A GUIDE TO TV THAT TRIES TO TEACH; FCC MANDATE PUTS LEARNING ON SCHEDULE.
Say what you want about the Federal Communications Commission, but it has brought the academic world and entertainment industries closer than they probably ever thought they'd be.
The FCC's mandate that every broadcast channel supply three hours of educational programming no earlier than 7 a.m. went into effect this year.
It has paved the way for scholastic consultants to have a say in what goes into shows designed for children.
``It wasn't easy merging the academic and creative people and to try to make the shows educational and entertaining,'' said Robin Schwartz, vice president of NBC Saturday morning programming. ``I was kind of a mediator. I had to make sure it was an educational show and had some level of entertainment to get an audience to watch it while we were making our message.''
The shows attempt to carry out their educational mission in different ways, some focusing on academic subjects, others on broader concepts. There are shows aimed at very young children, but some for teens, too.
``I think the issue is how to define education,'' said children's television producer Lin Oliver. ``There is education in the strictest form ... like science and math and history. Those are the most difficult to sell to kids because it feels like school. On the other end of the spectrum, they can embody important themes and ask important questions that model important values.''
Early reaction to the educational shows is mixed.
``You don't think everything is going to be perfect right away,'' said Peggy Charren, the founder of Action for Children's Television and the most outspoken supporter of the federal mandate. ``When there was the Clean Rivers Act, you didn't jump in the rivers the next day.''
Tom Snyder, creator of ABC's ``Science Court,'' which Charren picked as one of the best examples of how the system should work, agrees that the best is still yet to come.
``I think what's going to happen is that in the first year you're not going to have very good results, and only a few people will rise to the challenge,'' he said. ``Next year, you're going to have creative people coming out of the woodwork when they realize that maybe the networks are going to be desperate.''
ABC has gone beyond the call, offering four hours of programming each week. (It must help to be owned by Disney.)
Charren was most critical of Fox and NBC, which offer the fewest choices to America's youth.
Fox has just two shows, ``Bobby's World'' and ``C-Bear and Jamal.''
NBC has four, including two episodes of ``Saved by the Bell'' and ``Hang Time'' each week to go along with a new show, ``City Guys,'' and returning ``NBA Inside Stuff.''
Schwartz defends NBC's choices.
She points out that ``Saved'' and ``Hang Time'' are actually two shows in one.
The second half-hour of each are ``adventure'' shows in which the kids go off and do something like ``build a house for Habitat for Humanity.''
``We spend a lot of money on the second half-hour,'' Schwartz said. ``We could easily call the show a different name, but the casts are great. They are multiethnic role models who teens love to watch.''
Here's a look at the children's programming that fits the bill as ``FCC friendly'' shows.
CBS (Channel 2)
The show: ``The Ghostwriter Mysteries''
What it's about: Based on the PBS series, ``Ghostwriter'' follows three young sleuths and the otherworldly Ghostwriter who, together, work to unravel and decode exciting and suspenseful mysteries.
Educational value: Reading, writing, problem-solving skills.
The show: ``The Sports Illustrated for Kids Show''
What it's about: Teen-age hosts go behind the scenes with star athletes and celebrity guests.
Educational value: Health, fitness, nutrition.
The show: ``The Weird Al Show''
What it's about: A wacky, live-action, multimedia show from Weird Al Yankovic's secret subterranean workshop. He is joined by sidekick Harvey the Wonder Hamster and a celebrity guest.
Educational value: Helps kids make sense of their world and build self-esteem.
The show: ``Fudge''
What it's about: Based on Judy Blume's best-selling book series, this coming-of-age comedy deals with the trials and tribulations of the soon-to-be-teen Peter Hatcher and his little brother Fudge, who leads him into funny misadventures.
Educational value: Family values.
The show: ``Beakman's World''
What it's about: An amusing, inquisitive scientist who answers kids' questions by performing experiments or providing scientific explanations.
Educational value: Science.
