The Puzzle Place
|The Puzzle Place|
|Created by||Cecily Truett|
|Theme music composer||Steve Horelick|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||75|
|Executive producer(s)||Cecily Truett|
Stephen Kulczycki (seasons 1–2)
Patricia Kunkel (season 3)
|Camera setup||Videotape; Multi-camera|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Picture format||480i (SDTV) (1995-1998)|
|Original release||January 16, 1995 –|
December 4, 1998
The Puzzle Place is an American children's television series produced by KCET in Los Angeles and Lancit Media in New York City. Although production was dated and premiered on two Los Angeles PBS stations, KCET and KLCS, on September 15, 1994, it did not officially premiere on all PBS stations nationwide until January 16, 1995, with its final episode airing on December 4, 1998, and reruns airing until March 31, 2000. It became one of PBS Kids most popular series on the line-up since Barney & Friends and Sesame Street. It follows a multi-ethnic group of kids (puppets) from different parts of the United States who hang out at "the Puzzle Place", which is a teen hangout themed around jigsaw puzzle pieces. In each episode the characters are confronted with an everyday conflict usually encountered in childhood and even early teenage years, such as making moral decisions, sharing, racism, and sexism.
- Julie Woo: A Chinese American girl from San Francisco, California. She is very sensitive and caring of her personal possessions and she sometimes tries a little too hard. She especially loves singing; though, outside of the show's musical numbers, her voice can be cacophonous to humorous effect. Performed by Alice Dinnean.
- Kiki Flores: A Mexican American girl from San Antonio, Texas. She is very outgoing and has a temper. She once pretended to be a homeless alien after being teased about her "accent" (episode: Accentuate The Positive). She is also a great chili cook and has a Spanish-speaking cousin named Magdalena (or Maggie) (episode: "Hello Maggie") who helps everyone to learn about acceptance. Performed by Carmen Osbahr, with Pam Arciero providing her singing voice.
- Ben Olafson: A Scandinavian American boy of German and Norwegian descent from a farm near Renner, South Dakota. Like Jody, he is a child without both parents, but unlike Jody, whose parents are divorced, Ben's father is deceased (episode: "Big Boys Don't Cry"). He is good at solving difficult puzzles and is a talented dancer. Though normally easygoing and friendly, he can be unforgiving when angered. Performed by Jim Martin.
- Leon MacNeal: An African American boy from New York City. He wears dreadlocks, gets jealous easily, and sometimes does not think before he acts. Leon is a fan of hip-hop music and loves basketball. Performed by Noel MacNeal in seasons 1 and 2. For Season 3, Eric Jacobson puppeteered the character with MacNeal only providing the voice. His first and last name are a direct allusion to his original puppeteer, seeing as "Leon" is "Noel" backwards and that they share a last name.
- Skye Nakaiye: An Apache boy from an Indian reservation in Arizona who always wears a bandanna, raincoat, and feather necklace. He is naturally curious and believes in staying true to his values and his culture. Performed by Peter Linz in seasons 1 and 2 and Matt Vogel in season 3.
- Jody Silver: A Jewish Lithuanian American girl from Cincinnati, Ohio. Her parents got a divorce (episode: I Scream, You Scream), she does not like to be called names and can be gullible but is usually enthusiastic. Performed by Alison Mork in Season 1, Stephanie D'Abruzzo in Season 2, and Terri Hardin in Season 3.
- Weebus: The group's smart talking computer which is what they use to communicate with people outside of the Puzzle Place. She is also capable of performing automated tasks and playing video clips to answer a question.
- Nuzzle and Sizzle: The anthropomorphic pet dog and cat, respectively, at the Puzzle Place. They are seen mostly in the basement, talking to each other and act as animals around the Puzzle Place kids. They are usually involved in a subplot. Sizzle is performed by Alice Dinnean and Nuzzle is performed by Peter Linz in Seasons 1 and 2 and Matt Vogel in Season 3.
- The Piece Police: Multicolored inhabitants of the Puzzle Place. They communicate amongst themselves using grumbling noises, although they understand the English language. It is hinted in some episodes that they all know what both Sizzle and Nuzzle are saying. Performed by Carmen Osbahr, Jim Martin, Noel MacNeal, and Alison Mork, with Stephanie D'Abruzzo replacing Mork in Season 2, and Eric Jacobson and Terri Hardin replacing MacNeal and D'Abruzzo in Season 3. D'Abruzzo also provides their singing voices.
- Kyle O'Connor: An Irish American wheelchair user who appears towards the end of the series. Initially performed by Drew Massey, and later puppeteered by Allan Trautman to Terri Hardin's voice.
In the weeks after its debut, The Puzzle Place won a great deal of acclaim and "enjoyed an average audience-per-viewing second only to Barney and Friends among shows in the popular PBS daily children's block." It received a citation of excellence from UNIMA-USA for its use of puppetry. In 1997, ten more episodes of the show were "in the works". Toys "R" Us, Sears, and Payless ShoeSource all announced that they would carry merchandising from the series and showcase that merchandise in its own separate "boutique" rather than integrating it with the other products.
