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WordGirl is an American children’s animated television series, produced by the Soup2Nuts animation unit of Scholastic Entertainment for PBS Kids. The show began as a series of shorts that premiered on PBS Kids GO! on November 10, 2006, usually shown at the end of Maya & Miguel; the segment was then spun-off into a new thirty-minute episodic series that premiered on September 3, 2007 on most PBS member stations. This animated show is aimed at people seven and older and is designed to teach about the expansive English language. This is also the first PBS Kids program to have a TV-Y7 rating.  The first two seasons each have twenty-six episodes; the remaining six seasons have thirteen episodes each, and the last new episode was broadcast on August 7, 2015. The series is a parody of Superman.
The show is also seen on some educational networks in Canada, including Knowledge in British Columbia and TVOntario. The program is also syndicated internationally in places such as Australia and Italy, and also airs on Discovery Kids Latin America. The Spanish version is called "La chica súpersabia" (The super wise girl) and it is translated and dubbed in Caracas, Venezuela. There's a catalan version called "La Súper Mots".
Creator Dorothea Gillim believes that children's shows often underestimate children's intelligence:
|“||Part of my mission is to make kids’ television smart and funny. I feel as though we’ve lost some ground there, in an effort to make it more accessible. WordGirl's focus is on great stories, characters, and animation. If all those elements are working, then you can hook a child who may come looking for laughs but leave a little smarter.||”|
Each eleven-minute segment in each episode (except for the first three episodes) begins with the instruction to look for two words that will be used throughout the plot of that episode. The words (examples include “diversion,” “cumbersome,” and “idolize”) are chosen according to academic guidelines. The reasoning is that children can understand words like “cumbersome” when told that it means “big and heavy and awkward.”
News anchor Jim Lehrer agreed to do a mock interview with WordGirl. Jack D. Ferraiolo, who developed the series with Gillim and served as the series' head writer in Season One, received an Emmy for his work on WordGirl.
The series stars WordGirl, an alien with superpowers whose secret identity is Becky Botsford, a 10½ year old fifth grade student. WordGirl was born on the fictional planet Lexicon (also a term referring to the vocabulary of a language or to a dictionary) but was sent away after sneaking onto a spaceship and sleeping there. Captain Huggy Face, a monkey who was a pilot in the Lexicon Air Force, piloted the ship, but lost control when WordGirl awoke him, and crash-landed on Earth (more specifically in Fair City), a planet that affords WordGirl superpowers, including flight and super strength. WordGirl utilizes these powers to save her adoptive home, using her downed spacecraft as a secret base of operations. WordGirl and Captain Huggy Face fight crime together.
WordGirl was adopted and provided an alter ego by Tim and Sally Botsford, who gave her the name Becky. While in her alter ego, she has a younger brother, TJ, obsessed with WordGirl, but still unknowingly a typical sibling rival to Becky. The Botsford family keeps Captain Huggy Face as a pet, naming him Bob. Becky attends Woodview Elementary School, where she is close friends with Violet Heaslip and has a crush on school newspaper reporter Todd “Scoops” Ming.
WordGirl tries to balance her superhero activities with her "normal" life. Doing battle with a rather odd grouping of villains, such as the Butcher, who can call into existence most any type of meat; senior citizen Granny May, with her knitting needles and projectile yarn; her former friend Professor Steven Boxleitner, who became the evil Dr. Two Brains thanks to an albino mouse fusing his brain with the animal; ten-year-old genius and colossal robot builder Tobey McCalister; and The Whammer, who speaks by interjecting the word "wham" in the most inopportune sentences. At the same time, she must worry about maintaining her second life as Becky, keeping people from discovering the truth and living normal family situations.
Each episode has a Narrator (voiced by Chris Parnell) who opens and closes the episode, and who provides continuity between scenes. WordGirl often interacts with the Narrator, as do other characters on occasion, therefore acknowledging that they are aware they are part of a story -- a theatrical technique known as "breaking the fourth wall."
Often, short animated segments are shown in between and at the end of episodes.
- A short game show segment called "May I Have a Word?" airs following each eleven-minute segment. This segment features the game show host, Beau Handsome, asking three contestants the definition of a particular word. The main round is played between the first and second WordGirl segments, and a bonus round is played after the second segment.
- "What's Your Favorite Word?", ostensibly hosted by Todd "Scoops" Ming, is a series of vox populi interviews asking random children what their favorite words are and why.
