4 kids series top PBS lineup

NEW YORK — PBS on Monday announced four new preschool series as well as a new corporate underwriter for two of its kids series, “Barney & Friends” and “The Puzzle Place,” during its annual meeting in Dallas.

The four new series include “Noddy,” a live-action show based on the popular British animated series, to air weekly on PBS starting in June ’98; Shari Lewis’ “The Charlie Horse Music Pizza,” running weekly starting in January; the wildlife series “Zoboomafoo,” to air daily starting in fall 1998; and the previously announced Canadian puppet show “Wimzie’s House,” to air weekly starting in October.

PBS also announced a new corporate benefactor for two of its current kids’ shows: Chef Boyardee maker Intl. Home Foods will provide a multimillion-dollar production grant, to be shared by the series “Barney & Friends” and “The Puzzle Place.” The grant, which represents the first time a corporate sponsor has funded two PBS children’s series simultaneously, will bankroll “Barney” episodes now in production and “Puzzle” episodes to begin lensing in January and airing later next year.

“The Puzzle Place” is produced by Lancit Media Entertainment and California pubcaster KCET. “Barney,” the top-rated U.S. TV show for children under age 6, is produced by Texas-based Lyrick Studies and Connecticut Public Television.

“Noddy,” set in an old-fashioned curiosity shop, features the mischievous little boy of the Enid Blyton book series that has sold an estimated 60 million copies worldwide. It will feature animation from the British series, woven into a half-hour, live-action format. The series will be produced in Toronto by BBC Worldwide, Enid Blyton Co. and Catalyst Entertainment, and represents the first BBC Worldwide production for the North American market. The Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co. will handle licensing of “Noddy” merchandise in North America.

“The Charlie Horse Music Pizza,” a music education and appreciation show, brings back Lewis and her puppet Lambchop, along with some new characters. The show is produced in Canada by the Charlie Horse Music Pizza Production Co., Golden Books Family Entertainment and KCET.

“Zoboomafoo,” produced by Paragon Entertainment and Earth Creatures, is an educational show about animals presented as a mixture of Claymation, puppetry and live action.

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