves out the witchcraft part. They DO say she received an unfair trial after the English captured her.
  • Catchphrase: "Hellooo!" and "Whoocha!"
  • Clip Show: Wanda brings over a dog to keep Wishbone company in the season 1 finale "Picks of the Litter", and Wishbone recounts to the dog all his previous imaginary adventures.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Obviously, Door Stoppers are brought down to be half of a thirty-minute show. As such, they are usually reduced to their Signature Scenes. However, the fact that they do not add anything, just compress the original plot, hilariously makes the Wishbone adaptations some of the most faithful ones ever.
    • This review of the The Phantom of the Opera episode, by The Phantom Reviewer, is mostly negative, but the reviewer can't help but be amazed that it's probably more faithful to the original novel than any other screen version of the story.
    • The Oliver Twist episode is perhaps the most compressed as a lot more time was spent on the contemporary story than usual. The Artful Dodger becomes a Composite Character of every underworld character in the novel. Nope, not even Fagin gets mentioned. It ends with Mr. Brownlow taking in Oliver, with this portrayed as Happily Ever After.
    • The episode about The Count of Monte Cristo spends a bit too much time on the story's setup, forcing Danglars and Caderrouse to become a case of What Happened to the Mouse? as Dantes' revenge is directed entirely against Fernand. This is even after removing Villefort entirely.
    • The Odyssey is reduced to just three events: Odysseus leaving Calypso's island, the storm sent by Poseidon, and the battle with the suitors. At the end, Odysseus does refer to the cyclops as one of the dangers he faced, but that's just a brief in-passing reference.
      • Amazingly averted in an official spin-off computer game, telling the story of The Odyssey nearly from beginning to end (editing only to remove the sexy parts).
    • The Hercules episode only covers one of the twelve labors, the one with the golden apples. King Eurystheus makes a passing reference to the previous labor (the one with Geryon's cattle), but we see nothing of it.
    • A Tale of Two Cities is divided into three "books". The Wishbone version, naturally, focuses almost entirely on "Book the Third: The Track of a Storm", which contains the most iconic parts of the story. Ernest Defarge and the Vengeance are Adapted Out, effectively making Madame Defarge a Composite Character of all the revolutionary characters. Well, maybe. After Darnay is sentenced to the guillotine, Madame Defarge is seen sharing a hug with an unnamed male revolutionary, so it's possible he's meant to be Ernest. Dr. Manette is only identified as Lucie's father with no mention made of his imprisonment in the Bastille, leaving him so Demoted to Extra that there appears to be no reason he's still in the story at all.
    • The Hunchback of Notre Dame is simplified to the point where Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and Frollo are the only named characters. There's a passing reference to "Esmeralda's boyfriend," but he's neither shown nor named.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Wanda in the Robinson Crusoe adaptation. During a pretty much town wide blackout, she makes do with what she has, resulting in sandwiches that are peanut butter/sardine (which Joe tastes but doesn't finish) and egg salad/mint jelly. No one besides Wishbone is interested, including Wanda but she tries to make the best of things.
  • Cuteness Proximity: In Stage Invader, everyone's reaction to Ryan's puppy Jinx. Except Wishbone, though justified in that Wishbone is a dog and Jinx stole his squeaky toy.
  • Darker and Edgier: Believe it or not, the series sendoff Dogs Days of the Wild West reveals some pretty seedy parts of Oakdale's past, namely how Wanda Gilmore inherited parts of Oakdale through back alley deals and horsetrading. And also features a decent shootout, despite the dog not being able to hold a gun.
  • Deadly Prank: Averted in the mystery novel Stage Invader; while the pranks that occur during the Grease rehearsals, like David's sign getting lit up and Robin's skates getting sabotaged, are dangerous, no one gets hurt. Even so, everyone calls out Crystal when she has to confess to it because while no one got hurt, only one injury would have gotten the show cancelled. Also Crystal slipping on a scarf was the only genuine accident, since Ryan's puppy Jinx stole the scarf and left it on the stage. They do mention that Robin's skates could have gotten her badly hurt and that the only reason she didn't get injured is because Wishbone, sensing something was up, barked loudly, causing her to lose her balance harmlessly on the stage instead of shooting off it because she couldn't turn.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Wishbone, though none of the humans can understand him. Kind of like Garfield.
