When I was in Kindergarten although I still enjoyed my friends on Sesame Street and hanging in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood with his mini trolley, I got excited whenever the familiar faces of The Letter People aired. Sort of like Muppets, but people instead of friendly monster character types. They wore outfits branded with each of their designated letters and their individual lexicons consisted of primarily words starting with the same designation. Who can forget such characters as Miss A and Mr. T (not the “I pity the fool” one). The opening of the show was psychedelic with a matching Loving Spoonful-esc theme. “Come on meet the Letter People, ABCD follow me.” Unforgettable episodes that live on in my mind such as the time the Miss C and Mr. K fought over, and then subsequently decided to share the same sound of “kæ”; or when Mr. Q and Miss U found each other and were almost always unseperatable; and who can forget the trauma of Mr. Y with his consonant/vowel identity crisis. Drama that rivaled those of today’s The OC, more like The Mr. O and Mrs. C.
As I previously mentioned I could always count on Levar Burton’s famed catch phrases of “But you don’t have to take my word for it” prior to book recommendations from a select group of my peers and the comforting “See you next time” that ended each memorable Reading Rainbow. It was a hallmark of my early middle school years, coupled along with shows such as Square One and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? Much of Square One’s programming escapes me to this day, but what sticks is the detective dramatics of Mathnet. Solving crime with Algebra and Geometry was all in a days work for a Mathlete with holstered Texas Instruments at his or her side. As for the show that rivaled the popularity of the computer game of the same name, we all know what truly made the show was not “The Chief”, the sweet outfits the Gumshoes wore, or the ever witty Alex Trabec wannabe. It can all be summed up in this one phrase “DO IT ROCKAPELLA!” Here’s a fun fact for you that you won’t find on one of those VH1 nostalgic shows… Rockapella actually had a pretty lucrative career in Japan, performing acapellic covers and originals. Although the quintet has been cut to a quartet, and only 2 of the original members remain (last time I checked), on occasion they will still throw in a favored “Carmen San Diego” (in Bass vocals)
Lastly, I would like to pay tribute to two Old School Players of the PBS world. If 2pac and Biggie are legends of Hip-Hop, then I would have to say that Bob Ross and Julius Summer Miller are legends of PBS. Although on opposite ends of the programming spectrum with Mr. Ross recreating landscapes with his arsenal of oil paints and fan brushes; and Mr. Miller demonstrating physics genius. They were similar in that they rocked awesome crazy hair, appeared to be under the influences of “substances” at times, and can now only be remember by their previous works. Tip your 40s for my dead homies BR and JSM… R.I.P.
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