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TV REVIEWS : 'Rory' Best of New Crop of Kids Shows

October 03, 1994|LYNNE HEFFLEY and * "Fox's Cubhouse" airs weekdays at 2 p.m. on KTTV-TV Channel 11. "Old MacDonald's Sing-a-Long Farm" airs weekdays at 8 a.m. on Lifetime. "Rory and Me" airs weekdays at 8 a.m. on the Learning Channel.

Thanks to recent congressional prodding, what's hot in children's TV programming this fall is a dash of education.

The Fox Children's Network, notorious for "The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" but lauded for its animated version of "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?," follows the trend this week with a mixed bag of "edutainment" shows for children ages 2 to 6.

Under the umbrella title, "The Fox Cubhouse," three different shows will air weekdays in rotation, with brief, superfluous wraparound segments featuring a human host and puppets in a clubhouse setting.

The series begins today with "Jim Henson's Animal Show," which will be seen Mondays and Fridays. Kudos for a great idea, but the first segment of this Muppet/live-action nature show--hosted by Jake, a stuffy polar bear, and Stinky, a wisecracking skunk--is surprisingly listless. It serves up lots of info-bits and shots of real-life animals, but much of the dialogue and commentary is forced, not witty.

The second series, "Johnson and Friends"--which will air Tuesdays and Thursdays--is about toys (actors in costume) in a playroom, and fares better with creative simplicity and relaxed, child-friendly pacing. In the opener, pink elephant Johnson and three new pals discover the stars outside the playroom window and learn that nothing fearsome lurks under the bed.

Not available for review was the third show in the series, "Rimba's Island," featuring characters based on Oaxacan Indian designs teaching preschool concepts. It will air Wednesdays.

Also beginning today is the Lifetime cable channel's first children's series, "Old MacDonald's Sing-a-Long Farm," a live-action show with costumed animal characters, puppets, storytelling and songs.

For a truly top-notch show to grow by, however, tune in to "Rory and Me," a gentle mix of live action, puppetry, tuneful songs and traditional and computer animation that debuted on cable's Learning Channel two weeks ago. It features children's singer Rory, an appealing performer with a sweet, girlish voice and comfortable charm.

In "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" fashion, the low-key show follows careful tenets of early education, even allowing wordless, music-less moments for the contemplation of such sights and sounds as the wind in the trees and deer running on a hillside trail.

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