  • Demythtification: The Joan of Arc episode pretty much drops the religious aspect entirely in favor of focusing on her desire to bring freedom to France. It does include the scene where she picks the dauphin (referred to in the episode as "the king") out of a crowd, but the episode only vaguely hints at a supernatural explanation for it.
  • Detective Animal: Wishbone has played the role of Sherlock Holmes in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "A Scandal in Bohemia", and C. Auguste Dupin in "The Purloined Letter".
  • Disappeared Dad: Joe's father died of a rare blood disease when Joe himself was six.
    • Missing Mom: Sam's parents are divorced, and she lives with her father. It's mentioned she visits her mother, but she's never shown. David's the only one of the main kids with an intact family.
      • And despite this near perfect set up, Joe's mother and Sam's father never actually hook up.
      • Possibly because the writers wanted to throw in some hints that Joe and Sam may like each other, and wanted to avoid the setup so it wouldn't become incest(?).
  • Disneyfication: Noticeably averted for the most part, though most of the stories are shortened at times, usually only to fit the 30-minute time frame.
  • Divine Chessboard: In "The Aenied" the Gods use a diorama of the Mediterranean to decide the fate of mortals. Jupiter and Venus use it to help and guide Aeneas to his destiny; Juno uses it to make his and the lives of his fellow Trojans as miserable as possible.
  • Easter Egg: On the cover of The Wishbone Mysteries #3: Riddle of the Wayward Books, there are two copies of Riddle of the Wayward Books itself. And one of The Adventures of Wishbone #2: Salty Dog.
  • Edible Bludgeon: In the Odyssey episode, Odysseus's son uses a large ham as a club while driving the freeloading suitors out of Odysseus's home.
  • El Spanish "-o": In the book "Wishbone Classics #1: Don Quixote'', one of Wishbone's interjections is to explain the meaning of the name "Don Quixote", and remarks to himself "Hmm... Don Wishbono. Not bad." In the epilogue, he refers to himself as "Don Wishbono" again.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: In the last episode, Joe's Mom, David's parents and Wanda reminisce about their high school years. They mention that Damont's Dad went to high school with them too.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Wishbone can always sense when something isn't right; part of the reason he gets in trouble when a stray bloodhound terrorizes the neighborhood is that he's chasing the dog and is right behind it. In Stage Invader, he hears Robin's skate squeaking while she's rehearsing and starts barking in alarm. It turns out her skates were sabotaged so she was out of control. The barking causes Robin to fall onstage, but she says that if he hadn't, she would have rolled offstage and broken something the way Crystal sprained her ankle. He also finds the bleacher that Crystal has sabotaged, just in time for Sam, David and Joe to find it.
  • Expy: Some of the one-off characters that appear in reality are clearly influenced by characters from the novel. For instance in Twisted Tail, Max is clearly based on Oliver as a hungry orphan growing up in an institution where he is mistreated. Zach is clearly the Artful Dodger, being a False Friend to Max whose crimes are blamed on the latter.
  • Fade to Black: Usually in the middle of an episode, unusual for a PBS series as they don't have commercials in between episodes and the show didn't have any short that aired in between like Arthur or Clifford the Big Red Dog. This could have been made if the show was considered for syndication, which never occurred (or for international broadcasts)
  • Flyover Country: Averted. The series takes place in Texas, several of the lead characters have noticeable East Texas accents, and there's a gratifying lack of goofy stereotypes.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Sam and Damont have some of this.
