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Edith Ann: A Few Pieces of the Puzzle

Voices: Lily Tomlin, Thom Sharp, Amy Ziff, Pamela Segall, Reno, Kellen Hathaway, Carolyn Lawrence, Jarett Lennon, Sherry Lynn, Adam Ryen, Kath Soucie.

Voices: Lily Tomlin, Thom Sharp, Amy Ziff, Pamela Segall, Reno, Kellen Hathaway, Carolyn Lawrence, Jarett Lennon, Sherry Lynn, Adam Ryen, Kath Soucie.

In the old days, it took a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, but these days it sometimes takes a handful of grunge. And that’s what Lily Tomlin and friends try with this animated adaptation of Tomlin’s classic Edith Ann character. There’s a pro-social, politically palatable resolution here, as one would expect with a family special, but it comes after enough gloom and grit to get many parents wondering early on if “Edith Ann” is aimed at kids at all.

It’s a half-hour that looks and feels more like the “kidvid with an attitude” that cable specializes in than a primetime network special. Such non-uplifting social realities as drive-by shootings, unemployed dads and familial dysfunction dominate “Edith Ann’s” world.

The story finds the title character brooding through a bleak birthday that nobody in her family has remembered. She plays hooky and lands in the school counselor’s office, where some entertaining if somewhat pat approaches are found to address Edith Ann’s problems.

The Jane Wagner script is witty and creative. Mercifully, it eschews the overworked Edith Ann tagline, “And that’s the truth,” instead getting good mileage out of such alternative catch phrases as, “Somebody tell me this cannot be happening.”

Voice work is good and the Klasky Csupo/Anivision animation is strikingly seedy and inventively versatile.

The package has impact, and while its mix of grunge and pro-social goals may turn off child and parent alike, it may also help “Edith Ann’s” message reach the kind of kid for whom classic animation is “Beavis and Butt-Head.”

Edith Ann: A Few Pieces of the Puzzle

(Tues. (18), 8:30-9 p.m., ABC-TV)

Production: Filmed by Klasky Csupo Inc. and Tomlin/Wagner Prods. Overseas animation by Anivision. Exec producers, Lily Tomlin, Jane Wagner, Arlene Klasky, Gabor Csupo; producer, Sherry Gunther; director, Tamara Varga; writer, Wagner; creators, Tomlin, Wagner; character design, Jerry Richardson, John Holmquist, Igor Kovalyov, Sergei Shramkovski.

Crew: Editor, Bill Wilner; art director, Varga; sound, Kurt Vanzo, David Eccles; music, Mark Mothersbaugh, Rusty Andrews.

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