Season 1 (1995)
- Tippy Woo (January 16, 1995)
- Train Driving Kids (January 17, 1995)
- Rip Van Wrinkle (January 18, 1995)
- Accentuate the Positive (January 19, 1995)
- Gotta Dance (January 20, 1995)
- Rudy One (January 23, 1995)
- Butterfingers (January 24, 1995)
- Rock Dreams (January 25, 1995)
- Roamantics (January 26, 1995)
- Spud Buds (January 27, 1995)
- Different Drummer (January 30, 1995)
- I Love Kiki (January 31, 1995)
- True Colors (February 1, 1995)
- Cute Is as Cute Does (February 2, 1995)
- Leon's Pizza (February 3, 1995)
- Real Heroes (February 6, 1995)
- Going by the Book (February 7, 1995)
- Mad Music Magic (February 8, 1995)
- Party of One (February 9, 1995)
- Dancing Dragon (February 10, 1995)
- Picture Perfect (February 13, 1995)
- Maiden Voyages (February 14, 1995)
- Donuts and Dithering (February 15, 1995)
- Bully for Jody (February 16, 1995)
- Ben's Bad Hair Day (February 17, 1995)
- All Weather Friends (February 20, 1995)
- Bread and Matzoh (February 21, 1995)
- Owning It (February 22, 1995)
- Baffled Ben (February 23, 1995)
- Practice Makes Perfect (February 24, 1995)
- Finders Keepers (February 27, 1995)
- You Say Potato (February 28, 1995)
- At the End of Our Rope (March 1, 1995)
- Just Kidding (March 2, 1995)
- Everything in Its Place (March 3, 1995)
- Big Boys Don't Cry (March 6, 1995)
- Here's to the Winners (March 7, 1995)
- A World of Difference (March 8, 1995)
- Willing and Able (March 9, 1995)
- It's Magic (March 10, 1995)
Season 2 (1996)
- Deck the Halls (January 15, 1996)
- Dressing Up is Hard to Do (January 16, 1996)
- One Way (January 17, 1996)
- Oldies But Goodies (January 18, 1996)
- Helping Hands (January 19, 1996)
- Yellow Belt (January 22, 1996)
- The Mystery of the Fabulous Hat (January 23, 1996)
- How Much is That Doggie in the Window? (January 24, 1996)
- The New Adventures of Julie Woo (January 25, 1996)
- We Three Kings (January 26, 1996)
- Hello, Maggie (January 29, 1996)
- Off the Track (January 30, 1996)
- Beautiful Doll (January 31, 1996)
- Tattle Tales (February 1, 1996)
- Those Ears, Those Eyes (February 2, 1996)
- That's Weird (February 5, 1996)
- The Ballad of Davy Cricket (February 6, 1996)
- Little Leon, Big Ben (February 7, 1996)
- I Scream, You Scream (February 8, 1996)
- Skye's Coat (February 9, 1996)
- It's Mine (February 12, 1996)
- One Big, Happy Family (February 13, 1996)
- Leon Grows Up (February 14, 1996)
- Cowpokes (February 15, 1996)
- Hurricane Julie (February 16, 1996)
Season 3 (1998)
- Family Feud (October 19, 1998)
- Anything She Can't Do (October 20, 1998)
- You Don't Match (October 21, 1998)
- To Have and Have Not (October 22, 1998)
- Fiesta Follies (October 23, 1998)
- Between You and Me (October 26, 1998)
- A Star is Burned (October 27, 1998)
- Spooky (October 28, 1998)
- Up! (December 3, 1998)
- I'm Talking to You (December 4, 1998)
- Tuned In (10. Spud Buds and 14. Cute Is as Cute Does)
- Rock Dreams (18. Mad Music Magic and 8. Rock Dreams)
- Rip Van Wrinkle (17. Going by the Book and 3. Rip Van Wrinkle)
- Deck the Halls
- Sing-Along Songs
- Accentuate the Positive (6. Rudy One and 4. Accentuate the Positive)
Broadcasting around the world
Besides the PBS stations in the US, it also aired on TV Cultura in Brazil, Discovery Kids in Latin America, Playhouse Disney in France, Gerje TV in Hungary, RTP in Portugal, ERTU Channel 2 in Egypt, Nickelodeon Greece in Greece, NHK in Japan, ABC Kids in Australia, and BBC2 in the UK.
In early 1994, two pilot episodes were produced for the series known as "The Puzzle Works". Eventually, the show was renamed "The Puzzle Place" shortly before its premiere months later.
After three seasons and 75 episodes, the show stopped production, but it was seen on reruns until March 31, 2000, when it was replaced by Between the Lions the following week. Reruns were aired on TLC's Ready Set Learn channel from June 1, 2000 until February 23, 2003 when they introduced Paz the Penguin the following day.
- "Lancit Media sees domestic "Puzzle Place" licensing guarantees approaching $12 million; CEO reports "highly promising" early ratings for Lancit/KCET Series at Alex. Brown Media/Communications seminar in NYC". BNET. CNET Networks, Inc. Business Wire. 1995-04-04. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
- "Citations of Excellence Recipients (1996) RECORDED MEDIA CATEGORY". UNIMA-USA. Archived from the original on 2008-05-15. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
- Michaelson, Judith (1997-09-05). "KCET Chief Leads Station Into Expansion Era". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-02-06.
- "PBS' The Puzzle Place has apparel solved". Discount Store News. accessed through ProQuest. 34 (16). 1995-08-21. ISSN 0012-3587. Retrieved 2009-02-06.