Discovery Wild About ‘Harry’

Jun 26, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Producer Claude Brooks’ yearlong effort to bring hip-hop to kids programming has paid off as Discovery Networks has ordered his “Hip Hop Harry” creation for the TLC and Discovery Kids networks.

The deal includes 26 half-hour episodes of the program, in which a performer dressed as a break dancing, beat-boxing, rhyming bear teaches social and educational lessons to preschoolers. The show will run on Discovery Kids then repeat during TLC’s weekday morning Ready Set Learn! block.

Mr. Brooks (“Second Time Around,” “Dance 360”) was inspired to create “Hip Hop Harry” after using rhyming verse to help his young nephews learn their homework. He enlisted University of California, Los Angeles professor and children’s television consultant Gordon Berry to help develop the show’s curriculum and armed himself with research demonstrating that rap music helps children learn new skills and that rhyming is a precursor to literacy.

Rather than pitching the series outright, however, last summer Mr. Brooks shot two “Hip Hop Harry” DVDs for direct video sales and booked Harry on a shopping mall tour. At the time, Mr. Brooks said, he wanted to develop the character rather than face network notes. But an item about “Hip Hop Harry” in the June 6 issue of TelevisionWeek prompted a call from Discovery Kids Executive VP and General Manager Marjorie Kaplan, who later ordered the show.

“Hip-hop is such a pervasive new sound in kids’ culture, the beat is so attractive and the rhyming is so effective as a teaching tool,” Ms. Kaplan said. “This will be the first hip-hop preschool show.”

The show is produced by Discovery Kids and Mr. Brooks’ C to the B Productions, which is housed at Paramount. Mr. Brooks said parents who have seen early footage have embraced the hip-hop theme, even if it’s not their preferred style of music.

“We haven’t received any adverse reactions,” he said. “All the rhymes are grammatically correct. We’re conjugating all of our verbs.”

Video: Hip Hop Harry