The days I spent watching educational programs on PBS I think gave me an interesting way of seeing the world. And I am not alone:
Exposure to Samuel Beckett, art-appreciation documentaries, “Masterpiece Theatre,” and grade Z film gave me the rudiments of an aesthetic education. And a good thing, too, because nobody in the local school system would have used the expression “aesthetic education,” or considered it worth offering.
Those were golden halcyon days watching the weird shows fly by. I remember seeing Firing Line briefly and Steve Allen’s program and Dick Cavett’s program. I’m not saying I ‘watched’ them, but I would see them in passing hoping to find a repeat of Sesame Street. My parents would watch Masterpiece Theatre religiously, which I hated because I wanted to watch what else was on Sunday nights. Usually it was NBC’s Police Story or some other violent, low-brow entertainment.
Now all that old TV “content” can be recycled to the public airwaves of the Interwebs. All that was old is new again. Which means I should try tracking down all those old episodes of Omnibus that made the transition from BBC to PBS. Sometimes I think PBS and BBC should have formed up a single International Media conglomerate and shared more costs in preparation for the large scale media consolidation of the ’80s. And certainly they could have hedged their enterprises somewhat against the proliferation of Satellite and Cable TV networks.
Oh, if I could just get the BBC for several hours in the evening or even during the day. I would watch Emmerdale or Eastenders, I would even watch Tesco commercials. Doesn’t matter to me. Too much of what we watch locally on TV is a kind of bubble like prison, meant to reinforce, nay indoctrinate one in the predominant culture. And more choices hasn’t helped as the media owners don’t let the media flow freely cross international borders.
I was raised on the most successful initiatives from Public Television, or ETV as it was previously known (E standing for Educational of course). Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Reading Rainbow were my bread and butter as a kid. And yet while those educational programs were major successes, television’s promise of bringing education and instruction to a wide audience was left largely unfulfilled in the United States. Proponents of educational TV faced the harsh realities of the large amounts of funding required to create and maintain television programing placed upon them. The need to satisfy the large …
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As a kid I watched PBS a lot. One reason being in the 1970s funding for PBS kids shows and educational programs was better than it is now. As kids we would watch hours of programming and then we would be rewarded, REWARDED with a fund-raising drive once a year. The reason I say rewarded is PBS went out of its way to entertain and bring in new viewers. They would air special programs especially for the fund-raising drive. I remember one year they aired Woodstock as the centerpiece of one year’s fund-raising campaign. That was the cool part, you never knew what they would pull out to reward us when they were asking for money. And what did we get in return?
WGBH, the Boston superstation for PBS and WNET 13 in New York would crank out the jams. Some of it was experimental, some of it was just downright good. There was Sesame Street, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Electric Company, Zoom and eventually 3-2-1 Contact. And even in school our teacher’s would fire up the TV in the days before the VCR to show us certain science programs different times of the week. Sometimes it would be a reading program, or a science program. At one point during the Carter Administration, all the kids were encouraged to learn the Metric System. So for about one year we watched a program once a week to teach us the metric system. Turns out we didn’t go metric.
After school was good too. We had a TV show produced by a “local” TV station in Sioux Falls, SD. It was hosted by the weatherman on KELO-TV. It was called Captain 11. I knew kids who had gone down to Sioux Falls and gotten on the TV show. And there was also a drawing for a prize on each episode. It was a giant plastic tootsie roll with tootsie roll lollipop candies inside. I never saw any of my friends on that show. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. I saw every Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and a few Our Gang short films along the way. Why I spent more time watching TV than I can even add up. It’s a lot that’s for sure.
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