What’s the story, Wishbone?
I cannot believe it, but I just realized that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Wishbone‘s initial run starting in 1995 (This article was originally published in 2015). Just typing the year 1995 sends waves of nostalgia coursing through my veins (or wherever nostalgia courses). I also realized that I could not call myself a “proud nerd” any longer if I did not take time to reflect on the most influential pooch in the history of literature. I honestly do not think that I would be the reader I am today if it were not for the television and book series that all revolved around the Jack Russell Terriers (all five of them) who brought classic literature to my living room every afternoon.
If you do not know about Wishbone I will take a moment to grieve for the state of the half-life that you have been living. Wishbone featured a Jack Russell Terrier in the titular role, although there were actually five different dogs who portrayed Wishbone at various points, and his interactions with his family and friends. Joe Talbot (Wishbone’s owner) and his two best friends Sam and David always got into some kind of crazy adventure that would parallel a major theme from a book in classic literature. In a brief half-hour time block, Wishbone managed to transition back and forth between Wishbone acting out the major scenes from a book in classic literature and Wishbone’s “real life” adventure with Joe.
Typing that last paragraph made me realize how impossible it is to explain
the genius behind Wishbone in mere words. You just have to experience how cool it is to see a cute dog acting out the parts of Romeo, Sherlock Holmes, and Robin Hood. The best part of Wishbone’s portrayal of these classic characters is that the humans acting alongside of him take no notice of the fact that he is a dog. They treat Wishbone like he is another human actor and take the scene completely seriously. Although some people might think that Wishbone just kind of silly and weird (Just to clarify, I would never speak to any of these people) it somehow felt right that a Jack Russell Terrier should play Ichabod Crane. Maybe it had to do with the fact that Wishbone’s voice actor, Larry Brantley, use his super excited and energetic voice talents to make Wishbone the star of every scene.
Although most people remember Wishbone as a TV show, there were two awesome books series, Wishbone Classics and Adventures of Wishbone, that were basically adapted versions of classic books for kids. Just like the TV show, these books transitioned between a classic story and a “real life” adventure with Wishbone and Joe. I think that I read and owned almost all of these books at some point, and I could never get enough of them. The real genius of Wishbone was that the books made you feel smart and taught you the plots and themes of classic books on a level that your fifth grade brain could handle. When it came time to read the books in the original adult language when you made it to high school, you already had a whole foundation and frame of reference with these stories that non-Wishbone aficionados lacked completely. I distinctly remember describing the plot of Romeo and Juliet to my father over a game of ping-pong because I had just read the Wishbone adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic. Thinking back on it now, I probably have Wishbone to thank for my major in college and what later became my career.
The one one thing that continues to annoy me is that there is no official DVD set of all of the Wishbone episodes. You can buy some individual VHS tapes and DVDs online, but there are only a select few episodes available. The books can at least be found in second hand stores and online, however. If you have not watched Wishbone since sometime in the 90’s, I highly recommend that you pick up one of these DVDs and relive a little bit of your childhood.