- Yet another segment features the interstills announcer (Rodger Parsons) asking Captain Huggy Face for a visual demonstration of a certain word (such as "pensive" or "flummoxed"). When Captain Huggy Face correctly demonstrates the meaning of the word, a definition is given, followed by a victory dance by the chimp sidekick.
Characters and voice cast (2007-present)
Main Article: List of Characters in WordGirl
|Dannah Phirman||Becky Botsford/WordGirl, Claire McCalister, Edith von Hoosinghaus, Chuck's mom, Susie P. Snugglestein|
|Chris Parnell||The Narrator, The Exposition Guy|
|Tom Kenny||Dr. Two-Brains, TJ Botsford, Two-Brains' Henchman #1, Warden Chalmers, Brent the Handsome Every-Likes-Him Sandwich Guy|
|Cree Summer||Granny May|
|Patton Oswalt||Theodore "Tobey" McCalister III|
|Fred Stoller||Chuck the Evil Sandwich Making Guy|
|Jack D. Ferraiolo||The Butcher|
|Pamela Adlon||Eileen, a.k.a. The Birthday Girl|
|Maria Bamford||Violet Heaslip, Sally Botsford, Leslie the Assistant|
|Ryan Raddatz||Tim Botsford, Todd "Scoops" Ming|
|Mike O’Connell||Bill the Grocery Store Manager|
|Elliott Gould||The Masked Meat Marauder|
|Ned Bellamy||The Coach|
|Brian Posehn||Glen Furlblam, Dr. Two-Brains' biggest fan|
|James Adomian||Captain Huggy Face/Bob (script readings), Robber, The Candlestick Maker, Security Guard, Curator, Raul Demiglasse, Hunter Throbheart|
|H. Jon Benjamin||Reginald, InvisiBill|
|Ron Lynch||The Mayor|
|Jeffrey Tambor||Mr. Big|
|Larry Murphy||The Amazing Rope Guy, Reporter, Dave, Principal|
|John C. McGinley||The Whammer|
|Grey DeLisle||Beatrice Bixby/Lady Redundant Woman, Ms. Question, Mrs. Ripley|
|Rose Abdoo||Great Granny May|
|Darran Norris||Seymour Orlando Smooth|
|Mike Phirman||The Narrator's Brother|
|Peter Graves||Mr. Callihan|
|James Mathis||Tiny Big|
|Ed Asner||Kid Potato, The Butcher's father|
|Jen Cohn||Bank Teller, Rich Old Lady, Ms. Champlain|
|Robin Reed||Ms. Libri, the bookstore owner|
|Judy Greer||Ms Dewey, the librarian|
|Andy Dick||Milt, Ms. Dewey's assistant|
|Nick Kroll||Ruben Grinder|
Police Commissioner Watson (second Voice)
|Brian Doyle-Murray||Police Officer|
|Jim Gaffigan||Mr. Dudley|
|Matt Besser||Zachry Zany, Male News Anchorman|
|Rodger Parsons||Interstils Announcer (uncredited)|
|Danielle Schneider||Female News Anchorman|
|William Mapother||Guy Rich|
|Kristen Schall||Victoria Best|
|John Henson||Captain Tangent|
|Amy Sedaris||Ms. Davis|
|Orlando Brown||Tommy "His Dishonor|
|Kevin McDonald||Vocab Bee, PoliceChief, Judge, The Baker|
|John Kricfalusi||Police Commissioner Watson (first voice)|
|Frank Welker||Prof. Robert Doohickey|
Main Article: List of Episodes in WordGirl
- ^ PBS Kids Programs - WordGirl
- ^ a b Jensen, Elizabeth (2007-09-02). "A New Heroine’s Fighting Words". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/02/arts/television/02jens.html. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
- ^ Bynum, Aaron H. (2007-06-18). "'The Adventures of WordGirl' Animation Emerges on PBS Kids". Animation Insider. http://www.animationinsider.net/article.php?articleID=1423&document=2. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
- ^ Spero, Johannah (2008-06-18). "Local man lands Emmy for ‘WordGirl’". Wicked Local Newburyport/The Newburyport Current. GateHouse Media, Inc.. http://www.wickedlocal.com/newburyport/news/x833714497/Local-man-lands-Emmy-for-WordGirl. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
- ^ Scholastic Media Renews WordGirl For 26 Episodes Toon Zone, 10 June 2009