PRESS TOUR: Fred Rogers Company lands third kids' series on PBS, 'Odd Squad'

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 12:41 PM Written by 

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FredRogersCompanyPASADENA, Calif. -- The South Side’s Fred Rogers Company has sold its third children’s show to PBS in as many years.

“Odd Squad” will be the company’s first live-action series since “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” but like previous animated show “Peg + Cat,” TFRC is helping shepherd the show while not being all that involved in the show’s scripting. PBS ordered 40 half-hour episodes and the show is expected to air during the 2014-15 TV season.

Read more after the jump. ...

odd squad blogAimed at children ages 5-8, “Odd Squad” follows two young agents, Olive and Otto, who are part of an agency that seeks to save the day using math when odd things happen. A math concept is included in each episode.

Paul Siefken, vice president of broadcast and digital media fo TFRC, said “Odd Squad” creators Tim McKeon (“Adventure Time,” “Electric Company”) and Adam Peltzman (“The Electric Company,” “The Backyardigans”) developed the show concept as part of PBS’s Ready to Learn grant and then it was picked up by PBS.

“That’s when Tim and Adam had to find a way to make the show,” he said. TFRC had been in conversations with Toronto-based Sinking Ship Entertainment (Disney Junior’s “This is Daniel Cook,” Nick Jr.’s “Dino Dan” and Amazon.com’s upcoming “Annedroids”) and the three entities eventually joined together for “Odd Squad” production, which begins this week in Toronto on a 25,000-square-foot set.

Mr. Siefken is reading scripts and giving notes but TFRC’s primary role is in assisting with financing, setting a production schedule and getting the show delivered to PBS. TFRC is also involved in producing the show’s transmedia content, including concepts for apps and games.

“We’ve really integrated ourselves into the process pretty well,” he said. “It is a partnership. We’re weighing in as part of the team. We’re not necessarily giving a thumb’s up or thumb’s down on content.”

Because of Sinking Ship’s involvement and past production work in its Toronto home base, Pittsburgh was not really in the running as a filming location.

“The world of television and financing right now demands there be partnerships and co-productions and The Fred Rogers Company has been at the forefront of that,” Mr. Siefken said, noting that co-productions also exist on the company’s “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” (aimed at ages 2-4) and “Peg + Cat” (aimed at ages 4-6). “We’ve very quickly established ourselves as a trusted partner with PBS and have a reputation for delivering content effectively and efficiently and content that always meets the mission of PBS and The Fred Rogers Company.”

“Odd Squad” will be PBS’s first live-action kids’ show since the re-launch of “The Electric Company” in 2009.

“We have never read a script that made us laugh as much as the ‘Odd Squad’ script,” said Lesli Rotenberg, general manager of PBS children’s programming. “And the way they were able to integrate the math curriculum seamlessly; it never gets in any way pedantic.”

Read more about "Odd Squad" and "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" in tomorrow's Post-Gazette.

Here's PBS's release on "Odd Squad":

PBS KIDS ANNOUNCES NEW SERIES: ODD SQUAD

Live-action multiplatform media property will help kids ages 5-8 build math skills

Television Critics Association Press Tour, Pasadena, CA, January 21, 2014 – Today PBS KIDS announced the production of its newest series: ODD SQUAD, a live-action media property designed to help kids ages 5-8 learn math. The show focuses on two young agents, Olive and Otto, who are part of the Odd Squad, an agency whose mission is to save the day whenever something unusual happens in their town. A math concept is embedded in each of their cases, as Olive and Otto work together to problem-solve and correct the oddity du jour in each episode.

Coming soon to PBS KIDS on-air, online and on mobile, ODD SQUAD is created by Tim McKeon (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Adventure Time, The Electric Company) and Adam Peltzman (The Electric CompanyThe Backyardigans, Wallykazam!) and produced by Sinking Ship Entertainment and The Fred Rogers Company. ODD SQUAD is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education through the Ready To Learn Initiative, a program that supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted to preschool and early elementary school children and their families, and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

“Research shows that children who have positive, enriching experiences with math learning at a young age will have greater long-term success,” said Lesli Rotenberg, General Manager, Children’s Programming, PBS. “These early math experiences are especially important for kids from low-income families, who typically start school with lower scores in math than their middle-income peers. Grounded in a standards-based math framework, ODD SQUAD is designed to help children build these critical math skills and skills such as problem-solving, resilience and collaboration, to help them establish a solid foundation for success in school and in life.”

