By Nicholas Stix
On October 6, watching Between the Lions, an entertaining kids’ show that is one of the few (the only one?) that actually helps kids learn how to read with my son, I saw a familiar face under a lot of makeup and with a big mustache and a hammy, generic Eastern/Southern European accent. I’m sure it was a middle-aged, paunchy, Bruno Kirby, may he rest in peace.
The story was about a simpleton farmer and the Lucy-type (from Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic strip) woman in the countryside who takes all of his money giving him obvious advice. The farmer’s house is overrun with livestock. The woman tells him to remove first this animal, then that, and ultimately all of the animals from the house, each time taking more of his money. In the end, the woman leaves for the big city in a luxurious, chauffeur-driven car, laughing at the (Charlie Brown-based?), farmer. His life is also immeasurably better without a house full of animals, though the (feminist?) writer seems to want us to look up to the scam artist and down upon the honest if dull farmer.
Unfortunately, the story was on the dumb side, certainly below Between the Lions’ usual standards, as was Kirby’s work, but all the same, it was nice to see him working during the long, dark night that Billy Crystal rang down on him, following City Slickers. (Speaking of Crystal, City Slickers II was on TV yesterday, with Jon Lovitz “replacing” Kirby. The pic was so bad that we changed the channel after about two minutes. No wonder critics panned it and audiences avoided it the plague.)
The usually reliable IMDB.com’s page for Between the Lions is worthless, and Kirby’s own IMDB.com page makes no mention of his guest gig, but I was able to find confirmation that Kirby had indeed been a guest star on the show, though without any particulars (episode name, initial broadcast date) at the show’s PBS Web page.