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Animated 'Time Warp' is a unique history lesson

Television shows about boys in grade school generally involve someone getting into mischief at home (''The Suite Life of Zack & Cody") or having an adventure in the neighborhood (''Hey Arnold!"). Today, with the premiere of a charming new cartoon series, WGBH-TV is attempting something fresh. ''Time Warp Trio," a 30-minute action-adventure show for children ages 6 to 11, will follow the exploits of three 10-year-old friends as they use a magic book to travel back in time.

Once they arrive in the past, the boys will outwit bad guys and meet famous people.

While the concept of an animated history show sounds dreadful, WGBH is skillful in its combination of entertainment and historical facts.

''Time Warp Trio" will not air on PBS. Instead, WGBH, the leading creator of programming for public television, has produced the series for the commercial outlet Discovery Kids, which is co-producing the series. Discovery Kids will air the show during its programming block on NBC Saturday mornings at 11:30. Today the show is premiering at 3:30 on the NBC affiliate WHDH-TV (Channel 7) because its earlier time slot was preempted by a sporting event.

The Discovery Kids Channel will air repeat episodes Mondays and Fridays at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 8:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., beginning July 11.

The program, which is based on the book series of the same name by Jon Scieszka, centers on Joe, Sam, and Fred, who live in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In today's premiere, Joe's uncle, a magician, gives Joe a mysterious book for his birthday that emits a green haze and -- without warning -- whisks the trio away to wherever they wish to go. ''Be careful what you wish for" is the uncle's only advice.

Suddenly, the boys come face to face with Captain Blackbeard, the famous pirate of the early 1700s, who is quick to take them hostage. After a battle with some British soldiers, the boys find themselves on trial in a colonial courtroom, facing a possible hanging for piracy. Blackbeard, the man with 14 wives, gets away.

''Time Warp Trio" is produced with digital animation by Boston's Soup2Nuts animation studio. It's a look and style that takes getting used to. But Joe, Sam, and Fred are endearing, and their adventures unique. Which other animated characters on TV are going to meet a samurai, a pharaoh, and a gladiator this summer? Given the choices on TV, ''Time Warp Trio" is worth a look.

Suzanne Ryan can be reached at

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