The inclusion of educational material was once a mandate in our often mindless cartoons at the end of the 20th century. Some fulfilled this requirement by including Public Service Announcements at the end of their show. Others went a different route, becoming educational shows. Thanks to rampant Internet popularity, everyone’s heard of, if not watched Bill Nye the Science Guy. Though he was the best (if you say otherwise, I will strike you down!), there were many others with different focuses.
Bill Nye’s main contender for the Kid’s Science Crown (note: not an actual thing) was Beakman’s World. Beakman (Paul Zaloon) was a scientist, teaching children, and probably adults, different principles about physics, chemistry and the like through experiments. He had a female assistant who changed every season, and a lab rat (Mark Ritts), which was a guy in a rat costume. This is where I first learned about Roy G. Biv. Though Beakman premiered a year before Bill Nye, the Science Guy eventually won out.
Along with these two titans of science duking it out for television supremacy, history and geography were other subjects explored. Make no mistake, between the Where in the World game show, and Where on Earth cartoon, Carmen San Diego had the subject on lock down. Meanwhile, in an attempt to teach kids … something, the eventual makers of Jimmy Neutron had A.J.’s Time Travelers. This featured a crew of time travelers exploring time for answers to questions posed by some evil guy. It was mostly a Star Trek riff. They accomplished this through the use of bad puns, slapstick comedy, and CG that made ReBoot look amazing. The internet barely remembers this show existed. There isn’t even a wiki page.
One show that I (secretly) watched well into my teens was Wishbone. While Reading Rainbow did a fantastic job of bringing in new readers, Wishbone taught kids about classic literature in fun ways. The show featured a Jack Russel Terrier named Wishbone (actual name Soccer), who would reenact stories related to a current event. His owner, Joe, for example would get in trouble at school. This would remind Wishbone of Robin Hood, and he would retell the story with him playing Robin Hood. The story would have parallels to the modern-day plot. The episodes ended with Wishbone narrating how the episode was filmed. I can’t begin to list all the things I learned from this show. Cyrano de Bergerac, Faust, and even Journey to the West were shown, along with better known stories like Romeo & Juliet.
PBS was typically the bastion for most of these shows, but often focused on younger audiences. Ghostwriter, 3-2-1 Contact, and of course, Sesame Street were all amazing programs that helped many kids grow and learn. Well, maybe not Ghostwriter (holy melodramatic, Batman!). Though Sesame Street continues on, there’s a sad lack of much else educational today.
What was your favorite educational show? Any esoteric ones I missed? Comment below!
Mr. Wizard was O.G.