Each episode of ODD SQUAD includes two 11-minute cases in which the agents investigate weird and unusual phenomena around them and use math to put things right. From recapturing a gallon-sized blob that has separated into smaller pieces, to dealing with a slew of unicorns, dinosaurs and wizards that have escaped from books, there is no occurrence that is too strange for the Odd Squad as they face off against various villains that wreak havoc around town.

From time to time, Olive and Otto are overwhelmed with information and need to work out a problem, at which point they teleport to the futuristic “Mathroom,” where they have all the tools they need to work toward a solution. In each adventure, theOdd Squad agents navigate a complicated underground system of giant tubes that allow them to travel to and from headquarters in just seconds. Each case is followed by an interstitial, such as an agent training video, a guide to the OddSquad headquarters or demonstrations of how to use the Odd Squad’s odd gadgets – from the “Pudding-Inator” to “The Make-Anything-Within-Reason-Machine.”

The ODD SQUAD television series is part of a multiplatform media experience that will include free interactive content online and on mobile. ODD SQUAD’s digital content will put kids in the driver’s seat, giving them the opportunity to sign up and join the Odd Squad, solve cases and stop oddness, just like Olive and Otto. The show’s interactive features will include games, parent resources, mobile apps and more.

ODD SQUAD will invite viewers to take an active role in learning, as they get wrapped up in the unusual cases on-air and then have the chance to become Odd Squad agents themselves through digital content,” said Paul Siefken, Vice President, Broadcast and Digital Media, The Fred Rogers Company. “At the Fred Rogers Company, we are excited to work with such extraordinary talent on this uncommonly creative series that bolsters our mission to produce high-quality educational media for children.”

ODD SQUAD is part of PBS KIDS’ ongoing commitment to use the power of media to help open up worlds of possibilities for children. PBS KIDS serves young audiences wherever they live, learn and play — through educational apps, on TV, online and in the classroom.

About PBS KIDS 
PBS KIDS, the number-one educational media brand for kids, offers all children the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television, online, mobile and community-based programs. Kidscreen- and Webby-award winning pbskids.orgprovides engaging interactive content, including the PBS KIDS video player, now offering free streaming video accessible on computer- and mobile-device-based browsers. For more information on specific PBS KIDS content supporting literacy, science, math and more, visit pbs.org/pressroom or follow PBS KIDS on Twitter and Facebook.

About Sinking Ship Entertainment

Sinking Ship Entertainment is an award-winning production and interactive company that creates and produces groundbreaking kids TV and transmedia content. Since its founding in 2004, Sinking Ship has created and produced numerous children’s TV series and has been on the forefront of TV production and interactive media for kids. From being selected as one of the first partners of Amazon Studios with the upcoming series Annedroids, to achieving Nick Jr.’s highest debut of all time with the action-packed series Dino Dan, Sinking Ship Entertainment brings dynamic content to audiences around the world with shows broadcast in more than 130 countries. Other series highlights include the award-winning “This is Daniel Cook,” “This is Emily Yeung” and “Are We There Yet?: World Adventure.” Find out more at www.sinkingship.ca.

About The Fred Rogers Company
The company was founded by Fred Rogers in 1971 as the nonprofit producer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for PBS. In the years that followed, it not only created hundreds of episodes of this much-loved program, but also extended Fred’s values and approach to other efforts in promoting children’s social, emotional and behavioral health and supporting parents, caregivers, teachers and other professionals in their work with children. The Fred Rogers Company continues to build on Fred’s legacy in innovative ways through a wide variety of media, and engaging new generations of children and families with his timeless wisdom. For more information, visit us at www.fredrogers.org.

About CPB 
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,400 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services.

About The Ready To Learn Initiative
The Ready To Learn Initiative is a cooperative agreement funded and managed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. It supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted to preschool and early elementary school children and their families. Its general goal is to promote early learning and school readiness, with a particular interest in reaching low-income children. In addition to creating television and other media products, the program supports activities intended to promote national distribution of the programming, effective educational uses of the programming, community-based outreach and research on educational effectiveness.

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