Both children and their parents love singer/songwriter Ralph Covert’s “Ralph’s World” indie-pop CDs.
Now, the Bad Examples frontman wants to wow both age groups with a “Ralph’s World”-based TV show, “Time Machine Guitar” (more info at timemachineguitar.com).
“With the TV show, we’re trying to create something that has the same sensibility to it, and also do a show that engages and activates the kids. I think that’s something that’s not done enough with TV,” he said during a phone interview, during which his 3-year-old son, Jude, interrupted him. “Our show gets kids moving and thinking and participating.
“The early ‘Ralph’s World’ videos have dancing kids that come along and dance with me. Every time I watch those videos with kids, the kids get up and dance along. Time Machine Guitar features four music videos in every show, and in the first one on every show we have dancing kids so we can have that same experience with kids.”
The clear guitar Covert plays on the show acts as a time machine that takes him and three puppet friends — a cat, dog, and a squirrel — on trips through history, where they’re exposed to different lessons and different types of music. In the pilot episode, they travel to 1785 in search of Benjamin Franklin — and end up meeting his mole.
Covert and his wife/business partner, Rita, have shopped the kids’ show idea around to Hollywood for nearly a decade before deciding to make the pilot themselves. “I have had deals that have gone all the way to a signed deal with a network and producer, and it fell apart before it came to fruition,” he says.
“The money involved in making a show is enormous, which is part of why the choices of both cable and regular networks are so safe,” he says. “There’s a lot of risk in going from taking the idea from in your head to where you can see it. That’s why I felt it was important to make the show: I was taking some of the risk out of it for them. ‘Here’s the show. Here’s what it’s going to look like. You can watch it for half an hour and decide for yourself: Do I suck or am I engaging?’ The proof is in the pudding.”
He continues, “If you look at the Chicago music and theater scene historically, and even some shows like ‘Oprah’ that came out of Chicago, they didn’t do it by asking permission. People here historically do it by having a great idea and pursuing it. For better or worse, that’s been my business plan with the music, so we might as well apply it to the TV show.”
At the urging of Bad Examples fan, friend, and Charlottesville, Virginia-based producer Erica Arvold, Covert shot the pilot there in January, using his own funds and $18,577 raised through a Kickstarter campaign.
Although he’s acted and written plays and musicals (he and G. Riley Mills‘ musical “The Hundred Dresses” is currently playing off-Broadway in New York), Covert says shooting the pilot was a stretch. “It’s been in some ways more stressful and challenging than anything I could ever imagine, because it required me to pull from so many different directions. When you’re standing on a set, and it’s your money paying for it, and a friend who pulled the production together got a lot of A-list film and TV people together, and you’ve got to go and act with these puppets, it’s something else. It’s exciting.”
At press time Covert — who, growing up, was a fan of Mr. Rogers, the Banana Splits, and “Get Smart” — was editing the pilot, which he plans to shop around to public, cable, and network TV.
“We got through the first big thing,” he says. “We have a worthy and exciting show on our hands. Now we need to find somewhere we can share it with people in a way that we can keep the magic intact — which is a great challenge to have.”
Covert is also gearing up for a Ralph’s World concert at the Old Town School Of Folk Music on April 22nd. “The Old Town School is where this started, with me, when I was doing ‘Wiggleworms’ before ‘Ralph’s World.’ It’s one of the most magical shows we do, because we get a chance to go back and stand on the stage where it all started.”
ODDS N SODS: Look for Sean “Diddy” Combs and Comcast to launch a new TV channel “influenced by the nonstop chatter of social networking” called Revolt next year. Magic Johnson and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez also have channels in the works . . . Robert Feder’s Time Out Chicago piece about radio’s irrelevance on the night of Whitney’s Houston’s untimely death was spot-on . . . RIP Chicago News Cooperative: we’ll miss you — really . . . We can’t decide whether we love or hate WGN Morning News’ brilliant (yet so wrong) “Eddie & JoBo” bits featuring Mike Toomey and Jeff Hoover . . . Anyone else underwhelmed by the new Trop-rock college radio format, which features acts like Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley? Decide for yourself at lewisu.edu/wlra/index.htm.
– Cara Jepsen
This version of the story has been updated since it was originally posted.
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