Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting Schooled: Reading Rainbow (1983)

We all know that PBS' longest running children's program has been, and forever will be, Sesame Street, which marks its 45th anniversary this year. Few have come close to matching its longevity, and on a short list of series that trail behind Sesame, you're bound to find Reading Rainbow.

Reading Rainbow ceased production in 2006 after 23 seasons, all of which were hosted by actor LeVar Burton, who, at one point in the show's run, turned a rare hat trick by working on two other series concurrently. You might have heard of them----Star Trek: The Next Generation & Captain Planet. Talk about being busy.

For the balance of its run, Rainbow anchored PBS' afternoon block, and in some respects can be credited with a back-door pilot of a sort. After TV icon Bill Cosby read one of Marc Brown's Arthur  books, the titular character was given his own series, which continues to this day. The segments where celebrities such as Cosby read various books has its roots in CBS' long running Captain Kangaroo, which gravitated to PBS to finish its initial run in the mid-80's after CBS dropped it. Regardless of what you might think of Cosby now, given the torrent of salacious accusations lodged against him, his inclusion on Rainbow marked the entertainer's return to PBS, after being an original cast member of The Electric Company.

Given how PBS rebooted Electric Company into something completely different a few years ago, one would assume that if they choose to bring back Reading Rainbow at some future point, it too would undergo a needless reboot. Seems to me that when they relaunched Electric Company, they did so with the idea of trying to compete with certain broadcast cable networks that needn't be named here (though you know who they are). Can't see that happening with the Rainbow.

Here's a sample clip:

Too bad PBS took the reruns off the air in 2009, else today's kids could really learn something.

Rating: A.

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