  • For Want of a Nail: In one of the mystery books, Joe and Sam become worried when David doesn't turn up for a study group and leaves no message as to why he isn't coming. After they find David (he was locked in a equipment shed near town; long story), they ask why he didn't leave a message and he very confusedly responds that he did. The humans dismiss it as a coincidence but Wishbone realizes that earlier he had knocked over the answering machine at the Talbots' and erased the message by accident. Wishbone at first considers admitting this and apologizing but then realizes that if the message HADN'T been erased, David would have been trapped even longer than he was. And since the story was set as fall changes into winter...
  • Furry Confusion: In the Rip Van Winkle episode, Wishbone as Rip has interactions with non-anthropomorphic dogs.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Not a cartoon, but only Wishbone's top half is dressed when he appears costumed.
    • Averted in "A Tale in Twain" where Wishbone is fully dressed in Tom's clothes and there are probably other examples.
  • Headless Horseman: "Halloween Hound: The Legend of Creepy Collars" (later renamed simply as, "Wishbone in: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Wishbone narrating the week's story tends to refer to the character he plays as "dashingly handsome" and such. It helps that he usually plays The Hero.
  • Heroic Dog: Wishbone.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard:
    • Damont uses David's snow machine to frame him for ruining Wanda's flowers. Then David returns the favor by filling the machine with food coloring instead of water, so that when Damont takes the Villain Ball and tries to frame him again, he gets covered in dye.
    • Crystal's final prank during the mystery novel Stage Invader involves her taking nails out of the bleachers where her understudy Amanda and Ryan are supposed to dance, which would cause Amanda and Ryan to fall. Wishbone discovers it as Sam discusses her theory that Crystal is the prankster. Sam to trap Crystal relates her suspicions to the play's director, Justin, who agrees that for that dress rehearsal to have Crystal do the dance with Ryan with the cover of seeing if her ankle's healed. Crystal has to admit that she took the nails out when she refuses to dance on the bleachers.
  • Hot for Teacher: In "The Pawloined Paper" Joe develops a crush on his young female history teacher. She finds out, but merely corrects his spelling on a crossword he made of her name.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: In one episode, when Wanda and Bob Prewett have cancelled a date so that Wanda can go see a mysterious Elvis impersonator and Mr. Prewett can be the impersonator, Wanda tells Ellen that she finds Bob Prewett "stuffy" and she wants to impress this King of Rock and Roll. Later on, when Bob confesses that he didn't tell her he was the impersonator because he was afraid she wouldn't like the boring him, Wanda laughs and tells him she likes him Just the Way You Are.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The theme song includes the lyric "Let's wag another tale."
  • It's All My Fault: Sam's thoughts on getting herself, Joe and David trapped in a condemned barn. She makes up for it by getting them all out during a fire with minimal injury (apparently only smoke inhalation since they're all fine in the next scene which is implied to be the next day).
  • It Amused Me: Crystal sheepishly admits that this is why in Stage Invader she started playing pranks for "livening up the rehearsals" since she was getting bored.
  • Jerkass Gods: Quite a few since many episodes were based of classic mythology
    • Poseidon sinks Odysseus's raft simply because he doesn't like him (in the original tale, Poseidon hates Odysseus for blinding his son).
    • In "Hercules and the Golden Apples" it's mentioned that Zeus chained up Prometheus for giving fire to mortals.
    • In "The Aeneid", Juno makes life miserable for the Trojans because she can. (Apparently left out is the fact that she hated all Trojans because of Paris's preferring Venus over Juno and Minerva, but especially hated this particular group of Trojans because their descendants were destined to destroy her favorite city of Carthage, which was still being built at the time the story took place.)
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In the mystery novel Stage Invader, Sam says that she agrees with Justin to take Crystal out of the performance, since Crystal with her pranks showed that she put her entertainment ahead of the play, while Crystal's understudy Amanda showed that for her showing off she put the play ahead of herself.
  • Jerk Jock:
    • Damont Jones, even when he and Joe are playing for the same team.
    • Though averted with Joe who's a jock too (they seem to have a similar amount of talent) but nice.
