Media: Mr. Beechams Neighborhood
IT’S JULY, AND Andrew Beecham’s back in his office, with photos on the walls showing him posing with Elmo, with Oscar the Grouch. A graph on the back of his door charts his weight in preparation for the Broad Street Run, and there’s the electric drum kit in the corner, which he actually plays. Just not so much lately.
After the Wiggles signed on in May, his team went into hyperdrive — again — to come up with concepts, scripts and promos in just two weeks — again — and then jump on a plane the day after his daughter’s bat mitzvah to go to Australia for two weeks to film The Wiggly Waffle Show.
On top of that, the Sprout staff just shot the third season of The Good Night Show, and is “refreshing” the channel for the first time — making the graphics for the logos look more homemade, as if a kid glued together buttons, pipe cleaners, felt and cardboard. (“We love cardboard,” Beecham says.) The refresh rolls out this month.
But now Beecham’s practically jumping out of his khakis to see the rough cuts of the Australia shoot.
“That shoot was one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever experienced,” says Mike Conway, managing director of the Wiggles, the man who called Beecham that Friday afternoon just a few months before. “The guys just clicked with it. It was freaky.”
This, Beecham is certain, is going to be the coolest thing he’s done yet. Sure, the Wiggles will bring their ginormous fan base — known, technically, as “Wiggle Mania” — to Sprout. And sure, that might be just what the channel needs to jump its distribution into 90 million homes, the Big Dog zone. But Beecham is most psyched about the set. It’s like Laugh-In’s, but the windows don’t open out of a wall; they open out of a waffle. Every episode, Jeff (a.k.a. the Purple Wiggle) is still sleeping when the show starts; kids send in suggestions for how the Wiggles should wake him up. (Bang a cowbell! Play a trombone!) Kids can go online to suggest toppings for the waffle that will fall down from the sky, or send photos of themselves and appear on-air as the Fifth Wiggle. And of course there’s a puppet … or actually, a mascot/juice box with apple-slice feet, named JB.
Beecham sits in the editing room, watching cuts. There’s no music. No background. There are just Wiggles popping out of waffle windows like Goldie Hawn in drag. They sing about yawning. Then JB the juice box introduces another feature: kids sending in video requests for songs that will air during the The Wiggly Waffle Show. “Big Red Car.” “Fruit Salad.” “Hot Potatoes.”
“And this one,” says JB, “is from Andrew in Philadelphia!”
It’s just a placeholder. Everyone knows it. But Beecham, Peter Pan that he is, can’t help but giggle: “That’s me!”