Ever heard of educational television? No? Well let me fill you in:
From the early 1970s and 80s (and even into the 90s in some places), public television stations all around the U.S. and Canada- and elsewhere too, but for this article we're focusing on the U.S.- would show educational/instructional programming between the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the school year.
The reasoning behind these shows was to provide additional materials on a variety of subjects to students who might need extra help in certain subjects, and to teachers who needed supplemental teaching materials at little or no cost to themselves.
Produced by U.S. and Canadian T.V. stations and government backed educational agencies, these shows were very popular among the young student segment they targeted. Not only for the educational content which they all were required to have but also for the entertainment, both intended and unintended, they provided.
Millions of kids watched these shows, and others like them, every year. Millions. These psychedelic trips into the world of education more than likely had an impact on the fragile and delicate minds of an entire generation of people across the country.
A generation who grew up to give you untold hours of grief and embarrassment.
#5. Readalong (1975)
Readalong was a very interesting show. The main character and host of the show was a boot, appropriately enough, named Boot.
Boot was joined by Pretty ( a woman's shoe) Granny, An Old Adventurer, a haunted house, and a skeleton- among others- in bringing reading skills to hoards of first and second graders, eager for education.
Imagine weird, psychedelic music playing while spooky looking puppets bounce around in dark and foreboding sets and backgrounds broken up every now and then with odd little animations... or just watch the video at the end of the article.
#4. The Electric Company (1971)
Based on the early success of Sesame Street, The Children's Television Workshop looked to expand from preschoolers into the primary grades. Using the same quick animation style and a more comedic, "Laugh In" style format (at least in the early years),
More psychedelic animations than you can shake a stick at, with musical performances by Grace Slick, The Pointer Sisters, Tom Lehrer, Joe Raposo and many, many other icons of the late 60s early 70s music scene. Segments done by Hubley Studios and Chuck Jones. Victor Borge. And where else can you see a young Morgan Freeman dressed as Dracula?
If you want to see more, check out the vids at the bottom of the page.
#3. The Inside Story with Slim Goodbody (1980)
Slim Goodbody (John Burstein), has been around since 1975 in his flesh colored unitard, Slim's unitard featured accurate representations of organs and tissues all over it, ensuring generations of kids would suffer anatomically correct nightmares for years to come.
From 1976 to 1980, Slim appeared on the Captain Kangaroo show, when PBS decided to give him his own show, The Inside Story. The show mainly consisted of skits he'd been doing for years, along with guest stars like Captain Kangaroo making the occasional appearance.
What's so mind bending about this show? C'mon, theres a guy in a flesh colored body part costume singing songs and dancing around! Weird!
#2. Read All About It (1979)
Read All About It is the second Canadian show on the list (Readalong was the first), and is notable for several reasons. First, Chris (David Craig Collard, who also had a role on another show on this list, namely "Thinkabout") inherits a "coach house" from his missing uncle, recently declared dead. Second, Chris and his friends Samantha and Lynn discover sentient computers living in the coach house. Third is the discovery of a transporter that links a far off world called Trialviron and its maniacal leader Duneedon (a floating, silvery head) to Earth. Then the weird stuff starts.
The Planet of Maze. Dr. Couplet. The Third Edition of the History of Herbertville, and a conspiracy by the mayor to take control of King's Park. Weirdness is the name of the game for this show. Check out the video if you don't believe it.
#2. Thinkabout (1979)
Thinkabout, produced by the Agency for Instructional Technology, is my own personal favorite mind-screw television show (and not just because my friend, the lovely and talented Johanna, starred in four episodes).
This show was created with the idea of introducing critical thinking and problem solving concepts to students ages 9 through 12, in order to help them learn skills and concepts to succeed in an academic environment as well as in a real world environment.
And they introduced these concepts with varying degrees of weirdness. For example, one episode would feature a relatively mundane story of a girl visiting her cousin's farm and trying to figure out what happened to the fish in the pond; The next episode would feature an alien who landed in a rural backwater community looking for quality dental care.
Oh, and we mustn't forget the devil worship.
All that strange stuff, and the most memorable theme song in the history of Moog organs, makes Thinkabout one mind screwing show.
So remember, the next time your parents make some goofy joke about aliens, or break out singing a song about letters of the alphabet, remember: this is what they had to watch on TV when they were kids.
Agree or disagree? Leave a comment.
Check out these videos of the shows in this post: