Definitions

The Hallo Spencer Show

Hallo Spencer

Hallo Spencer is a German children's television series, created by Winfried Debertin and produced by NDR from 1979 until 2001. In these 22 years, 275 episodes were filmed, including a number of 'specials' featuring the characters taking part in traditional fairy tale and nursery rhyme themed stories.
It is a puppet based show, featuring characters created and operated in the same fashion as Jim Henson's Muppets. To this day, the series is popular and well-loved in its home country to the extent that the theme park Heide Park features a themed area devoted to the show.
The series has been repeated on the commercial channels Nickelodeon Germany and on the pay-TV channel Premiere. Episodes are still regularly found on regional broadcast stations.

Main Characters

American character names are listed alongside their original counterparts.

Spencer (Hallo Spencer)

The main character. In the early episodes, Spencer lived in a television studio, although he later moved into an apartment in the "Hallerstraße". He is the mayor of the village, and has at his disposal a videophone with which he can watch and speak to any of the residents at any time.
Puppeteers: Joachim Hall, Jürgen Meuter (hands).

Elvis (Elmar)

Elvis is Spencer's assistant. He lives with his female friend Lulu in a railway carriage known as the Dream Express.
Puppeteer: Wilhelm Helmrich, Matthias Hirth.

Lulu

Lulu lives with Elvis in the Dream Express. In early episodes, she had no nose.
Puppeteer: Maria Ilic.

Peggy

Peggy is Lulu's sister. She only appears in the first 5 Episodes.

Nepomuk (Grumpowski Nepomuk)

Nepomuk is an irritable and stubborn creature. His nickname is Nepi (Grumpo in the American version). He dislikes the nickname tallywacker, only allowing his friend Kasi to use it. He lives in a large castle.
Puppeteer: Horst Lateika.

Kasimir

Kasimir (or Kasi for short) is a red creature with unusually long arms, who lives in a tree which has an elevator built inside it. He is Nepomuk's best friend and the only villager allowed to call him Nepi (although this is not the case in early episodes). Kasi is very helpful, and does many different jobs in the village.
Puppeteers: Herbert Langemann, Martin Leßmann.

Poldi

Poldi is a dragon who lives in a volcanic crater. If irritated by other characters, he will often threaten to eat them (though he never does).
Puppeteer: Friedrich Wollweber.

Pummelzacken

Pummelzacken is a female dragon. She is Poldi's girlfriend.

Lexi

Lexi is the bookworm of the village. He lives in a mushroom and is continually compiling his enormous library, known as the Lexiklopädie (Lexipedia in the American version).
Puppeteers: Lorenz Claussen, Matthias Hirth, Joachim Hall.
US Voice: Ted Layman.

The Quietschbeus (The Screech Boys)

The Quietschbeus are a trio of musicians who live in the television studio alongside Spencer. In every episode they perform a song related to the topic of the episode. Their German name is derived from the 'Beach Boys'.

  • Karl-Heinz (Frankie) is the band-leader, and has a green nose. In the original version, he has a distinct dialect. Puppeteers: Petra Zieser, Eva Behrmann, Karime Vakilzadeh
  • Karl-Gustav has a red nose. He often has problems making decisions. Puppeteers: Klaus Naeve, Lorenz Claussen.
  • Karl-Otto has a blue nose. In the original, he stutters. Puppeteers: Matthias Hirth, Lothar Kreutzer, Jürgen Meuter.

Mona and Lisa

Twin girls who live on a houseboat and are usually found arguing. Mona and Lisa are not identical twins - they can be identified by their different hair styles. Mona has her hair tied in two pigtails, while Lisa has a single ponytail.
The twins first appeared in Episode 6.
Puppeteers: Petra Zieser, Sabine Steincke, Karime Vakilzadeh (Mona), Eva Behrmann (Lisa).

Galaktika (Galactica)

Galaktika is an alien from Andromeda. The villagers can summon her by singing. However, in some early episodes Galaktika appears without the need of a song.
Puppeteer: Maria Ilic.