  • Kick the Morality Pet:
    • Joe in one episode where he's obsessed with a new bike ties Wishbone to a tree while testing it out since Wishbone can't keep up. Wishbone escapes to play with a Golden Retriever, leaving behind his tags in the process. Joe notably looks regretful while putting up "Lost Dog" signs the next day.
    • Wishbone as King Midas does this to his wife and daughter when he accidentally turns them into gold. He immediately goes into My God, What Have I Done? mode.
    • In another episode Joe does this to Wishbone, Sam, David and Robin when he hangs out with a bunch of cool kids. His mother even calls him out for this. Said kids make fun of Sam and David for doing homework at a pizza parlor, saying their birdsong recordings are "geek mating calls". Joe doesn't laugh, and the next day he ditches the "cool kids" to chase after Sam and David to apologize.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • In the Halloween episode, Sam asks where Wishbone's costume is. "A dog, wear a silly costume? I think not."
    • When Amanda gives the Wham Line mentioned below, Wishbone remarks "How's that for a Plot Twist?"
  • Literary Allusion Title/Pun-Based Title: Most episodes use a pun combining a reference to the book of the week and something to do with dogs, e.g. "The Pawloined Paper" for Edgar Allan Poe's "The Purloined Letter".
  • Local Hangout: Pepper Pete's, which is beloved by pretty much everyone in town. Unusually for this trope, it's owned by Sam's dad, making it her family business and many of the mysteries and even some of the normal books feature her working there while Joe and/or David drop in to talk to her.
  • Loophole Abuse: Subverted in the "Joan of Arc episode." Sam volunteers to play in Joe and David's soccer team since a rule says that as long as she's in the roster submitted a few days earlier she can play. Because she is a girl, and the one who ends up deciding the game, however, the opposing team contests their win and gets it reversed.
  • Lost in Imitation: Mostly averted. For example, the Wishbone version of Frankenstein follows the novel in portraying Frankenstein as a naive young student rather than a Mad Scientist and the monster does not have green skin, bolts in his neck, etc. Wishbone as Frankenstein still brings the creature to life by running electricity into a corpse, however.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Amanda, in that she isn't particularly malicious or destructive. In at least two episodes she gets along with Sam, David and Joe. In Stage Invader, when the trio discusses if Amanda could be the perpetrator behind the stage pranks, Sam points out that it doesn't benefit Amanda to sabotage the play since she's the understudy, thus having all the incentive for the show to go forward and that for all her showing off Amanda actually prioritized the play over her ego. She had a reason to get angry on hearing Crystal sabotaged hers and Ryan's bleachers for dancing, which could have gotten her injured.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Wanda falls for an Elvis impersonator who happens to be Bob Prewett.
  • Mood Whiplash: In "A Tail in Twain Part 1", the episode ends with Wishbone being discovered by a potentially dangerous man and Joe jumping out while yelling "Don't hurt my dog!"...and then comes the Earworm of closing credits. The next episode "A Tail in Twain Part 2" inverts this with the theme cutting to Wishbone and the kids running in fright from said potentially dangerous man.
  • Moral Guardians: They were even on this show's case. According to IMDB, the episode 'The Canine Cure' was banned from some syndication because it somehow encouraged the Aesop that kids should challenge authority figures, apparently ignoring the fact that the overprotectiveness of some parents that was portrayed in this episode is, in fact, Truth in Television.
  • The Movie: 'Wishbone's Dog Days of the West', the Grand Finale to the series when PBS didn't renew for another season.
  • Mr. Fanservice: A good amount of the female fanbase thought of Joe as this in season two.
    • Some would say that David counts as well in the same season.
  • Named by the Adaptation: In the "Purloined Letter" episode, Dupin's sidekick (unnamed in the original stories) is given the name Claude.
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: Invoked.
    • In the show itself, Wishbone shows he's a tough actor to work with, being a house dog who has never worn an outfit or having a voice actor. Joe realizes this more quickly than the director does and takes Wishbone home, though it means Wishbone is no longer the Mister MacPooch mascot.
