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The Cartoon Network makes TV and olfactory history with a scratch'n'sniff cartoon. 

Smelly Telly

"Cow and Chicken"
Cartoon Network
Airs every night this week at 8:30 p.m.

We've got color TV, stereo TV, high-definition TV, and, now, cartoons that assault not only your eyes and ears, but your nose. Is this country great or what?

Seriously, folks, Cartoon Network all this week is featuring rub-and-sniff cartoons on the "Cow and Chicken" series.

Here's how it works. You pick up a copy of the May issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids. Inside is a special rub-and-sniff card with 14 big numbers on it. Then you tune in to "Cow and Chicken." When one of the numbers on the card shows up in the lower right portion of the TV screen — you can't miss them, since they have those cartoon "stinky" lines wavering around them — you rub your fingernail across the matching number on the card, take a big sniff, et voila! In theory, what you smell on the card will synch up with what you see on the screen.

I say "in theory" because what I smelled most when I scratched the card that came with a preview tape was paper. Somehow, I don't think that's what the network had in mind. Perhaps the aromas just wafted away between the time the card was mailed and the time I began rubbing. But the same thing might apply to the insert in SI for Kids, too.

To be fair, however, I should mention that a couple of the numbers on my card did emit a distinct aroma when I rubbed them. They smelled like perfume mixed with paper — just like those rub-and-sniff perfume ads people complain about in magazines. What perfume has to do with a cartoon series about a cow and a chicken, though, is beyond my understanding.

The good news, however, is that you don't have to have a Smelly Telly card — that's what the network calls them — to follow the plot of "Cow and Chicken." The aromas on the card are not an integral part of the plot. They're merely an "enhancement," one might say. And I know I'm a little bit beyond the cartoon demographic, but I had the devil of a time watching for the numbers on the screen, then rubbing and sniffing, all while trying to follow the plot.

Which brings me to the bad news. "Cow and Chicken" is not clever enough to entertain adults and is a bit too rough for the sub-teen set. The series premise is that Cow and Chicken are siblings, albeit somewhat surreal, who live in the suburbs with their human parents and have human playmates who think it's really cool that Cow has udders (does she ever!) and that Chicken has a beak. Parents of younger kids will no doubt be bothered by the lesson taught by the first cartoon on the preview tape: If you're attacked, hit back hard.

So what we have here is a breakthrough on the odor front for TV cartoons that may or may not actually work effectively, and a program that's neither for grownups or children.

But, hey, if you're 16 and willing to buy a copy of SI for Kids, here's your chance to be in on a little TV history in the
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