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Polkaroo & Polka Dot Door logo

Polka Dot Door was a long-running children's television series produced and broadcast by TVOntario from 1971 until 1993. The show, which aired Monday to Friday, was set in a large playhouse. The show was an adaptation of the long-running BBC children's show, Play School.

Contents

Format and hosts

Each episode had two human hosts, always one man and one woman, although there were many different human hosts over the course of the series. The same pair would host the show for a week; the next week would bring a new pair of hosts.

Hosts of Polka Dot Door included Denis Simpson, Gerry Mendicino, Gloria Reuben, Tonya Lee Williams, Taborah Johnson, Cindy Cook, Catherine Bruhier, Rex Hagon, Garth Mosbaugh, Jim Codrington, Sherry Miller, Johnnie Chase, Gordon Thomson, Carrie Loring, Nerene Virgin and Nina Keogh. In the show's first decade the most frequent host was Alex Laurier.

The hosts would lead children in songs and stories, and interact with stuffed animal characters Humpty, Dumpty, Marigold and Bear. (Minou, a French-Canadian stuffed cat, sometimes also appeared in later years.) These characters never spoke or moved; the hosts would let the audience know what they were saying (What's that Marigold? You would like...). On certain theme days the hosts would invite the audience to peer through the Polka Dot Door to witness an educational video of some sort, showing, for instance, how crayons are made. When the Storytime Clock chimed, one of the hosts would visit Storytime Mouse, who had appeared next to the oversized blue grandfather clock. This grey stuffed mouse would usually be engaged in some activity related to that day's story. The would host would then tell the time in a deliberate, educational way before beginning the story. Sometimes the show would feature the music director John Arpin as well as musicians such as Peter Appleyard, Jane Bunnett, and Henry Cuesta for a round of songs, or have a visit from a special guest such as Marcia Darling from the Toronto Humane Society or a keeper at the Metro Toronto Zoo.

The music was played by virtuoso Canadian pianists Herbie Helbig ('71-'84) and John Arpin ('85-'93). It was produced by Ted Coneybeare ('71-'84) and Jed MacKay ('85-'93). MacKay began as a writer and also wrote much of the show's original music. He went on to create and produce two multi-award winning series for TVOntario: Join In! and Polka Dot Shorts. Between 1979 - 1984, Susan Murgatroyd directed 50 programs and wrote 20 scripts. From 1985 on, episodes were directed by David Moore. The show's initial executive producer was Vera Good.[1]

Polkaroo

Each day's episode had a particular theme. Monday was "Treasure Day", Tuesday was "Dress-Up Day", Wednesday was "Animal Day", Thursday was "Imagination Day", and Friday was "Finding Out Day". On "Imagination Day", the character Polkaroo appeared. The actor playing Polkaroo donned a tall, green plush costume that resembled a kangaroo. In its mended, yellow and multi-coloured polka-dot muumuu, the creature spoke using various repeated exclamations of its own name accompanied by elaborate gestures. The meaning of this pantomime was to be guessed by the audience. This was usually followed by a song whose lyrics began "Imagine, imagine, you can imagine Polkaroo...". Polkaroo appeared only to the female host while the male host was absent for some reason. The male host would return upon Polkaroo's departure, habitually exclaiming, "Polkaroo was here?!? And I missed him again?!?" The absent male host was in fact the actor in the Polkaroo costume, and though some sources have claimed that an uncredited third actor played the role, that was not the case[citation needed].

Because of the irony laden in this sentence, Polkaroo has become something of a cultural icon to the generation raised on Polka Dot Door[citation needed], and the catchphrase "Aw, I missed him again" may often be employed for humorous effect.

In the late 1990s, TVOntario capitalized on the success of Polkaroo by placing him and the other animal characters, now also actors dressed in costumes, in a new series, Polka Dot Shorts, which also had its own catchphrase moment, as each episode included the unlikely discovery of a pair of polka dot shorts, leading to the exchange:

(Character): A great big pair of polka dot shorts?

Polkaroo: How did they get there?!

The Polkaroo costume as seen above and on the original series was hand made in Toronto, Ontario by Tanya Petrova, a relatively unknown artist who made brief appearances on numerous television shows from Mr Dressup to The Steve Allen Show in the late 1960s to early 1970s. Tanya Petrova also created Charlie Horse for Shari Lewis, along with 24 other puppet creations, as well as costumes for Ontario Place, Eaton's (i.e. Glump) and other events and attractions.

Parodies

The 1980s Canadian sketch-comedy show Smith & Smith, starring real-life husband and wife team Steve and Morag Smith, used to parody the Polka Dot Door with a recurring sketch called "The Kids Show", with male and female hosts who loathed each other and bickered their way through the sketch. The sketches also featured the "Jerkaroo", played by Steve Smith with a paper bag over his head.

A Canadian sketch type educational TV show called Bod TV, which focuses on nutrition education and is also produced by TVOntario, has a parody of Polka Dot Door called Polka Dot House as one of its sketches. The sketch plays as a combination of the TV show with reality TV show Big Brother. In it, one of the hosts gets tired of Bear repeatedly making honey sandwiches for everyone day in day out, and schemes with Marigold to get Bear out of the kitchen so she can prepare a meal that provides a more balanced diet.

International syndication

The series also aired on PBS stations in the USA between 1982 and 1988. As well, it was the first Canadian kids show to be syndicated in the U.S.

References

  1. ^ The teacher behind the Polka Dot Door, Nancy Silcox, The Record (Waterloo Region), March 15, 2008.

External links

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