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Hi There, Boys and Girls! America's Local Children's TV Programs Hardcover – October 29, 2001
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From Library Journal
From the earliest days of television until the mid-1970s, children's programming was a staple of local TV broadcasting in the United States. Here, Hollis (Dixie Before Disney) presents a comprehensive compendium of information about local children's TV shows, organized by state. Capsule descriptions are provided for individual programs and hosts in major TV markets within each state. Hollis cuts off the scope of his book at the 1970s, when, for a variety of reasons, most local children's TV programming in the United States simply ceased to exist. This valuable and unique reference book has only one drawback: some markets either could not or would not cooperate with the author to provide historical information on shows, so some entries are much shorter than others. Hollis's preface summarizes this often ignored area of broadcasting history, and an excellent bibliography concludes the book, offering a list of additional sources of information on children's TV. In addition, numerous vintage photographs of local TV personalities are sprinkled throughout. Highly recommended for broadcasting and media libraries, in addition to public libraries. David M. Lisa, Wayne P.L., NJ
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Local children's programming had its roots in radio, where it consisted mainly of storytelling by "uncle" hosts. When TV stations started broadcasting old Westerns and syndicated cartoons, the "host" pattern reemerged. Other genres arose: TV "school" settings, puppets, birthday parties. Romper Room and Bozo the Clown were strong franchised children's programs produced locally. Children's programs are not well researched, so this reference work is an initial effort in this area of popular culture.
The author sets the scene in his 20-page history, discussing local programming from its beginnings through the early 1970s. The remainder of the volume is arranged alphabetically by state, and within each state, by city. Each station's history of children's programming is related in a conversational style. The vast majority of content deals with the personalities of the program hosts, including the local beginnings of national figures such as Captain Kangaroo, Shari Lewis, and Mr. Rogers. The length of each city's entry ranges from a quarter page to more than a dozen pages (Chicago, Los Angeles, New York). About 20 percent of the pages include a black-and-white photo (sometimes a page away from the related text). An end-volume bibliography lists the interviews, print, video, and Internet sources Hollis used to gather his facts.
Partly because of a lack of adequate information, coverage is spotty. Spokane, Washington, is not covered well: no hosts (such as Cap'n Sid) identified, some stations that included children's programming (such as KXLY) not noted, no mention of Spokane's strong German-language programs for children (which also featured children), no mention of a popular children's talent show. Indeed, a major limitation of the work is the almost total lack of mention of children's talent variety shows.
This work is a good start on the topic but is limited in scope. For large collections that specialize in television or popular culture. REVWR
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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I'd have trouble saying it's a great read, however. The beginning of the book gives a very interesting overview of local children's programming, and tells why things were done the way they were. After this portion, the book gives a state by state account of the children's programming in each market. Frankly, after getting to "C" my interest kind of fell off.
I'm going to cherry pick the rest of the book, looking for the children's stars I grew up with, but I doubt I'll read it cover to cover.
That TV broadcasting began as local programming, and then mostly in New York, is extremely significant but often overlooked by those looking backwards with modern lenses. Shows were owned by ad agencies and developed for sponsors, not networks. Jay Ward's Crusader Rabbit and cliff-hangers like Col. Bleep and Clutch Cargo were the only early TV cartoons before the syndication of Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies and Terrytoons and the entrance of William Hanna and Joe Barbera into TV 'toons with Ruff and Reddy.
Early TV carried over from radio and the triple reel style of the moviehouse, which would generally show a cartoon or short and newsreel along with the featured films. Live hosts were expected to pitch and endorse the sponsor's product and, whether clown, cowboy or cosmic captain, to intersperse the performance and patter with cartoons. The demise of the live host came when the few bad apples began to hold the studios for ransom. Execs soon realized they could order cartoons by the foot to fill the programming blocks. Eventually the insatiable appetite for cartoons ballooned Hanna- Barbera into a behemoth cartoon factory with shows running on all three networks, with a bust following that boom and a decline in quality in the 'seventies and 'eighties, only to be regained after the success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the cartoon renaissance of the 'nineties.
TV now is like wallpaper that viewers can change at whim, and animation so ubiquitous, good, bad and ugly, viewed as it is as fodder for kids, or more recently, as an "extreme" way to jazz up overdone to death "adult" programming, that its freshness is nearly gone. The current audience expectation of endless entertainment served up in spoon-sized doses masks for instance, the amount of homework done by Paul Reubens in reviving for Pee-Wee's Playhouse the local feel of live host TV.
Opening with a brief history, Hollis follows with a discussion of shows in every state of the union. Bits may be missing, but the hosts I remember from growing up in Seattle-- J. P. Patches and Stan Boreson-- were among those present. More fascinating is reading about the hosts I didn't see, which cartoons they had in common and the like. Travel back, then, to the days of its inception, when local TV was the only game in town, with live hosts who cared about kids (and some who didn't) making it up as they went along.
It needs to be updated (with all of the 250 Originally intended photos), and printed in hard cover version, I would buy it all over again!
I got the book as a Christmas present 7 years ago and only got to reading it last year (2011). Shame on me, but what a book, I felt so much a part of all the shows in, and way out of, my Television market. Oh if only we had the video of all those wonderful charming funny beautiful handsome, and sometimes scary men and women who told us stories that made us laugh made us dream, **made us by the sponsors products, and most of all.... now make us remember.
I guess you might say I liked the book!!
**(shame on that nasty mother from Boston who through her ignorance, and with blinders on so tight she couldn't see the complete horizon, charged into congress and the courts and brought to a screeching halt the hosting of Children's shows as we knew them. Her husband should have spanked her and put her in a time out corner, and then found her a hobby)