When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with my older brothers. They were 7 ½ and 10 years older than I was. My parents worked so the younger one was charged with babysitting/raising me while the other one would use me as a prop to get girls.
When I was about 7 the older one would come home on Saturday nights and wake me up to watch Saturday Night Live. During the week we would watch Sesame Street in the morning and once a week, the Muppet Show. Those shows formed my sense of humor. They were funny, ironic, sarcastic, and smart.
Now 30-years later, the Jim Henson company has combined these elements to make an online kids show for PBS Kids. Wilson and Ditch Digging America is about two gophers who drive around in an eco van and discover the United States. They have these bizarre accents that sound like Steve Martin and Dan Ackroyd’s Wild and Crazy Guys.
The webisodes are a bit strange, but often hilarious. I keep waiting for the gophers to say “Come on foxes!” Instead, while visiting the country music hall of fame in Nashville, Wilson says to a picture, “Hey Dolly Parton, It’s me Wilson.”
Why is that funny? I don’t know, but it is.
The show is only online and comes in 3 minutes webisodes. There are games, podcasts, and a new state every month. The gophers visit historic places and spew facts about each location with an infectious sense of wonder. My almost 6-year-old watched the Nashville episode intently, but didn’t have much to say. A couple of hours later he asked to watch it again. The 4-year-old (who is a little young for the content) thought the Philadelphia episode was hilarious and he kept repeating Wilson and Ditch’s banter.
I really like that they are on a road trip. We drive everywhere and I think the kids are catching on that other people take airplanes. I’m hoping that by watching Wilson and Ditch the kids will think driving is more of an adventure. I hope, but I might be reaching there.
I learned about the webisodes during a tour of Jim Henson’s Studio on Tuesday, which was a dream come true for me. Brian Henson, Jim Henson’s son, showed us how they combine puppetry and animation to make the show. He also told us about growing up in the Henson household. He said they were more like circus folk than Hollywood types. Just like I always imagined.