|Format||Children's television series|
|Created by||Winfried Debertin|
|Country of origin||Germany|
|No. of episodes||275|
|Running time||29 minutes per episode (German version), 22 minutes (US version)|
|Original run||1979 – 2001|
Hallo Spencer is a German children's television series, created by Winfried Debertin and produced by Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) from 1979 until 2001. In these 22 years, 275 episodes were filmed, including a number of 'specials' featuring the characters taking part in traditional fairy tale and nursery rhyme themed stories.
It is a puppet based show, featuring characters created and operated in the same fashion as Jim Henson's Muppets and Sesame Street, which in fact, some of the show's staff were former employees of the German version of Sesame Street. To this day, the series is popular and well loved in its home country to the extent that the theme park Heide Park features a themed area devoted to the show.
The series has been repeated on the commercial channels Nickelodeon Germany and on the pay-TV channel Premiere. Episodes were regularly found on regional broadcast stations until March 2011.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Main characters
- 3 The Series Abroad
- 4 Episode Availability
- 5 External links
Hallo Spencer is set in the fictional German town of Spencerdorf. Geographically, the area is wildly varied: densely forested and lush grassland areas border an arid, extremely localised volcanic area. The US language version was relocated to Spencerville, Ohio, which is a real town. Spencer usually greets the viewers and introduces a special theme for the plot of the episode, e.g. basic things like beds or greetings. The story then shifts around the village with the characters contributing something related to the theme. Later episodes switched from the village to Spencer's apartment, where he would normally tell a story to the viewer.
US character names from the Saban Productions series are listed alongside their original German counterparts.
Spencer (Hallo/Hello Spencer)
The main character. In the early episodes, Spencer lived in a television studio, although he later moved into an apartment in the "Hallerstraße". He is the mayor of the village, and has at his disposal a videophone with which he can watch and speak to any of the residents at any time. Spencer's first name in the US broadcasts, Hallo, simply means hello in German, so the show's original German title Hallo, Spencer is Hello, Spencer in English. There's a sign hanging on the back wall of Spencer's studio displaying the German title and US distributors thought it would be necessary to have an "English" explanation to that - thus Hallo or Hello in English became Spencer's first name in the US.
Puppeteers: Joachim Hall, Jürgen Meuter (hands).
US voice artist: Tom Wyner.
Elvis is Spencer's assistant. He lives with his female friend Lulu in a railway carriage known as the Dream Express.
Puppeteer: Wilhelm Helmrich, Matthias Hirth.
US voice artist: Robert Axelrod.
Lulu lives with Elvis in the Dream Express. In early episodes, she had no nose.
Puppeteer: Maria Ilic.
Peggy is Lulu's sister. She only appears in the first 5 episodes.
Nepomuk (Grumpowski Nepomuk)
Nepomuk is an irritable and stubborn creature. His nickname is Nepi (Grumpo in the American version). He dislikes the nickname tallywacker, only allowing his friend Kasi to use it. He lives in a large castle.
Puppeteer: Horst Lateika.
US voice artist: Mike Reynolds.
Kasimir (or Kasi for short) is a red creature with unusually long arms, who lives in a chestnut tree which has an elevator built inside it. He is Nepomuk's best friend and the only villager allowed to call him Nepi (although this is not the case in early episodes). Kasi is very helpful, and does many different jobs in the village.
Puppeteers: Herbert Langemann, Martin Leßmann.
Poldi is a dragon who lives in a volcanic crater. If irritated by other characters, he will often threaten to eat them (though he never does).
Puppeteer: Friedrich Wollweber.
US voice artist: Michael McConnohie.
Pummelzacken is a female dragon. She is Poldi's girlfriend.
Lexi is the bookworm of the village. He lives in a mushroom and is continually compiling his enormous library, known as the Lexiklopädie (Lexipedia in the American version).
Puppeteers: Lorenz Claussen, Matthias Hirth, Joachim Hall.
US voice artist: Ted Layman.
The Quietschbeus (The Screech Boys)
The Quietschbeus are a trio of musicians who live in the television studio alongside Spencer. In every episode they perform a song related to the topic of the episode. Their German name is derived from the 'Beach Boys'.
- Karl-Heinz (Frankie) is the band-leader, and has a green nose. In the original version, he has a distinct dialect. Puppeteers: Petra Zieser, Eva Behrmann, Karime Vakilzadeh
- Karl-Gustav has a red nose. He often has problems making decisions. Puppeteers: Klaus Naeve, Lorenz Claussen.
- Karl-Otto has a blue nose. In the original, he stutters. Puppeteers: Matthias Hirth, Lothar Kreutzer, Jürgen Meuter.
Mona and Lisa
Twin girls who live on a houseboat and are usually found arguing. Mona and Lisa are not identical twins - they can be identified by their different hair styles. Mona has her hair tied in two pigtails, while Lisa has a single ponytail.
The twins first appeared in Episode 6.
Puppeteers: Petra Zieser, Sabine Steincke, Karime Vakilzadeh (Mona), Eva Behrmann (Lisa).
Galaktika is an alien from Andromeda. The villagers can summon her by singing. However, in some early episodes Galaktika appears without the need of a song.
Puppeteer: Maria Ilic.
Nero is a demon. He appeared only in several early episodes, being quickly dropped from the show when it found that young viewers were afraid of him.
Puppeteers: Friedrich Wollweber, Matthias Hirth, Joachim Hall.
The Series Abroad
In the early 90s, after many years of success in its homeland and in other countries that broadcast a dubbed version of the original series including Mexico, Saban International bought the foreign rights to Hallo Spencer. The show was soon being translated and broadcast in many countries, including North America, China, Israel, Spain, Singapore, Russia, Scandinavia and the Netherlands. However, the rushed translations and changes made to the show were often for the worse. The European style of characters speaking over one another worked very badly in other regions, making scenes unintelligible and worse, laughable. This was not helped by the comparatively low budget of the programme.
The North American version was retitled The Hello Spencer Show and heavily edited by translating and rewriting scripts, cutting seven minutes from each episode in order to fit the American broadcast schedule during its first-run syndication on local networks around 3:00 PM EST/2:00 PM Central Time Zone, and to accommodate the inclusion of a rap at the end, summarizing the events of the episode. The title character, Spencer, was renamed Hello Spencer (Hello an English version of the name instead of the original German Version) now being his first name, due to the impossibility of removing the "Hallo (German for Hello) Spencer" sign usually seen behind him in his office), and many other characters were altered to make them more palatable. Nepomuk also found himself with a first name: Grumpowski, Elvis became Elmar and the house band, the Quietschbeus became The Screech Boys.
The American language version is unsurprisingly rarer. It is unknown how many episodes were originally translated and broadcast, but only six have been released on VHS, in three volumes. Judging by the contents of the tapes, the American episodes seem to have been chosen at random, with no regard at all to the running order of the original series.
The contents of each tape is as follows:
- Volume 1:
A Friend from China (Episode 100) and The Storm (Episode 86)
- Volume 2:
The Visitor (Episode 121) and The Argument (Episode 77)
- Volume 3:
The Less I See, The More I Hear (Episode 84) and A Million for Mona Lisa (Episode 120)