Nero

Nero is a demon. He appeared only in several early episodes, being quickly dropped from the show when it found that young viewers were afraid of him.
Puppeteers: Friedrich Wollweber, Matthias Hirth, Joachim Hall.

The Series Abroad

In the early 90s, after many years of success in its homeland, Saban International bought the foreign rights to Hallo Spencer. The show was soon being translated and broadcast in many countries, including America, China, Spain, Singapore, Russia, Scandinavia and the Netherlands. However, the rushed translations and changes made to the show were often for the worse. The European style of characters speaking over one another worked very badly in other regions, making scenes unintelligible and worse, laughable. This was not helped by the comparatively low budget of the programme.

The American version was retitled The Hallo Spencer Show and heavily edited - seven minutes were cut from each episode in order to fit the American broadcast schedule, and to accommodate the inclusion of a rap at the end, summarising the events of the episode. The title character, Spencer, was renamed Hallo Spencer (Hallo now being his first name), and many other characters were altered to make them more palpable. Nepomuk also found himself with a first name: Grumpowski, Elvis became Elmar and the house band, the Quietschbeus became The Screech Boys.

Trivia

  • The village and its locations are built in a circular formation. This is not clear from the early episodes.
  • Episode 87 ("Kasi braucht Hilfe") was never finished because of the death of Herbert Langemann, Kasi's puppeteer, in 1987. It was subsequently never broadcast. However, the song "Erste Hilfe", assumed to be the Quietschbeus' song for the episode, appeared in a later episode. Langemann was replaced by Martin Leßmann.
  • Wilhelm Helmrich, Elmar's puppeteer, died in 1992. He was replaced by Matthias Hirth.
  • In one episode, Fred Bräutigam appeared as the puppeteer of Karl-Otto. However, he never appeared again.
  • In one episode, Poldi was performed by Wilhelm Helmrich for a few seconds. However, this was the only time Poldi was not performed by Friedrich Wollweber.

Episode Availability

Episodes of the original version are widely available in Germany on VHS.

The American language version is unsurprisingly rarer. It is unknown how many episodes were originally translated and broadcast, but only six have been released on VHS, in three volumes. Judging by the contents of the tapes, the American episodes seem to have been chosen at random, with no regard at all to the running order of the original series.
The contents of each tape is as follows:

  • Volume 1:

A Friend from China (Episode 100) and The Storm (Episode 86)

  • Volume 2:

The Visitor (Episode 121) and The Argument (Episode 77)

  • Volume 3:

The Less I See, The More I Hear (Episode 84) and A Million for Mona Lisa (Episode 120)

Analysis

Hallo Spencer is set in the fictional German town of Spencerdorf. Geographically, the area is wildly varied: densely forested and lush grassland areas border an arid, extremely localised volcanic area. There is also evidence that a substantial forest once populated the area - the remains of one trunk has been converted into a four-storey elevator shaft.

The US language version was relocated to Spencerville, Ohio, which interestingly, is a real town. However, visitors hoping to see some familiar Hallo Spencer landmarks would be disappointed: it has little in common with its fictional counterpart.

Spencer is the Mayor of Spencerdorf. This may be a coincidence, but Spencer's influence over the town seems to extend far beyond the remit of a traditional mayoral position. While the town seems fairly well established, and it is unlikely that Spencer himself founded it, the population never reference previous mayors (indeed, there is a conspicuous lack of any political system, or even desire for one), and all seem comfortable with Spencer being in charge. But however comfortable, change must be assumed to have occurred at some point in the past. Thus, if it is assumed that the town and mayor sharing the same name is not a coincidence, and if it is not a hereditary position (passing from one Spencer to another), perhaps the new mayor assumes the 'Spencer' name along with his duties.

The videophone that Spencer employs to monitor and communicate with the population has been likened to the two-way telescreens seen in George Orwell's 1984.

Only Spencer has control over the system, which features the ability to have split-screen conversations with any number of participants. The number of cameras installed in Spencerdorf is unknown, but it must be vast - Spencer never has a problem locating and conversing with another citizen, no matter their position in the town. Oddly, no objections are ever made to this total lack of privacy.

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