    • The behind the scenes segments show that Wishbone's stunt dogs are highly trained for their tasks, like pretending to climb down ropes or to dodge arrows, to avoid this trope from happening.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • David taking his mother's new car out for a joyride despite being underage leads to him knocking off the reearview mirror.
    • Joe nearly ruins his friendship with David and Sam on two separate occasions, due to either his selfishness or unwillingness to speak up for his friends.
    • Interestingly there is an episode where this trope is both played straight and averted. Basically Sam insists on going into a condemned barn to look for a special horseshoe and the trio gets trapped inside. That would be the playing it straight. Later the barn catches on fire and Sam manages to get herself and the boys out with minimal injuries. She then proceeds to apologize to which the boys respond by pointing out that she saved their lives.
  • Nice Guy: The main trio. In fact, if any of them (usually Joe) avert this trope as part of a plot, it will always lead to a My God, What Have I Done? moment in the later half.
  • One of the Boys: Sam, natch.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Often in earlier episodes.
    • Occasionally done deliberately, as Wishbone will drop whatever accent he's adopted for his character to make a snarky comment.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Sam once persuades the boys to help her look for "Blackbeard's Horseshoe" inside a condemned barn.
  • Passionate Sports Girl: Sam participates in every sport her male friends do and would much rather be taking karate lessons than dance lessons.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: David brings a poem to class that he didn't write, that someone aka Wanda Gilmore left anonymously on his porch. He confesses when Mr. Prewett wants to publish the poem, though his only punishment is to write a new poem because Mr. Prewett is a Reasonable Authority Figure not bound by modern school rules.
  • Prima Donna Director: In the mystery novel Stage Invader, Justin is this. Sam briefly wonders if he would sabotage the play for it not being perfect enough.
  • Protagonist Title: Whishbone is the protagonist of the show.
  • Public Domain Stories: All of the stories adapted by Wishbone are, of course, conveniently out of copyright. The Phantom of the Opera, which was serialized in 1909 and 1910, is the newest work to receive a Wishbone adaptation.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: Pretty much the point of the show was to get kids to read these classics.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • In the "Treasure Island" episode, the main trio becomes trapped in a condemned barn. Partway through, David and Joe charge the door with intent to break it down...and bounce off with groans that are equal parts pain and frustration while the door remains unbudged.
    • When Wishbone wins the part of Mr. MacPooch, a mascot for a food brand, Never Work with Children or Animals is invoked in full force. He takes offense at having to wear a dress, and at having a voice actor and thus ignores the stage directions.
    • Max tries to take on Mitch after he was inspired by Joe's story about fighting bullies like Damont. He gets a black eye as a result and fails to stop Mitch from stealing Wanda Gilmore's last flamingo. It gets lampshaded when Joe tells Max that you shouldn't take on a bully and a thief alone, and that you need friends to help.
    • In Stage Invader, after Sam reveals that Crystal was behind most of the pranks and forces her to confess, Crystal apologizes and expects that she can still be Sandy in Grease. The director Justin tells Crystal that's not happening; he has her understudy Amanda take over the part permanently and is reporting her to the principal. As Sam puts it, Crystal endangered the cast with her pranks and showed she cared more about her entertainment than the show. She ends up having to serve detention for a week and to clean up the auditorium after the play's opening night.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: A mild case with Sam who seems to have this attitude about the ballroom dance lessons that led to the She Cleans Up Nicely moment below and the moment itself.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mr. Prewett. When David confesses that he didn't write the poem that Mr. Prewett wants to publish, he merely says "I'm Disappointed in You," tells him to write another poem, and allows David to recite it. He also listens to David's story that the latter found the original poem on his porch, and decides to track down the actual writer (Wanda Gilmore).
  • The Rival: Damont for Joe, particularly in basketball. One episode indicates that he's jealous of David too (for the attention he gets for his scientific accomplishments).
