In the 1970's, Sesame Street wasn't the only educational puppet show in town. The Letter People was a literacy program and television series that taught phonics with an unusual bunch of 26 characters. Here's the entire 60 episode run. The production values improved a bit as the show went on, evolving from black backgrounds and simple sets to more elaborate ones. Every Letter Person had their own theme song, featured in their introductory episode; here's all twenty-six of those in alphabetical, and thus wildly anachronic, order. Absent from the show are the songs of Misters R, X and Q (the last three Letter People to debut in the show - they'd clearly gone through design changes by then, ESPECIALLY Mr. X). [more inside]
Vortexx, the last non-E/I children's Saturday morning programming block on broadcast television, is ending this fall.
Why Your Children's Television Program Sucks: Jessie / Thomas and Friends / Super Why! / The Fresh Beat Band / Dora the Explorer / Chuggington / Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! / Max and Ruby
Even if you don't know Joe Raposo's name, you probably have heard his music. Throughout the 1970's and 1980's, Joe was the main composer of songs and incidental music for the children's television shows Sesame Street and The Electric Company. In this role, he wrote some of today's standards while also imprinting his musical stylings on the consciousness of a generation of children worldwide. In the second half of this post, you will find a curation of youtube-links leading to a good chunk of Joe Raposo's oeuvre -- all gems, mostly under two minutes each. Sing along if you know the words! [more inside]
Just over sixty years ago the Reverend W. V. Awdry told his sick son a series of stories based on real life incidents with trains, which he later wrote up as the Railway Series. Now Thomas the Tank Engine and the other engines of the Isle of Sodor (somewhere between Barrow-in-Furness and the Isle of Man) are a global phenomena, with toys, books and of course the TV series - filmed using model trains on more than 70 1:32 scale 16-by-20-foot sets, and voiced by the likes of Ringo Starr and Alec Baldwin. 2008 has been a rough year for Thomas: George Carlin, who voiced the series in the US up until 1998, passed away (previously), as did David Mitton, who had written and directed over 180 episodes (and who has previously worked on the special effects for Thunderbirds). There's changes ahead for Thomas as well - this year saw the faces of the engines, which had previously been cast in silicone and attached with double sided tape, replaced by CGI faces, and from 2009 onwards Nitrogen studios in Canada will be taking over production with an entirely CGI Thomas. Meanwhile a group of British students continues the tradition of model engine-based storytelling with their YouTube based British Railway Series.
Before purple dinosaurs roamed the earth, back when sponges went pants-less, children in the US had to rely on their local TV stations for entertainment. Even “national” programs such as Romper Room or Bozo the Clown had a local component. From coast to coast and in between, everyone ate their cereal in front of someone different.
Mr. Rogers Dead. Fred Rogers of "Mister Roger's Neighborhood" died of stomach cancer at age 74. To be honest, his was never my personal favorite PBS kid's show growing up (I preferred off-brand shows like "Zoom" and "3-2-1 Contact"). But my appreciation for him when I was an adult was pretty high. Anyway, it's a sad day in the neighborhood.