Shelley Duvall’s kidvid series out of New Zealand rolls merrily along in an opening two-episode sampler in which Jean Stapleton brings joy and style as the title character, a sort of Mother Do-Gooder. With tales, based on Betty MacDonald’s kidstories that have messages joyously camouflaged, Stapleton does the impossible: She outshines even the child actors.
Scenes mostly take place in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s color-bursting home, where Howard the Hat Man (Francis Bell in a dandy tree costume), whose limbs support hats, stands happily rooted and joining in on the activities. In Susan Amerikaner’s “The Not Truthful Cure,” young Egbert Moohead (an energetic Nathanael Meyst) learns through Mrs. P-W that untruths get heavier and heavier with the telling.
And in Philip LaZebnik’s “The Pet Forgetter’s Cure,” easily distracted Charlie Bean (Robyn Faye Bookland) plans to take care of parrot Black Jack for the Piggle-Wiggle Pet Show, but overlooks her duty when she chases a wayward frog. Charlie discovers it’s not nice to forget pets.
The cast is splendid. Paul Minifie steps in as fussy school principal Norbert , and Christopher Lloyd and Ed Begley Jr. add to the cheer. James Whitmore, Phyllis Diller and exec producer Shelley Duvall are among those slated for future programs, which will air in weekly half-hour episodes.
Directors Peter Sharpe and Wayne Tourell bounce the joys high and, though it doesn’t sound like it, sidestep the cutesies. Glenn A. Jordan’s music is a pleasure, and the theme by Dan Gilroy (who also plays the mailman in the tales) is appropriately fanciful.
But best part of the series is Stapleton, whose delineation of the wise, loving title character anchors the witty stories. Stapleton’s Mrs. P-W is magical and charming; when she’s not around, drams of wizardry float off.