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 What's the story, Wishbone?


PBS series in which the titular 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. 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.

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.

In 1998, the TV movie, Wishbone's Dog Days of the West was released.

Several book tie-in series were made, including The Adventures of Wishbone (a series in the parallel-plots style of the show), Wishbone Classics, which omitted the Joe et. al. plots in favor of less compressed adaptations. This was the first of the tie-in novels series to be released, noticably due to not being under the "Big Red Chair Books" label, Wishbone Mysteries, which were mysteries involving Wishbone, Joe, and his friends, removing the classic story, and Wishbone: The Early Years, which was a Spinoff 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 used in Wishbone include:
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: David's little sister Emily. In some episodes, she has a partner-in-crime named Tina.
  • Black Best Friend: David.
  • Bowdlerize: Generally averted- with the exception of Don Quixote, the show was pretty good about keeping sad endings in books that had them.
    • This troper recalls that the show's ending to Cyrano de Bergerac was significantly more cheerful than in the original work.
    • 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).
  • Cash Cow Franchise: Four book series, clothing, toys, videos, DVDs, lunchboxes, calenders, food sets (plates, bowls, etc.), coloring name it!
  • Character Title
  • Clip Show : Wanda brings over a dog to keep Wishbone company, 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 Phantom of the Opera episode, by a Phantom aficionado, 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.
  • Dating Catwoman: Sam and Damont show some signs of this, or at least signs of it possibly happening in the future.
  • Dawson Casting: The main kids are supposedly in middle school but are pretty obviously in high school. Jordan Wall for example, at age 15 and 16 was playing a 6th grader.
    • Actually, by the time the main kids' actors hit 14/15/16, the characters moved up to high school
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Wishbone, though none of the humans can understand him. Kind of like Garfield.
  • Detective Animal: Wishbone has played the role of Sherlock Holmes in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "Scandal in Bohemia", and C. Auguste Dupin in "The Purloined Letter".
  • Disappeared Dad : Joe's father is dead.
    • 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: Noticably averted for the most part, though most of the storys are shortened at times, usually only to fit the 30-minute time frame.
  • Ear Worm: What's the story, Wishbone? What's this you're dreaming of~?
  • 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 occured (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.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Not a cartoon, but only Wishbone's top half is dressed when he appears costumed.
  • Headless Horseman: "Halloween Hound: The Legend of Creepy Collars" (later renamed simply as, "Wishbone in: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
  • Her Codename 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
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Several episodes were Amy Acker's acting debut. Really.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Only a hanful of episodes has been released to VHS, and a few on DVD in 2004. Lionsgate is currently releasing DVDs of the show, which might end up saving the series. Mainly averted if your PBS station still rerun the show.
  • Lost in Imitation - Mostly averted. For example, the Wishbone version of Frankenstein follows the novel in portraying Frankenstein as a naïve 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.
  • Moral Guardians - 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.
  • 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.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping : Often in earlier episodes.
  • The Other Darrin: Between the first and second season, Emily's actress changed from Jazmine McGill to Brittany Holmes.
  • The Smart Guy: David
  • 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.
  • Technology Marches On: The episode "One Thousand & One Tails" features a bad '90s understanding of the Internet. Joe and Sam ooh and awe as David logs onto the Internet for the first time, repeatedly gasping "Go to that one!" before he's even online. Also, the Internet is apparently a Viewer-Friendly Interface, labeled "Internet Online Access" and consisting of a few icons. David accesses a coded chatroom run by cybercriminals by clicking on the oh-so-not-suspicious icon of someone wearing a Conspicuous Trenchcoat, which is helpfully labeled "Private" and is apparently one of only four chat groups which exist on the Internet. He accidently logs into his dad's bank account while investigating this chatroom, which somehow causes three million dollars to get transferred into his dad's bank account. FBI agents show up at their house about five minutes later. Where to start??
  • Three Amigos: Joe and his two best friends.
  • Title Sequence Replacement: In the third season, even though the theme song is kept.
  • Token Trio: Joe and his two best friends (again).
  • Tomboyish Name: Sam
  • Two for One Show
  • 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.
  • You Look Familiar: Local stage actors played the roles in the "fantasy" portions of the show. Several were reused many times.
  • You No Take Candle: Weena talks this way in the Time Machine episode: "Morlocks no like light."