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Your favorite PBS memories.

Billions and Billions of brain cells stimulated

I grew up on PBS.  Back in the olden days, there were four channels: ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS.  I know, I know, I don’t know how we survived either.  And the networks just barged in with special bulletins and Congressional hearings whenever they felt like it.  You were pretty much forced to be a well informed public citizen against your will.  It was outrageous.  But the networks were like, where else are you going to go?  So, you know, we ate our Apollo rocket launches and Watergate Hearings and we liked it.

The first community sponsored PBS station in the country originated in my hometown of Pittsburgh at WQED in 1954, which was before my time.  When I was in college, I did a couple of pledge drives at WQED and got to visit Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood close up.  Ahhh, those were the days.  My family were PBS junkies.  Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of good stuff on PBS.  Here are a few of my favorites:

The Electric Company



Connections with James Burke

Masterpiece Theater with Alistair Cook


The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy


Life on Earth with David Attenborough

Live from Lincoln Center

The McNeil-Lehrer Hour

The French Chef

Yan Can Cook

The Frugal Gourmet

It’s kind of incredible that PBS is even controversial.  There was so much good content on when I was a kid. It’s not just Sesame Street.  It was free and interesting and had high production values.  What exactly is the problem??

Add your own memories of PBS in the comments.

33 Responses

  1. The Lathe of Heaven

  2. The problem with PBS is facts. It has them. And you know what they say about facts…

  3. Before BBC America the local PBS station WITF was the outlet for Dr. Who. In black and white.

  4. Also, didn’t they have the original Siskel & Ebert? I’ve always liked PBS. But, Sesame Street never clicked for me. Which is fine. I wouldn’t expect to like everything on any channel.

    That said, I am starting to think that until we get the crackpots out of government then it’s just as well if they stop having any influence over health or arts & entertainment – or anything else that matters to me. (that is snark. sorry)

    • Yes! They did have Siskel and Ebert. It was called Sneak Previews. I loved that show.
      I was a bit too old for Sesame Street but I think my brother watched it. Zoom was more my style. But I used to watch The Electric Company because it was so funny.

  5. I also grew up on PBS. I can still remember the day my mother dropped me off for my first day of school. I can vividly remember walking into the dark kindergarten class and Bert and Ernie were on the TV.

  6. The First Churchills, The Forsyte Saga and Upstairs/Downstairs.*

    * You kids call that Downton Abbey.

  7. “What exactly is the problem?” It depends who it is that is having the problem.

    For-profit broadcast TV only makes money from the commercial-time it can sell to people who want to pay to run their commercials. Same for cablecasters except they can also charge fees for the cable access as well. Any commercial-free programming which people would rather watch means a “leakage” of eyeballs away from the ads which the for-profit broadcasters and cablecasters use to justify the prices they charge to ad-buyers. Perhaps they hope that closing any
    means of escape against eyeballs fleeing from the commercials will mean that those eyeballs will submit to being re-captured and re-drafted into watching the commercial TV again in order to watch the commercials again. And forced-profitization conservatives resent any
    non-profit alternative as being a “hole in the fence” keeping everyone down on the for-profit plantation. Abolishing PBS might close that “hole in the fence” through which monetizable eyeballs have been escaping and running away from the forced-profitization commercial
    TV venues.

    Then too, the Movement Conservatives and the Republican Party and their upper class owner-sponsors resent PBS for not being captive propaganda organs for themselves and for not offering the backwardising stupidising media inputs which are meant to keep people info-deprived and obedient and easy to manage. So PBS is a problem for them. The more “commercial TV watching eyeballs” defect to PBS, the smaller their inertially-captive audience of reliable dull-normals becomes. As long as PBS exists, Fox News is not the only
    TINA (There Is No Alternative) media feedsupply that people can be default-left with. (And CBS/NBC/ABC/etc. are all basically Fox News of one sort or another). And that also upsets the Owners of the Conservative Plantation.

    Separately, the Movement Conservatives and the Republicans also
    enjoy using the putatively liberal PBS-watchers as a negative organizing principle in much the same way that the early and mid Nazis used the Jews . . . as something to organize their own supporter-masses against.

  8. PBS was my fallback for years. But, even they fluffed “The One’s” pillows on 2008. I saw it with my own eyes and lost all faith.

    At least someone there has the good sense to know that it is not good for PBS or Sesame Street, if Big Bird gets drug through the political mud for the sake of Obama.

    God help us, former Democrats. We have lost so much at the altar of the Pretendent. Losing Big Bird is a bridge too far…. :~/

    • PBS really loved The One and his Hope+Change(TM) marketing campaign.

