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Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

Filmed in New Zealand by Think Entertainment, Universal Family Entertainment and South Pacific Pictures. Exec producer, Shelley Duvall; co-exec producers, Courtney Conte, Lynn Montgomery; co-producer, Carol Davies; directors, Wayne Tourell, Peter Sharpe; writers, Susan Amerikaner, Philip LaZebnik, based on books by Betty MacDonald; 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's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle does the impossible: She outshines even the child actors.

With:
Cast: Jean Stapleton, Paul Minifie, Francis Bell, Jewelie Hull, Robyn Faye Bookland, Nathanael Meyst, Drancy Bryant, Cerita Bickelmann, Ed Begley Jr., Joan Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, Dan Gilroy, Suzie Aiken.

Filmed in New Zealand by Think Entertainment, Universal Family Entertainment and South Pacific Pictures. Exec producer, Shelley Duvall; co-exec producers, Courtney Conte, Lynn Montgomery; co-producer, Carol Davies; directors, Wayne Tourell, Peter Sharpe; writers, Susan Amerikaner, Philip LaZebnik, based on books by Betty MacDonald; 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’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle 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. Production designer Ralph Davies presents a look sure to enchant viewers dropping in on Mrs. P-W’s bright digs.

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.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

Production: Showtime, Tues. June 7, 9:35 p.m.

Crew: Camera, Matt Bowkett; editor, Roger Grant; production designer, Ralph Davies; art directors, Jill Cormack, Mark Robins; sound, Dave Madigan; music, Glenn A. Jordan; theme, Dan Gilroy. 60 MIN.

With: Cast: Jean Stapleton, Paul Minifie, Francis Bell, Jewelie Hull, Robyn Faye Bookland, Nathanael Meyst, Drancy Bryant, Cerita Bickelmann, Ed Begley Jr., Joan Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, Dan Gilroy, Suzie Aiken.

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