  • Running Gag: Wishbone really wants to get on that chair.
  • Satan: He's depicted in the Faust episode, and yes, they did one. He's mostly referred to as "Mephisto", but the Inadvertent Entrance Cue for his first appearance clearly identifies him as the Devil. Mephisto is portrayed as a man who dresses in Renaissance clothing (contemporary to Faust's time), speaks in a modulated voice, and controls fire.
  • The Smart Guy: David Barnes.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Sam gets a bit of this in the contemporary story to the "Oliver Twist" episode. She comes over to David's house after ballroom dance lessons dressed neatly in a white dress, short gloves and with her hair down. The boys are momentarily stunned and Joe tries to compliment her, but she quickly cuts him off.
    • She gets this again in a mystery book where the core trio, Ellen, Wishbone and the son of a friend of Ellen's end up on a role-playing mystery train; Sam is cast as a lovely young heiress and as such, spends a good portion of the book in the appropriate garb. She's in much better humor about it than she was about the above incident, likely because it is something she volunteered for and is for acting purposes.
  • Shout-Out: The Time Machine episode has a rather neat nod to the book crumbling scene from the 1960 film. Wishbone as the Time Traveler comes across The Collected Works of William Shakespeare (making this double as a Shout-Out to Shakespeare) and reads the famous "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" monologue from Macbeth, ending with the line "the way to dusty death." Then he touches the book and it collapses to dust.
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Wishbone tended to regard Wanda this way. Wanda was actually pretty friendly though and was just annoyed by having her neighbor's dog constantly wrecking her yard. Wishbone and Wanda came to terms somewhat in an episode where he actually ended up inside her house, but subsequent episodes followed this up with Aesop Amnesia since Status Quo Is God.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: One episode has Joe cutting all the sleeves off his shirts in an ill-considered attempt to join a group of "cool" kids. Wishbone asks "So, why don't we like sleeves anymore?"
  • Spit Take: Sam does a rather spectacular one in "Furst Impressions" after it is pointed out to Joe that his dress shirt is both on inside out and on backwards. Wishbone even comments "EW! It went up her nose!"
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: The musicians auditioning for King Saul, to help cure his headache. They subvert Giftedly Bad, but the horns, flutes and bass instruments are inappropriate for the soothing melody he wants. One duo nearly wins the audition, but their melody is a Broken Record that gets annoying after a while.
  • ¡Three Amigos!: Joe and his two best friends.
  • Tights Under Shorts: One of Sam's outfits in some episodes, including at the start of the episode "Salty Dog".
  • Title Sequence Replacement: In the third season, even though the theme song is kept.
  • Title Theme Tune: Come on, Wishbone! What's the story, Wishbone?
  • Token Trio: Joe and his two best friends (again).
  • Tomboyish Name: Sam.
  • Tragic Keepsake:
    • Joe has a basketball card from his dad. It gets stolen in one episode.
    • Sam has a glass unicorn that was the last gift she received from her parents before their divorce. She's notably (though subduedly) sad talking about it and horrified at the prospect of it being broken.
  • Traumatic Haircut: A variant; Joan of Arc starts her episode with long hair, and she seems to carry it with her into battle, under her helmet. When the English capture her and sentence her to death, however, her hair is noticeably shorter. The episode isn't clear as to whether or not the English themselves did the haircut, but the implications are there.
  • Travel Montage: In "Frankenbone", the Monster's rampage through Europe and into the Arctic includes shots of the camera panning across a map of eighteenth-century Europe.
  • The Trojan War: Two separate episodes have a story based around the Trojan War. One is the episode on The Odyssey and the other an episode on The Aeneid.
  • 2-for-1 Show: The episodes are equally split between "real life" in Oakdale, and Wishbone's book-based fantasies. The "The Adventures of Wishbone" books use the same format.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • Max telling his juvenile delinquent friend Mitch about Joe's valuables leads to the latter getting robbed. Max seems to realize this and tries to take on his friend alone, getting a black eye in the process.