      The PBS radio station host of a morning program (Michael Krasny) was actively anti-Hillary. Spread lie after lie. Never missed a chance to trash her, even when the topic was not related to her in the least.

  9. Much as I love PBS, I can’t believe that this election revolves around it. Have we run out of issues? Wars? Unemployment? Civil rights? Everything is sorted so we can now debate…entertainment?

    • PBS is used as a proxy for “liberals” and “cultural libertines” by Movement Conservatives and Republican Operatives-Officeseekers
      to rally conservative support by scapegoating liberals for this or that or whatever. That is why Romney opened a tactical front against PBS in the debate . . . to trick liberals into reflexively handwringing over Big Bird . . . so that the CoservaRatfuckers could accuse Latte Sipping Liberals of caring more about Big Bird than they care about mass unemployment. It would appear that those liberals took the bait.

      I have no detailed ideas about how the liberals and culture-centrists should respond in detail. I believe they should operate from the same
      basic psychological mindset of Zero Sum Zero Compromise which animated the two sides of the Spanish Civil War. Right now the Repuglanservatives are waging a Spanish Civil Cold War from their end while the center-liberals tut-tutting with lifted pinkies refuse to admit they are in a Zero Sum War for their survival or extinction.

      Oh! . . . and if the question arises . . . do I contribute to PBS? Absolutely! With my taxes. Which I absolutely continue to support going forward. Militant Liberals (which do not exist) would say: if we can’t do everything . . . if we must pick and choose . . . lets abolish tax funding for “faith based initiatives” so as to maintain funding for “information based initiatives” like PBS.

  10. Big Bird is so recognizeable it’s no wonder the Dems were quick to exploit that “issue”. I only wish Dems would get smart and TELL people what that “cut” compares to in the overall budget, and remind people of these shows and the return on investment we get from public broadcasting.

    I wouldn’t know what fractals are except for PBS “Colors of Infinity”. NOVA has covered that subject also.

    • Well considering that most voters would be put to sleep by a discussion of economic issues and that Obama’s stand = gop, Big Bird is a symbol they understand. That and the fact Bert and Ernie can’t marry.

      • Would most voters be put to sleep by a fact-based discussion of economic issues? Maybe the economystics phrase their discussions in sleeping-pill jargon on purpose to put listeners to sleep while showing off their superior mastery of the subject.

  11. I’m with you NYSweetie, I can believe that with all the problems-issues in the country and the world and 40 plus days from ED, the campaign focus and wastes millions of dollars on Big Bird, Sesame Street and PBS.
    It’s a very sad reflection of our contemporary society and very irresponsible.
    I loved PBS the way it was as RD describes, but it shouldn’t be a campaign.

    • We can thank the Republicans and the Conservatives for making it a campaign issue year after year after year. We can also thank the “pre-emptive surrender” posture of the Democrats for not opening up other battlefronts to force the Republicans to defend and lose on.

    • Free culture and education is never wasted. WE pay for that. WE are the government. And I would rather put my money into PBS than into a war we don’t need or another tax break for a billionaire.

  12. Sherlock – hands down. Inspector Lewis too.

  13. Anybody watch (besides me) watch “The Sandbaggers?”

    • That was a great show and I recalled reading once that many
      people who worked in the intelligence field considered it by far, the most realistic TV series about the intelligence and spying business.
      Probably not surprising given that the producer and at least one of the writers were once intelligence officers. It was also reported that the series ended because the producer disappeared flying an airplane near the border of the old USSR. Does anyone know more on this ?

  14. QED Cooks, Pittsburgh Figured Out, Kennywood and South Park County Fair footage, the Pennsylvania Road Trips and the latest, Pittsburgh From The Air, a spectacular montage of SW PA Landmarks and Scenery from all seasons taken from a plane throughout the Counties surrounding Allegheny. Breathtaking, amusing, tongue in cheek stuff done by the understated but riveting guys who just geek out on news feature footage is, by far, the coolest thing about the world’s first Public TV station. Pittsburgh also broke ground with the world’s first Radio Station, KDKA and the Westinghouse Broadcast System had a standard of excellence that gave the city a presence and an outlet for those creative folk who simply were incompatible with the Corporate Community. Remember, at the time WQEX-16 was created for in-classroom instruction, the Golden Triangle was the world’s corporate headquarters where philanthropic work was the “Republicans’ gesture of diplomatic entry” into the hearts and minds of the blue collar families who had found common ground in the Variety Club, Children’s Hospital and, of course PBS telethons. Unfortunately, once the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers followed Al Fondy down the Organized Labor route and Nurses struck local hospitals, they thought they could still canonize themselves with their Vocational Worth as though the “funds” they raised were still voluntarily pledged.

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