Educational Television Shows: A Retrospective

Looking back on my life and asking around, I find that there are still some shows and icons that were airing on TV when I was on that are still used in classrooms today despite not on the airwaves today; namely The Magic School Bus, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and the Carmen Sandiego series, all of which had aired on PBS at one point or another. Needless to say whenever I mention one of these shows around some friends, a good portion of the conversation would be spent waxing nostalgic and the phrase “they don’t make them like they used to” will manifest itself in some form, even though we’re still youngish. But why have these shows stayed with us for so long and not other shows?

I suppose I should start with my own experiences. As a kid, I would watch these shows whenever they were on. We had two six-hour tapes of just The Magic School Bus and played several of the computer games. When I was in third grade, we would use that show as our science education some days and play Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego as a class on the brand new laptop (a big deal for our school) for social studies. In fifth grade, it was Bill Nye for science and we always looked forward to those days. But time went on as time must.

I’ve heard from my old schools (to quote Phoebe from MSB) that they still use those shows as a teaching tool. That’s great because it shows that even though the shows have been long gone from the airwaves, they still make their way into the experience that is youth. But here’s the thing: since the shows are no longer around, what is the equivalent? That is a good question. I suppose on the science side you have Mythbusters but that’s not always kid-friendly. For geography you have, uh, hmm; actually I have no idea. Is that a bad thing?

Since it appears that the 90’s are the new nostalgic decade, I’ve heard talks of revivals and reboots from all three shows I’ve mentioned. MSB had talks of a movie but it looks like that won’t happen as far as I know. Carmen Sandiego has some digital media games out. I’ve heard of a live-action movie in the works but again, that hasn’t happened. Bill Nye is still active, with his turn on Dancing with the Stars. He had a lecture scheduled from where I’m from but was canceled due to DWTS. I hope the tickets are still good.

I’m not sure on the distribution and licensing rights for each of the shows but maybe another airing is in order. I do plan to give each show their own retrospective. In the meantime, I think I’ll go off, boot up a computer, and play some of those games.

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