    • Subverted when Wanda delivers a poem to David without signing it, which he brings to class as his homework assignment. Although David could have gotten in trouble for Plagiarism in Fiction when he confesses the truth, Mr. Prewett's desire to find the real author and the different values of the 90s allow David to only have to write another poem. Mr. Prewett and Wanda subsequently start to date.
  • Watch the Paint Job: David's father gives his mother a brand new convertible. David proceeds to test-drive it despite being underage and breaks off the side-view mirror while backing it out of the driveway.
  • Wham Line: In "A Doggoned Expose", when the trio confronts Amanda about the smear campaign against Sam, her response is one of these: (while handing Sam a smear flyer against her: "Why would I do this to myself?")
  • Wham Shot:
    • The singer that Wanda crushes on losing his Elvis wig, revealing him to be Bob Prewett.
    • A photograph reveals that Wishbone stole an athlete's ring. The full moon compels him to bury things, apparently.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Sam and David call out Joe for only caring about money when she gets injured working for Joe. Granted, it was partly Sam's fault for racing with a bike-cart full of groceries, but Joe had No Sympathy for her falling down and scraping her knee.
    • In the episode where the trio gets trapped in a condemned barn that catches fire, Sam gives herself one of these speeches because it was her fault for getting them in there in the first place. Joe and David's opinions on the other hand...
    Joe: (incredulous) Sorry? Sam, you rescued us!
    David: Yeah, you saved our lives in there!
    • Joe to Wishbone for taking an athlete's ring and burying it. Wishbone says, "I feel so guilty. And dirty."
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • Damont is astounded when Sam takes a humiiliating photo of him in revenge for him smearing her all over town with flyers; rather than "play his game," she gives him the negatives because she doesn't want to stoop to his level. Damont is startled enough to sincerely apologize.
    • Much as in the source material of Cyrano de Bergerac, Christian feels guilty when he realizes that Roxanne is in love with him for the letters Cyrano is writing under Christian's name. He tells Cyrano they need to tell Roxanne the truth, and he will after a battle. Of course he dies, and Cyrano can't bring himself to break Roxanne's heart further by confessing that he wrote the letters.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The modern-day portions are this to the story portions. Wishbone almost always manages to pick out the book real-life events will be mirroring before there are sufficient clues.
  • Wrong Insult Offence: "Cyranose" does a Compressed Adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac as the book of the week (with Wishbone of course playing Cyrano). It opens with the famous "how to insult my nose" scene (paraphrased from the play).
    Upper-Class Twit: Excuse me, Dog-face, but your nose is rather large.
    Cyrano: "My nose is rather large"? "Rather large", you say? Is that the best you can do? (laughs) I do not need my sword to teach you a lesson! I have... words! (drops sword out of his mouth) Let me teach you how to insult my nose, monsieur! You could have said, "Your nose is so big, you should call a doctor and have it amputated!" Or, how 'bout this: "What do you carry around in that snout, your pens or your whole writing desk?" Ooh, how 'bout this one: "Do you love the birds so much that you let them perch on your nose?" But no! The best you can come up with is, "Your nose is rather large." Well, any fool can see that my nose is rather large, but your brain is rather small.
  • You Are Grounded: David's parents tell him after he confesses to damaging his mother's new car on an impulse. With that said, they do tell him So Proud of You for coming clean about it instead of letting his father blame it on the dealership.
  • You Are Not Alone: When Max tries to take on Mitch, a bully, and a thief, he gets a black eye in the process. He tells Joe just as Mitch steals Wanda's last flamingo, explaining that he was inspired by Joe's story of taking on Damont. Joe believes Max but is horrified on seeing him hurt and says, "You can't take on a bully alone." He, David and Sam with Max's help find Mitch's stash of stolen items and bust him.
  • You No Take Candle: Weena talks this way in the Time Machine episode: "Morlocks no like light."


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