Thursday, April 8, 2010

"In the Past, Everyone Will Be Educated for Fifteen Minutes"

The fifteen minute show has been around for a long time; Hazel Scott had a fifteen-minute show on the Dumont network in 1950 and Doodles Weaver had "A Day With Doodles"

This reminiscence starts in the 70's and I'm home from school, because I am not feeling well. After watching the usual game shows, "Concentration" and "Jeopardy", I change the channel to the local PBS station (WNET) and try to catch the shows that aren't listed in "TV Guide". In these days, daytime programming for PBS seemed to consist of "Sesame Street", "Zoom", "The Electric Company" and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" (liked "Robert Troll", kept getting "Bob Dog"). For about two or three hours, the listings would stop and that is when these odd fifteen-minute shows would appear.

The titles I can recall are:

The Metric System - This was during the days of the big push. Soon, the United States would stop using the English System of measurement. Liters, grams and meters would take over, or, to quote Alice, "Goodbye, feet!". Only one band from New Orleans would foresee the inevitable future. My teacher, Mr. Silverberg express the concerns of many, wondering if the US would be able to retool the machinery and the minds of many. There was resistance and the conversion became more of an integration (we think nothing of buying a gallon of milk, as well as a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew). Perhaps Ronald Reagan made a record of the spread of...haw, haw, I laugh to think that people would be up in arms over such things.

Ah, yes, the show. The theme was in F and it was sung by two women. Here is what I can remember of the lyrics:

The Metric System,
The Metric System,
The Metric System!

So many reasons,
Can't list 'em!
That show the wisdom,
Of the Metric System.

The Metric System,
The Metric System,
The Metric System!

The show consisted of various sketches showed the joys of conversion from English to Metric, the new increments, working for the good of the state, division of labo...


There was even an in-house hero, a puppet named "Metric Man". I remember him defeating a villain because of the ease adding decimals. "I never could add fractions!", seethed the ne'er-do-well.

Anyone for a rousing chorus of "Decimal, Decimal Dancing Dot"? This show had a pretty small budget. In one scene, a professor type, with a lab coat spoke to a kid with a beanie. In one shot, the propeller is spinning. In a second, badly edited shot, the propeller is still, however, they didn't quite edit out the prof whacking the prop to start it spinning again. The effect makes it look as if he either has it in for the beanie, or worse, the boy wearing it.

What I cannot remember is the name of a shorter-lived program about the Metric System, with an even smaller budget and THEIR in-house hero was a live-action woman named "Meter Maid", complete with cape and cowl. When she appeared, her fanfare was the stereotypical six-note affair one hears before you hear someone say "Charge!(G-C-E-G-E-Geee!!, sung by three or four guys holding their noses.

Science is Discovery - The theme was sung by a chorus of kids and part of the backing was a small drum and a glockenspiel. This was similar in style to "Mr. Wizard", but I don't remember him having a kid assisting him in experiments. I remember none of the experiments, except one needed two balloons and this fellow put them on top of his head and yelled, "Mickey Mouse! I'm fairly sure this was in black and white.

A quick aside: all of our TV's were black and white. When we inherited my Aunt Teady's old set, I was so excited, because I knew her TV's tended to be bigger than ones we bought and they tended not to have handles on top of them. We turned it on was in black and white, too. I had no idea "Star Trek" was filmed in color, until my brother brought home a paperback, "Star Trek Lives!" or "The World of Star Trek" and I saw the photos on the covers. I loved "The Wizard of Oz", but as far as I was concerned, Dorothy went from a B&W Kansas to a B&W Oz. I followed Judy Garland down the Antique White road for many years until sometime in the 1980's.

The Letter People - This one can be seen on YouTube and there were 60 episodes; one for each letter of the...hmmm. In any case, the first part is the episode I remember. This episode had an obnoxious comic with an obnoxious laugh ("NNnneck-neck-neck") and obnoxious one-liners ("Where's your patience, son, in the waiting room?"). It seems that you can still buy Letter People stuff, but in wildly different designs and different songs. [Editor's note: I have corrected this link. While I do remember Miss I and her "itchy itch" "letterpeopleland" from YouTube corrected me and the change has been made.]

The only other show that I can recall was some show about English usage and I remember one scene that might as well have been written by Ernie Kovacs, as macabre as it was. A man was sitting behind a desk and he says, "What a day! I'm so tired I could shoot myself." Cut to a woman that said, "This is what's called a metaphor. This man is just explaining how tired he is". This was followed by an off-screen gunshot, her registering shock and a cut to the man's body on the floor. Once again, this is supposed to be a KID'S show!

I'll watch this, until "Big Blue Marble" or "Zoom" comes on...


  1. The Metric System,
    The Metric System,
    The Metric System!
    You can show how far from your car to a star with the metric system.
    You can tell how far you've gone, how far you've flown with the metric system.
    It's just common sense, it's a system based on 10. IT'S THE METRIC SYSTEM!
    So many reasons, can't list 'em! That shows the wisdom of the Metric System.
    The Metric System,
    The Metric System,
    The Metric System!

    1. Good heavens, man. That's it! Thank you.

  2. Thank you!! I've had that tune rattling around in my brain for over forty years with only a couple snippets of lyrics to go along with it. Now we only have to get ahold of some video!

  3. This song has been in my head for 40 years...thank you for the "lyrics"!!! Wish I could find an audio clip