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Published August 09 2012

Benshoof: All aboard as ‘Choo Choo’ comes to Fargo

Kids’ shows these days just aren’t the same.

In an age of cartoons, animation and embarrassingly cheesy Disney “stars,” I’m happy to say I grew up during the time of “Sesame Street,” “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Reading Rainbow.”

So it was with some interest that I read about “The Choo Choo Bob Show” coming to Fargo on Saturday morning.

Based in the Twin Cities and airing on Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on KVLY, Channel 11 in Fargo-Moorhead, the show is live-action, family-friendly children’s programming, comparing itself to “The Muppet Show” or “Yo Gabba Gabba.”

I didn’t know such a show still existed. Granted, it’s been a couple of years since I moved on from children’s programming (just a couple), but a scan of current early-morning TV makes it seem that most kids’ shows are cartoons or otherwise animated.

So, on Wednesday, I spoke with Bob Medcraft, creator and producer of “The Choo Choo Bob Show,” to find out how something like his show can still find an audience with today’s children, and what it takes to connect with kids these days.

Medcraft, who has a background in film and television production and owns a train store in St. Paul, agreed with me that there aren’t many shows on TV like his anymore.

“Today there is very little real-person, real-human being children’s programming,” Medcraft says.

In creating the character of Choo Choo Bob (played by Sam Heyn, a Minnesota State University Moorhead grad), Medcraft says he and the show’s producers tried to create someone that an audience of kids could respond to.

“The key is always talk to the kids, don’t talk down to them,” Medcraft told me. “Kids relate to real people – it doesn’t matter how old (Choo Choo Bob) is as long as he’s talking to them in an intelligent way.”

In “The Choo Choo Bob Show,” Bob is the only character that actually talks directly to the camera, Medcraft says. All the other characters talk to each other, but in this way Bob develops a bond with the audience.

Of course, a successful children’s show will have more than just the main character. In “The Choo Choo Bob Show,” for example, some educational factoids about trains, a puppet named Charlie Rat and even some local bands help spice things up (Haley Bonar, who will be performing in Fargo this fall, is among the area musical acts who have so far appeared on the show).

And, finally, add some slapstick and exaggeration, and, voila, you have yourself a children’s show.

“Kids love slapstick,” Medcraft says, referring to scenes like those where someone gets a bowling ball dropped on their foot.

That’s something Mr. Rogers never incorporated into his act, I guess.

If You Go

WHAT: A live viewing of “Choo Choo Bob Show” with cast and crew

WHEN: Doors open 9:30 a.m. Saturday, show starts at 10

where: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway

info: Tickets are free, and seating is first come, first served. The audience is asked to bring a donation for the Great Plains Food Bank. Check out www.fargotheatre.org for more information.

Online: To see a full episode of “The Choo Choo Bob Show,” visit: http://goo.gl/pQKQw


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535