SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : 'Storytime' broadens its audience of listeners having fun with books

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Storytime, a KCET children's staple for two years, has not only caught the attention of celebrity storytellers in Hollywood but also PBS station programmers across the country.

Beginning Monday, the award-winning series produced by KCET will be carried by PBS affiliates nationwide. The show's goal is to show how much fun reading can be, using new books and classic stories read aloud by celebrities. Many read to their own children, as well as to members of the kid audience.

"What's great is that everyone is passionate about one story that's their favorite," notes producer Steve Kulczycki. He hopes that the show can encourage youngsters to find a favorite of their own.

"A lot of the show depends on the imagination of the kids," he says. "Maybe parents will do some reading with their own kids, too."

Celebrity readers include Tom Selleck, Mariel Hemingway, John Goodman, Shari Belafonte, A Martinez, Paul Rodriguez, Edward James Olmos, Fred Savage, Cloris Leachman, Valerie Bertinelli, Paula Poundstone, John Ritter, Patricia Richardson, Cindy Williams, Amanda Plummer, Mayim Bialik, Meshach Taylor, Reginald Veljohnson, Maria Conchita Alonso and Hector Elizondo.

Puppet Kino and host Mara (Marabina Jaimes) are joined by a new co-host named Lucy (Anne Betancourt). Lucy adds a grandmother-like appeal, Kulczycki points out. Twenty new shows have been added to the original 20, which will be presented in rotation nationally. The 67 new readings bring the total of books read on the show to 137.

On June 20, Charles Dutton of "Roc" hosts a prime-time "Storytime" special at 8 p.m. Dutton reads "Muckey Moose," and Jamie Lee Curtis reads her own book, "When I Was Little." The special will feature excerpts from the new shows.

"Storytime" airs daily at 9:30-10 a.m. on KCET; weekdays at 10-10:30 a.m. on KPBS and 2:30-3 p.m. on KVCR. The special airs June 20 at 8 p.m. on KCET and KVCR. It airs June 21 at 10 a.m. on KPBS. For ages 2 and up.

Another Family Show

One glimpse at the new Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and you know that it's a product of Shelley Duvall ("Faerie Tale Theater," "Bedtime Stories," "Tall Tales and Legends"). Based on the popular children's stories by Betty MacDonald, "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" is filled with colorful, exaggerated sets with costumes and characters to match.

Jean Stapleton stars as the eponymous lead character, a wise and loving lady who lives in an upside-down house and offers uncommon cures for such common childhood problems as "The Not Truthful Cure," "The Never Want to Go to Bedder's Cure," "The Fraidy Cat Cure" and "The Tattletale Cure."

"Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle," the fifth original series Duvall has done for Showtime, offers "a wonderful, uninhibited creature, fearless and able to relate to children in a perfectly comfortable, unconditional way," Stapleton says. Most of all, the actress notes, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is child- like, but not childish.

"She has a great sense of humor, with a lot of common sense," Duvall adds. Not only was she drawn to the series of books because they were hilarious but also because they offer great information for families.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle gets her message across without using the wagging finger. "She never says, ' do this or do that,' " Duvall says. Through suggestion, the errant children always "end up understanding the right way on their own."

As Stapleton puts it, "She helps them see the light."

The hourlong "Special Parents' Sneak Peek" of "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" airs Tuesday at 9:35 p.m. Beginning June 14, the show begins its regular time slot, 7:30-8 p.m. on Showtime. For ages 2 and up.

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