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Sunday, January 24, 2016


Elmo's back, and this time he has a whole DVD to himself.  Which gives him plenty of time to do what he does best--wonder about things.

ELMO'S WORLD: ELMO WONDERS features eight full episodes (approx. two hours) of our li'l furry friend wondering about the mysteries of the world that have puzzled preschoolers since the dawn of time.  Less segmented and random than "Sesame Street", "Elmo's World" is designed for smaller tykes who haven't reached that level of sophistication and are still dealing with Life 101. 

In other words, very little emphasis on letters and numbers and more upon things like jumping, mailing letters, and how to ride bicycles.

Elmo chooses a subject at the outset of each episode and exhaustively investigates it through a series of recurring vignettes that benefit both from his own innocent charm and a wealth of colorfully-rendered cartoon and live-action images.  He's aided by his beloved goldfish Dorothy, who is silent but with whom Elmo seems to share a psychic bond, along with a host of children who comment, both on and off camera, on the proceedings throughout. 

Also on hand to help demonstrate things in the most clueless ways possible is comedian Bill Irwin as "Mr. Noodle", Elmo's next-door neighbor and a comical idiot of the highest order.  In each episode we see him through Elmo's window as he does everything from attempting to row a canoe on dry land to mailing a letter by throwing it through a basketball hoop while the offscreen kids egg him on. 

The late, great Michael Jeter (THE GREEN MILE) shows up in one episode as Mr. Noodle's brother, Mr. Noodle, demonstrating how not to ride a bicycle (sitting backwards on it, we learn, is impractical) while their dumb-blonde sister Miss Noodle models inappropriate ways to dress while firefighting.

Elmo himself has a boundless energy and an inquisitive enthusiasm for everything that's infectious.  In the tradition of Captain Kangaroo and Soupy Sales, he interacts with various inanimate objects such as drawers, window shades, and doors which are alive and often tax his patience with their comical obstinance ("Come on, Shade--stay up!") 

Regular Sesame Street characters such as Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Oscar the Grouch frequently drop in or send Elmo video messages which he views on his computer whenever he can pin the rambunctious critter down long enough. 

His TV, which also skitters about and turns itself on and off, has a channel devoted to every subject ("The Sky Channel", "The Doctor Channel", and yes, even "The Weather Channel") featuring a character named The Lecture Lady who is usually voiced by the great SCTV alumnus Andrea Martin in "Edith Prickley" mode.

Dorothy the goldfish keeps up her end of the show by imagining Elmo in various guises (in the "Doctor" episode she pictures him as a vet asking a whale to say "Ahhh", while in "Firefighters" he rescues a kitty cat from a tree) and by telepathically asking pertinent questions to which Elmo endeavors to find the answers. 

Each show ends with Dorothy requesting a song which invariably consists of Elmo singing a single word ("doctors", "weather", "sky", etc.) over and over to the tune of "Jingle Bells" while plunking his giant kiddie piano with whatever humans and/or muppets happen to be on hand as his backup singers.

The DVD from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is full screen and contains seven complete episodes of "Elmo's World" plus a bonus episode ("Transportation") and Ernie of "Bert and Ernie" fame singing the "I Wonder" song. 

By Sesame Street standards, ELMOS'S WORLD: ELMO WONDERS is refreshingly low-key, without the usual breakneck pace designed to keep low-attention-span kids' minds from wandering.  With Elmo scampering about inside his delightful crayon-scrawled world and seeing everything through the eyes of a curious preschooler, it's the kind of children's show that Pee-Wee Herman himself might watch to connect with his inner child's inner child.

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