9 Educational Kids Shows Dying for the Reading Rainbow Revival Treatment

By Jason Helton in Cartoons, Daily Lists, Nerdery, TV
Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 6:00 am

4. 3-2-1 Contact

Let's face it, science programming can get slightly long winded, especially for children. When the executive producer of The Electric Company decided on creating a science education program, he took the concept of the Australian program The Curiosity Show and converted it for initially American audiences. His brainchild, 3-2-1 Contact reached far beyond its original intended audience, with 225 episodes eventually being dubbed and shown in 26 countries.

The concept was simple, with a trio of college students researching and discussing science subjects of various disciplines. The program, like so many other PBS series, was broken down into segments, usually related to the main topic of the day. One of these more popular segments involved the science-based youth detective agency, the Bloodhound Gang; a team consisting of a pair of young detectives and Rembrandt from The Warriors.

With new science shows like Cosmos reaching new levels of popularity, now is the perfect time to bring back a high budget, multi-disciplinary science program like 3-2-1 Contact.

3. Square One

I can't imagine anything that would make math entertaining for me as an adult, but as a kid with a limited selection of TV channels, Square One was hysterical. An unholy mating between SCTV and Algebra class, Square One was a comedy/math variety show that was actually funny. It consisted of a series of shorts based on a mathematical concept. Some of the more memorable segments included Mathman, a "video game" that blatantly ripped off Pac-Man and the education PC game Number Munchers, and Mathnet, a math detective series just dying to be rebooted by Dick Wolf. I still remember the Fibonacci sequence thanks to a Mathnet adventure involving a sequence repeating parrot.

Mixed in with the comedy segment were various math related game shows, math based magic instruction with famous illusionist Harry Blackstone Jr, and even the occasional music video, once even featuring Weird Al Yankovic. The series hasn't been produced since 1994, though it remained in reruns on various channels until 2003.

2. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

As a child I absolutely loved game shows, particularly ones for kids. I still harbor resentment towards the rat bastard in middle school who got to go on Double Dare. Carmen Sandiego, based on the educational computer game that came complete with a copy of Fodor's Travel Guide, had children testing their geography and history skills, catching criminals under the tutelage of the D.J. from The Warriors.

Rather than spend thirty minutes behind game show podiums, how about sending kids out in the world Amazing Race style? Sure, the budget would be significantly larger and the prizes would have to be more than just a deluxe set of Encyclopedia Britannica (do they even still make that?), but contestants could have the adventure of a lifetime, and it could potentially make for some great television. Sadly the Chief will have to be recast; Lynne Thigpen joined the big PI in the Sky in 2003. Do it Rockapella!

1. Mr. Wizard's World

To be fair, there hasn't been a shortage of science programs for children. Long before he was schooling religious fundamentalists, Bill Nye the Science Guy was educating the masses, along with shows like Beakman's World and others. As bad ass as Nye is, his ass would be proverbial grass if he was met in a dark alley by Don Herbert, the infamous Mr. Wizard.

Rather than playing it safe, Mr. Wizard went far beyond everyday household science. Instead of showing viewers how to make their own Play-doh or playing around with food coloring, Herbert showed you real, volatile science. There were flames, chemicals, explosions; Herbert feared nothing. An episode dedicated to liquid nitrogen had me scouring comic book ads in hopes that one of the mail order vendors sold it.
Wizard wasn't your typical, touchy-feely TV host either. He had no interest in pulling punches, particularly in regards to his youth assistants, and had no problem telling children how wrong they were. In fact, Mr. Wizard could come off as quite the douchebag, which made the program all the more fun. Unfortunately Herbert died in 2008, but all we would need is an equally crotchety scientist with a penchant for flames to take over the mantel of Mr. Wizard...perhaps Jamie Hyneman?

Previously By Jason Helton

The 10 Most Disturbing Episodes of Battlestar Galactica

8 Forgotten '80s Live-Action Children's Sci-Fi Series

The 10 Worst Cartoons Spawned By Videogames

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