WordGirl Celebrates Election Season With All New Episode

Courtesy: PBS

Last week, our country voted in one of the biggest elections in the nation’s history.  In honor of the election, PBSKids offered its own election themed programming throughout the week.  One of those election themed programs was a brand new episode of adventures from everyone’s favorite little literary super heroine, WordGirl.  The new episode saw Becky face off against her archrival Toby in the first half of the show.  The second half of the show saw WordGirl face off against The Butcher once again.  In the process she learns that sometimes, she herself can tend to ramble.

The first half of WordGirl’s new episode, “A Vote for Becky” opens in the Botsford household.  Becky’s mom is prepping for the upcoming election.  She is running as a candidate to be re-elected as the local District Attorney.  Mr. Botsford is helping by manning the phones, calling all of Mrs. Botsford’s supporters.  Meanwhile, Becky heads off to school, where she ends up running in the school’s election.  Much to her surprise, she isn’t running unopposed.  Toby, boy genius, reveals that he’s running, too.  And he uses a bugged pen that has a microphone in it to steal her campaign promises for his own.  In the end, it’s neither Becky nor Toby who wins.  It is in fact Becky’s friend, Violet who is named the new class president.  In her case, she is what would be considered a write-in candidate.  Becky doesn’t lose entirely though, as Violet names Becky her Vice President.  To top it all off, it turns out that Mrs. Botsford has been re-elected as the local District Attorney.

In the second half of WordGirl’s new episode, Becky has to face off against another of her old arch rivals in the form of The Butcher.  Becky stops The Butcher in the process of robbing another business.  The failed robbery turns into a lesson for The Butcher on learning how to better articulate.  He tells WordGirl that in his last robbery, he had been accused of rambling because he was getting words wrong.  So he takes a class to learn how to articulate.  Afterward, he goes out and robs an armored car.  Enter WordGirl to stop him.  He shows her that he’s learned how to articulate.  And then he proceeds to rob a store.  When she tried to stop him, The Butcher accuses her of rambling.  The butcher escapes and goes back to his class to tell everyone about having learned how to articulate.  What they don’t know is that it’s really The Butcher in disguise.  That is until WordGirl is revealed as a special speaker in the class.  WordGirl proceeds to ramble again, causing The Butcher to lose his cool and blow his cover.  This leads WordGirl to finally defeat and capture him.

These two episodes make up the newest episode of WordGirl.  It may or may not have aired yet in your market.  If not, audiences can keep an eye out for it online at http://pbskids.org/wordgirl

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Arthur’s Perfect Christmas Is A Perfect Family Feature

Courtesy: PBS

Halloween has officially come and gone for another year.  So with one of the holiday season’s biggest days in the rearview mirror, many families are going to begin looking forward to the next two big holidays.  Most may not realize it, but when it comes to holiday films, there are more Christmas themed features and films than there are for any other time of the year.  So the question is what is a family to watch as it gets into the Christmas spirit?  One suggestion is a feature from one of literature’s most beloved characters.  Who might that be?  Arthur Read.

PBS released Arthur’s Perfect Christmas to DVD early last month.  This near hour long animated feature is a perfect fit for any family during the holiday season.  The feature’s run time is one of the key factors to its success.  Its messages of religious diversity and the importance of family are just part of what makes it a fun and family friendly story for this time of year.  Being that it clocks in at just under an hour, this feature’s run time is perfect for younger viewers.  Had it been any longer, it might have begun to lose said viewers’ attention.  Tied in to that run time is the general storyline and animation.  The storyline follows not just Arthur’s hopes for a perfect Christmas but the holiday celebrations of his friends.  As she counts down to Hanukkah, Francine has to deal with her best friend Muffy’s lack of sensitivity towards her faith.  Muffy’s lack of understanding leads to an exchanging of words over the phone between the two.  George and his family celebrate Kwanzaa, and Binky struggles to get his holiday recipes just right.  Arthur’s best friend, Buster, also has his own issues with the holidays as his parents are divorced. So he has to decide if he wants to tell his mom how he really feels about her going over the top every year.

The interweaving storylines in Arthur’s Perfect Christmas will keep the attention of its viewers.  It does a very good job of mixing each story into the bigger picture.  The feature’s animation adds in to the feature’s ability to keep its audiences’ attention.  The bright colors and original hand drawn animation do their own part in making Arthur’s Perfect Christmas great for the entire family.  At a time when so many “animated” features are created via computers, it’s especially nice to see that hand drawn animation is still alive and well.      

The animation and stories come together to make Arthur’s Perfect Christmas an enjoyable holiday feature for the entire family every year.  But there is so much more to this feature that audiences might miss after just one watch.  For instance, the very fact that it promotes a variety of religions shows acceptance of each one.  There are those that would argue that this is little more than a not so hidden political agenda to some.  And maybe it is meant to teach tolerance.  Is that such a bad thing?  It’s especially interesting that the writers added the discussion on the mixing of Christian and Babylonian traditions to make today’s modern Christmas, instead of simply going with just one view of Christmas.  This is subtle, but very important to the overall story.

There is one more subtle moment that offers the chance for a very deep discussion between parents and children.  That moment comes when Arthur and his mom come home from the mall and his mom has to explain to D.W. about the potential of her not getting the doll that she wanted.  D.W. asks is it because she’s been bad?  And it has to be explained that that’s not the reason at all.  Far too often today, children are still taught that Santa keeps lists of naughty and nice kids.  So kids are taught that if they don’t get the toys they want, it’s because of their behavior.  It could easily be argued that this is an argument against that method.  To that point, one could argue that this is an argument against not only that method, but against our country’s culture of consumerism.  Especially considering the number of families that are financially struggling today, it’s a message that’s just as important today as when this special first aired. 

As one can see here, Arthur’s Perfect Christmas is far deeper than some audiences might offer it.  That depth, and the ability of the feature to send important messages without being preachy makes it a feature that audiences of all ages will enjoy watching every holiday season.  It can be ordered online now at PBS’ online store, http://www.shoppbs.org

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.