The show: ``Wheel of Fortune 2000''
What it's about: The popular syndicated game show is kidified, with the inclusion of a cyber-Vanna.
Educational value: Critical thinking, language arts skills.
NBC (Channel 4)
The show: ``Saved by the Bell: The New Class''
What it's about: The gorgeous kids of Bayside High School not only take classes together, they learn lessons together. In the second half-hour, they go on educational adventures.
Educational value: Covers issues such as peer pressure, violence in high schools, drug use, racism and the importance of education. (Needs and life issues for teens).
The show: ``City Guys''
What it's about: An edgy, hip-hop look at teen life. It follows the relationship of two teen-age boys from two different worlds: Jamal, a street-smart African-American from Harlem, and Chris, a fast-talking preppy Anglo from Park Avenue.
Educational value: Needs and life issues for teens.
The show: ``Hang Time''
What it's about: The exploits of the Deering Tornadoes, a boys' basketball team in Indiana with a secret weapon: a female player with a great jump shot. The second half-hour sends the students out of school to interact in new settings.
Educational value: Needs and life issues for teens.
The show: ``NBA Inside Stuff''
What it's about: A fast-paced program that features the hottest players in the NBA and WNBA with behind-the-scenes looks at players, coaches and game highlights.
Educational value: Physical fitness, role-modeling.
KTLA (Channel 5)
The show: ``The Adventures of Captain Planet''
What it's about: Originally debuting on TBS, it is an action/adventure series starring superhero Captain Planet and the Planeteers, five young people of diverse races who work together to protect the environment.
Educational value: Environmental concerns.
The show: ``Channel Umptee-3'' (debuts Saturday)
What it's about: Viewers discover a secret television station, Channel Umptee-3, in the ``white space'' between channels. It promises to bring a splash of fun, a dash of magic and a touch of ``anarchy'' to Saturday mornings.
Educational value: Basic education - colors, letters and numbers - for 3- to 8-year olds.
ABC (Channel 7)
The show: ``Disney's 101 Dalmatians: The Series''
What it's about: Everybody's favorite dogs will get into high jinks every week.
Educational value: Social interaction, decision-making, cognitive thinking, reasoning, values.
The show: ``Brand Spanking New Doug''
What it's about: The show follows the adventures of 12-year-old Doug Funnie and his friends as he deals with the ups and downs of life that growing up brings.
Educational value: Critical thinking, problem solving, positive messages.
What it's about: ``Rugrats: The Next Generation.'' It follows a quirky group of fourth-graders as they dive into wild adventures, triumph against adversities, laugh and share the wonder of self-discovery.
Educational value: How to contend with the harsh world, how to be a friend, how to stand up for yourself and others, critical thinking, cooperative effort.
The show:``Pepper Ann''
What it's about: On an eternal quest to be cool, Pepper Ann looks at life as a ``tween,'' what it means to no longer be a kid and still not a teen-ager.
Educational value: Strong female role model for boys and girls, and it addresses emotional and social issues that come with adolescence.
The show: ``Jungle Cubs''
What it's about: The characters from Walt Disney's 1967 animated classic are back. They are all a year older, and a bit wiser as they set off on all-new adventures in the jungle.
Educational value: Solutions to childhood problems. Social interaction, decision-making, cognitive thinking, reasoning, values.
The show: ``The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh''
What it's about: Winnie, Tigger and the rest of the gang return for encore performances.
Educational value: Teamwork, resourcefulness, how to triumph over challenges, the power of positive outlook, value of friendship.
The show: ``Science Court''
What it's about: Laws of science are proven in court, led by Judge Stone (the voice of Paula Poundstone).
Educational value: Science.
KCAL (Channel 9)
The show: ``Sing Me a Story With Belle''
What it's about: Old Disney animation with new stories supplied by the dulcet tones of Belle, who has many friends and a talking story book.
Educational value: Friendship, self-confidence, what is important.
The show: ``Bill Nye the Science Guy''
What it's about: A wacky scientist teaches his subject in a fun manner.
