Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Shining Time Station (1989)

Here's a show that was really two series in one.

PBS' Shining Time Station incorporated short stories from England's Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends, which bowed six years earlier, thus celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, into the fabric of a children's sitcom that ran for four years (1989-93) here in the US.

Didi Conn (ex-Benson, Fonz & The Happy Days Gang) starred as Stacy Jones, the owner of Shining Time Station, which she inherited from her grandmother. Ex-Beatle Ringo Starr crossed over from Thomas, re-recording his narration from the original stories to fit his new role as Mr. Conductor. However, Ringo opted to refocus on his musical career and left in 1990, replaced by comedian George Carlin, with the storyline explanation being that the new Conductor was the cousin of the original. In addition, Carlin dubbed over the narrative from the Thomas segments from the first two seasons, for the likely purpose of maintaining continuity for those coming in late. An unnecessary move, though, as the original episodes with Ringo are still available, as you'll soon see.

Meanwhile, back in England, Carlin was called in to take over as the storyteller for Thomas, but it was well after Starr had relinquished those duties. There have been others since, including Alec Baldwin (currently a pitchman for Capital One) and Pierce Brosnan, who took on the gig after his stint as James Bond had come to an end. Thomas is still in production in England, though it's been 20 years since Shining Time ended. The series hasn't been seen since cable runs on Fox Family (now ABC Family) & Nick, Jr..

Here's the opener, "A Place Like No Other", courtesy of a Shining Time Station fan channel on YouTube:

Unfortunately, Didi Conn hasn't gotten much work since the series ended. Co-star Brian O'Connor (Horace Schemer) later landed on VH-1 as a game show host, of all things, and hasn't been seen since.

Rating: A-.


magicdog said...

I tuned into this just for the presence of Ringo Starr! How often does a former Beatle do TV?

I thought it was a good biut of entertainment for little ones, but adults could deal with it if they happened to be watching with them.

Considering the Wildman Carlin was, it was rather odd seeing him in the role later on.

Didi Conn was good too in her role, but it's sad she doesn't get much work these days. I remember seeing her on TV not too long ago in a mystery drama on a recent show - can't remember which one though! Maybe "House"?

hobbyfan said...

I've lost track. Like, she was SO cute here and on Benson. Have to check IMDB or something for an update on her status.

As I noted the only reason Ringo landed the gig was because he was already involved with Thomas the Tank Engine, and the show's producers were responsible for Thomas over in England. One must also remember that Carlin wasn't always the wackjob he presented himself to be in his act, and he reinvented himself for a new generation when he was brought in.

Pokey said...

I absolutely still adore Didi Conn..especially as Frenchy on Grease! Also in the 1985 revival of the Jetsons in an episode starring Judy (Janet Waldo,who passed last year) "Judy Takes Off"(NO, guys, she's not nude!), Didi Conn played a formerly shy now cool teenage cousin of Judy and Elroy, Melissa, whotakes Judy on a wild ride..with friends.

BTW Hairspray's Penny Pingleton, the dorky best pal to Tracy, the lead chartacter, has a sort of Jetsons connection already with being named as a tribute to Jane Jetson (and Blondie Bumstead's) portrayer, Penny Singleton (whose Jane and Blondie were toleran tunlike the Hairspray parents were written) but like Penny Pingleton, Didi Conn's Melissa in the 1980os reboot, is the same type, a "nerd-turned-cool teen".

hobbyfan said...

Have to look for that, Pokey. Thanks.