Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CULT TV FLASHBACK #60: Schoolhouse Rock (1973-1986)

Today, I credit three diverse and valuable sources with my ability to write well.

The first is my study of Latin. I minored in the subject at the University of Richmond and have never regretted it. Vēnī, vīdī, vīcī.

The second source is a deep stable of wonderful and inspiring English professors; stretching from my grade school experience through the university years (particularly critic Bert Cardullo, Joseph Umansky, and the late Joe Roden).

And, last but never least, is...Schoolhouse Rock, the ABC animated musical series (1973-1986) that demonstrated -- in superbly entertaining fashion -- how to accurately utilize conjunctions ("Conjunction Junction"), adverbs ("Lolly, Lolly, Lolly Get Your Adverbs Here,") Interjections ("Interjections!") and more. Yep, these "lessons" were all facets of the series' memorable class on "Grammar Rock."

Schoolhouse Rock premiered on the ABC Network in early January of 1973, the brainchild of ad man David McCall, musician Bob Dorough and artist Tom Yohe. Network executive Michael Eisner approved the project for broadcast during ABC's Saturday morning schedule, and accordingly three minutes "bits" were cut (over producer protests!) from the entertainment programming (such as Scooby Doo) to make "elbow room" for these educational and amusing shorts.

The series' mission: "to link math [and other subjects] with contemporary music...[so] kids will breeze through school on a song."

Over roughly a dozen years, Schoolhouse Rock accomplished that task in spades. It offered a deep, amusing, highly-addictive and toe-tapping TV curriculum in a variety of academic subjects.

Celebrating the bicentennial in 1976, Schoolhouse Rock's "America Rock" featured such shorts as "I'm Just a Bill," (following a bill's progress from idea to committee to law or veto...), "Elbow Room" (about the American expansion West after the Louisiana Purchase..."), "Mother Necessity" (about American ingenuity and inventions...), and "The Preamble," which concerned the specific words and meanings of the U.S. Constitution.

In the subject of math, audiences were offered "Multiplication Rock," with shorts called "My Hero, Zero," "Three is a Magic Number" (a personal favorite that I sing to my son, Joel...) and "Figure Eight."

In "Science Rock," youngsters learned about "Electricity, "Electricity" and "Interplanet Janet" (a ditty about the heavenly bodies of our solar system.)

In all, over forty of these three-minute segments aired on American television, and to the joy of fans everywhere, the series is now available on DVD, For Generation X (my generation) specifically, these shorts (particularly the catchy tunes) are nothing less than indelible.

This morning, I introduced Joel (my two-year old) to Interplanet Janet. If you watched Schoolhouse Rock back in the day, which songs (and which lyrics) do you still remember verbatim? Come on, I know these things are ingrained in your brain too...

Darn. That's the end.


  1. Anonymous1:58 AM

    Conjunction Junction
    What's your function?
    Hookin' up words,
    and phrases and clauses!!!

    and the ever popular

    Lolly Lolly Lolly get your adverbs here!

    Damn, I could just keep going!

  2. A Latin student, eh? Me too! :)

    Have you read Henry Beard's Latin For All Occasions books? Funny, funny stuff!

    And yes, Schoolhouse Rock rox0rs!

  3. Anonymous7:43 AM

    There's a telegraph line
    You got yours and I got mine
    It's called the nervous system

    And everybody understands
    Those telegraph commands
    And, you know, that everybody better listen ...

    And I doubt there's a person our age who can't recite the Preamble to the Constitution 'cause of Schoolhouse Rock.

  4. I love ALL or most of the songs, and I want to see the DVD.


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