Educational value: Science.
The show: ``Popular Mechanics for Kids''
What it's about: A spinoff of the magazine, it takes kids behind the scenes in many interesting places to see how things are done.
Educational value: How things work.
The show:``Field Trip''
What it's about: Six elementary school kids join the show's host each week for an exciting, real-life adventure.
Educational value: Science, history, art, culture, business, environment.
The show: ``Peer Pressure''
What it's about: Aimed at teen-agers, it looks at the problems they face and spoofs growing up.
Educational value: Social decisions, responsibility, understanding themselves and others.
The show: ``Click''
What it's about: A game show of speed and knowledge in which contestants compete to provide correct and rapid answers to difficult types of questions and challenges.
Educational value: Quick thinking, almost all subjects from math to spelling to music to computers.
Fox (Channel 11)
The show: ``Bobby's World''
What it's about: A 4-year-old boy's unique observations of life and the off-the-wall spirit of comedian Howie Mandel.
Educational value: Life lessons, traditional family values.
The show: ``C-Bear and Jamal''
What it's about: Ten-year-old Jamal learns life's ups and downs with help from the world's coolest teddy bear, starring rapper/actor Tone-Loc.
Educational value: Life, responsibility, friendship.
KCOP (Channel 13)
The show: ``Bananas in Pajamas''
What it's about: Funny and gigantic bananas wear pajamas and teach stuff.
Educational value: Positive lifestyles, problem solving through cooperation and social interaction.
The show: ``Algo's Factory''
What it's about: Experiments and tricks mixed with animation and humor.
Educational value: Science.
The show: ``The All New Captain Kangaroo''
What it's about: An update of the classic with the Captain, Mr. Greenjeans, Mister Moose, Grandfather Clock and many others.
Educational value: Social and emotional development, literature, music, environment.
KWHY (Channel 22)
The show:``El Planeta Chiquitran''
What it's about: Produced locally, the Spanish-language show focuses on Chiquitran, an imaginary planet visited by space navigators Alex and Naibe, who bring the children of the planet the ability to travel through time and space, learning about different themes and cultures along the way.
Educational value: Enhances imaginative and creative possibilities and covers topics such as recycling and cultures such as the Aztecs.
The show: ``Bookmice''
What it's about: Three mice - fun-loving, not blind - live behind the walls of the library and explore the world of literature.
Educational value: Love of reading, social values, honesty, overcoming fears.
KMEX (Channel 34)
The show: ``Plaza Sesamo''
What it's about: From the people who brought you ``Sesame Street,'' the same educational and moral lessons are now in Spanish.
Educational value: Everything from counting to adding to subtracting to letters and words.
The show: ``Giorgiomania''
What it's about: Local host George O plays many of the characters he has made famous in Saturday morning segments on this Spanish-language station. Favorites include the librarian and the archeologist.
Educational value: Scientific subjects from friction to flight. Information on animals and humans in relation to the world around them.
The show: ``La Pinata Loca''
What it's about: A combination of noneducational cartoons and educational segments. George O hosts the educational portion, during which he will take certain jobs such as librarian, zoo keeper, park ranger and sportscaster.
Educational value: Science, information on different careers.
KVEA (Channel 52)
The show: ``Arcandina''
What it's about: Live-action show that focuses on ecology. Produced by Maria Elena Ordonez, an educator and author of children's books.
Educational value: Environmental awareness.
Photo: (1) ``The All New Captain Kangaroo,'' with Mr. Greenjeans, left, Bunny Rabbit, Captain Kangaroo (George Cahill), Joey the Kangaroo and Mister Moose, is billed as ``FCC friendly'' by its producer, Saban.
(2) Those spotted dogs are back in ``Disney's 101 Dalmatians: The Series,'' which airs on ABC.
(3) A 10-year-old hangs with the world's coolest teddy bear in Fox's ``C-Bear and Jamal.''
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|Title Annotation:||L.A. LIFE|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Oct 9, 1997|
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