My Top Five: Masterpiece Theatre Shows

The series now known as Masterpiece started in 1971 as Masterpiece Theatre. Originally presented by Alistair Cooke, the program offered an incredibly diverse selection of British programming for American audiences. Over the years, Masterpiece has adapted classic literature and featured exceptional original series. I’ve been a fan since I discovered the series in college and have seen quite a few in my time with UNC-TV. But what are my favorites – MY TOP FIVE?

I’m limiting this to the original run of Masterpiece Theatre (the program splintered into Classic, Contemporary and Mystery! around 2008), otherwise you can bet Downton Abbey would make the list. I’ve also eschewed series that started on Mystery! and moved to Masterpiece Theatre (like Prime Suspect). That still leaves over 35 seasons from which to choose.

Lastly, keep in mind, I’m not suggesting these series are the “best” because such superlatives are subjective. These are simply my personal faves – MY TOP FIVE MASTERPIECE THEATRE SHOWS.

5) CASANOVA. Russell T. Davies’ story of the legendary Italian adventurer featured Peter O’Toole as the elderly Casanova recalling his younger exploits. David Tennant starred as the young Casanova in what was, essentially, a proto-Doctor Who. (Davies would go on to resurrect the classic science fiction series and Tennant would play the tenth Doctor.) Continue reading

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My Top Five: Dogs

It’s now the Year of the Dog according to Chinese astrology and there have been loads of loyal canine companions on shows UNC-TV has broadcast over the decades. From Wellard on EastEnders to Barkley on Sesame Street, these memorable mutts have dug holes in our hearts and buried bones in our souls (if you’ll forgive the very disturbing and messy metaphor). But which pooches are my personal faves? I thought about it and came up with MY TOP FIVE DOGS from PBS shows and other public television fare we’ve aired here at UNC-TV.

5) MARTHA (Martha Speaks) Wagstaff City’s most vocal canine gained her power of human speech when she was fed alphabet soup and it went to her brain instead of her stomach. Not the most scientific of origins but it’s a dandy comedic premise for a kids show. Continue reading

My Top Five: Detectives

There are loads of private investigators to choose from on the many series UNC-TV has broadcast over the decades. One series alone (Mystery!) is pretty much devoted to the genre. So I started thinking: who are my personal favorite detectives?

I tried to gravitate towards characters that are sleuths first and foremost rather than police constables who utilize procedure to apprehend criminals. A fine line, I agree – but it narrowed the focus a bit.

As always, these are MY TOP FIVE. Not the best, not the most popular – just my personal favorites. Thus, without further ado, here are MY TOP FIVE: DETECTIVES…

5) The Gumshoes of ACME, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? – The sleuths of ACME come perilously close to falling under the “police” category since they are part of an organization, but they are gumshoes (it’s in their name) so I had to include them. Throw in Special Agent Greg Lee and Lynne Thigpen as The Chief and the WITWICS gumshoes will always be cool. Continue reading

My Top Five: Birds

It’s Thanksgiving week so I thought I’d ponder the birds of public broadcasting. There may be some pretty obvious ones from which to choose but I tend to gravitate towards the deeper cuts, so to speak. So here you go – MY TOP FIVE PUBLIC BROADCASTING BIRDS. Not the best or whatever superlative you fancy – simply MY personal Top Five.

5) X THE OWL – Voiced by Mister Rogers himself, X the Owl was one of the denizens of the Neighborhood of Make Believe. X lived in the old oak tree next to Henrietta Pussycat and was always eager and cheerful. 

4) THE “IT’S THE PLUMBER” PARROT – One of my favorite animated bits from the original The Electric Company featured an earnest plumber and a precocious parrot. “Who is it?” “It’s the plumber. I’ve come to fix the sink.” Continue reading

My Top Five: Superheroes

Superheroes are big business these days, what with movies and TV shows and, of course, the comic book adventures that have delighted fanboys for decades. But public broadcasting also has a history of superhero characters in various forms. So here are my TOP FIVE PUBLIC BROADCASTING SUPERHEROES.

5) SUPER GROVER – Super Grover (now Super Grover 2.0) is Sesame Street’s well-meaning but inept hero who is “faster than lightning, stronger than steel, smarter than a speeding bullet” (and cute too). Certainly Grover was one of my favorite Muppets as a kid so it’s only natural his superhero persona would be as well. And anyone who can rock a visored helmet and cape like he does gets a thumbs up in my book. Continue reading

My Top Five: Celebrity Encounters

As you might imagine, working at a TV station like UNC-TV allows a person to meet any number of celebrities, big and small. Some have appeared as guests on original programming we produce, others have assisted with on-air fund drives to promote their own shows. Some have stopped by to take part in events and others were just passing through. Regardless of how they got here, an encounter with someone whose name recognition far exceeds my own can range from run-of-the-mill to downright thrilling.

So I thought I’d put together My Top Five Public Television Celebrity Encounters. These only include folks I met in person – someone I talked with face to face, rather than just stood with in the same room (otherwise Julia Child and Bill Nye would be on the list). Also, the list does not include people with public broadcasting connections whom I met outside of work at, say, a Doctor Who convention (Elisabeth Sladen and Jon Pertwee, for example). And I obviously do not include celebrities that stopped by UNC-TV if I did not meet them in person (oh so close, James Taylor and Nathan Lane!).

Regardless, it’s a fun list. All these lovely people I did get to say hello to at least once. So enjoy MY TOP FIVE: PUBLIC TELEVISION CELEBRITY ENCOUNTERS. Continue reading

My Top Five: Kids Show Theme Songs

Since the beginning, kids shows have been a staple of PBS programming. If you grew up watching them, you know full well how catchy the theme songs to most kids shows are. And these are theme songs that still resonate decades after you watched them as a kid. That’s why I put together MY TOP FIVE in the following category: Kids Show Theme Songs.

5. The Electric Company – “HEY, YOU GUYS!!!!” I’m talking about the 1970s version here (nothing against the newer one). It’s groovy and poppy and so energetic (befitting, of course, its source).

4. Wishbone – He’s the little dog with the big imagination and he’s got a great theme. What’s the story? The story is I’ll find myself singing this cute, catchy ditty without prompting.

3. Bill Nye The Science Guy – If you know that science rules, you’ve probably caught the Science Guy in action back in the 90s. That electropop theme almost seems like a dance remix of another theme, which is pretty cool. And though it hasn’t been necessary yet, I am ever ready to chant “Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill!” at the drop of a hat. Continue reading