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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Bring Back Schoolhouse Rock!

I can remember a fond time in which ABC's Saturday Morning line-up wasn't so terrible.

You turn on ABC on a typical Saturday morning, and what do you see? You see Hannah Montana episodes from 2006, That's So Raven episodes from 2002, and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episodes from 1993?!? Really?!?

It's like someone photocopied the entire Disney Channel line-up from five years ago, threw away the ABC Kids programming chart, and decided that would be acceptable.

News flash. It's not.

At one time, ABC's programming line-up for kids on Saturday morning was one of the best. Bugs Bunny and Tweety, ABC's Weekend Specials, and many more original programs aired on ABC's Saturday morning line-up for years. Not anymore, it seems.

There was one show that I can remember watching back in the glory days of the ABC Saturday morning. A show that debuted on January 6, 1973. A show where the sixty-four episodes produced (of which sixty aired on television) was only three minutes in length.

As your body gets bigger, your mind grows flowered, it's great to learn that knowledge is power!

Schoolhouse Rock was similar in format to the NBC segment 'One To Grow On' in that they had three minute long educational episodes that were placed in between cartoon shows. There were two major differences though.

While One To Grow On dealt with educating kids on morals, ethics, and conflicts, Schoolhouse Rock was a program that educated kids on a variety of subjects that a child would learn during their grade school years. There were segments on multiplication, grammar, science, American history, economics and ecology.

And the second thing that made Schoolhouse Rock stand out was that all of these lessons were set to music. Before the debut of MTV in August 1981, these Schoolhouse Rock segments were the only music videos that millions of children would get up early on Saturdays to watch.

But do any of you know how Schoolhouse Rock came to be?

The concept of Schoolhouse Rock was born at an advertising agency, if you can believe it. At the McCaffney & McCall advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City, the McCall of the operation (David McCall, to be precise) came upon a revelation in regards to one of his sons. He discovered that while his son could remember the lyrics to popular rock songs at the time, but was unable to remember his multiplication tables for math class.

It was then that he had a brilliant idea. What if he combined the two? What if he had rock songs that educated children in school subjects?

He put that theory to the test. With help from singer-songwriter Bob Dorough, McCall came up with a song called 'Three Is A Magic Number', a song designed to help children learn how to multiply numbers by three. When the track was recorded, it tested well, and a children's record was released. The first song of the album was 'Three Is A Magic Number', and when a man named Tom Yohe listened to the song, he began to doodle drawings to go with the lyrics, later telling McCall that it would make a great cartoon venture.

After a failed venture to produce the record as a print workbook, McCall decided to pitch the idea to ABC Television (which at the time was the largest account for McCaffney and McCall) to produce an animated series based on the songs on the children's record. They pitched the idea to Michael Eisner (who at the time was the president of the ABC children's programming division), who immediately loved the concept. He even asked longtime Warner Brothers cartoonist Chuck Jones to listen to the presentation, and on January 6, 1973, Schoolhouse Rock was born.

And, it's only fitting that 'Three Is A Magic Number' would be the first episode.

The original series ran from 1973-1985, and was revived in 1993 (presumably for its 20th anniversary), and ran both old and new episodes until early 2000. After that, there were some straight to DVD/video releases as recently as 2009.

The unfortunate part is that the series has not aired on ABC or any other network for at least a decade, and in a way, I feel that the current generation of kids are really missing out. There's only so much Hannah Montana that one can watch before they tune out really quickly. I would actually launch a petition to bring Schoolhouse Rock back on the airwaves because I honestly feel that educational programming is being backburnered for programming that basically teaches kids nothing. And that's a real darn shame.

So, to close this note off, it's my mission to bring forth some of my favourite Schoolhouse Rock segments from each of the early seasons, just so everyone can relive these moments, and so kids born after the mid-1990s can experience this awesome show.

I already showed you a clip from Multiplication Rock, but there were so many other subjects that the show featured. After the 11-episode run of Multiplication Rock was completed in 1973, the next subject to be featured was Grammar Rock, with such songs as 'Interjections!', 'Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla', and this song.

Science Rock was another popular subject explored by Schoolhouse Rock, debuting its first block of episodes in 1978. Those songs helped kids learn about the solar system, gravity, the digestive system, and this electrifying smash.

Around the American bicentennial of 1976, Schoolhouse Rock put forth a series of segments dealing with American history, called America Rock.  These segments were where kids learned about the Declaration Of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. But they also learned about how the U.S. Government worked.

(Confession: These segments were an actual study aid for my American History class in 12th grade)

Anyways, there were a lot of segments aired for America Rock, including this one.

In the 1993 revamp, the idea of Money Rock began to air on Schoolhouse Rock, and a new generation of kids learned about saving, currency, loans, and balancing a budget.

The final subject to be explored was geology and environmental studies, in a segment called Earth Rock, in 2009, and subjects included global warming, recycling, solar energy, and other subjects. Schoolhouse Rock's last hurrah, if you will.

1 comment:

  1. Oh the memories! I love those little songs! Knowledge is power!