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ABC's Our World had the advantage of the great news staff at ABC in
1986, who went out and filmed eyewitness accounts from regular people
as well as the famous. This hour long show had a budget of under $1
million, less then the $1.5 million budgeted for the previous time slot
occupant, Ripley's Believe It or Not hosted by Jack Palance, according
to a New York Times article in 1986. Whatever the budget, the money
spent shows in the Our World episodes I saw and taped in 1986 and 1987.
In 1986, Our World production staff could still find participants for
interviews to the shows covering the earliest season/year episodes in
1938 and 1939. Now, 19 years later, many of those interviewed have
passed on, so this show is a real time capsule. The film archivists did
an outstanding job collecting high quality film footage for the
episodes, which looks good even on my taped copies, taped at EP speed,
for reasons unknown now (but which I am now transferring to DVDR at XP
Information on this ABC News documentary series is very hard to come by. TVTome has information on some episodes, but the air dates are not always accurate. The Bill Cosby Show, which was on opposite Our World, is out on DVD now, but Our World is still among the missing on DVD. While show host Linda Ellerbee went on to other shows, co-host Ray Gandolf and the show's production staff do not seem to have gotten another chance at ABC News after Our World flopped.
Below are the show episodes in January 1987, with the correct air dates. Since Our World was a news show with few musical segments that could cause clearance problems, ABC would have no problems issuing a DVD of the series. ABC probably won't, since niche market quality shows like Our World do not appeal to the Ipod wearing empty suits who dominate corporate American television.
Our World Episode List (1986-1987) 9/25/86 Summer Of 1969 10/2/86 13 Days In October 1962 10/9/86 Pre-empted 10/16/86 Autumn 1956 10/23/86 Forty Days In Spring 1970 10/30/86 Halloween Of 1938 11/6/86 Breaking Barriers 1954 11/13/86 Pre-empted 11/20/86 Pre-empted 11/27/86 Per-empted 12/4/86 Together And Apart 1943 12/11/86 Pursuit Of Power | Autumn 1973 12/18/86 All Shook Up | Autumn 1957 12/25/86 Pre-empted 1/1/87 Secrets & Surprises | Fall 1948 1/8/87 Inner-Struggles | Autumn 1975 1/15/87 Fear & Frustration | Winter 1952 1/22/87 Worlds Apart | Summer 1939 1/29/87 Re-run - Breaking Barriers 1954 2/5/87 Winds Of Change | Winter 1968 2/12/87 A Crowded Room | Autumn 1949 2/19/87 Gone With The Wind 1939 2/26/87 Between The Lines | Summer 1972 3/5/87 Up Against The Wall | 1961 3/12/87 Re-run 1970 Episode 3/19/87 Pre-empted 3/26/87 Re-run 1943 Episode 4/2/87 Re-run 1973 Episode 4/9/87 Liberation Summer | 1944 4/16/87 Cover Stories | Spring 1960 4/23/87 Period Of Adjustment | Autumn 1946 4/30/87 Speaking Out | Spring 1963 5/7/87 Duels In The Sun | Summer 1952 5/14/87 One Day In April 1961 5/21/87 Long Winter - Short Spring 1937 5/28/87 Spring 1953
(List e-mailed to me by LF, who saw my original posting listing 4 episodes of series shown in January 1987. He had obtained a complete list from a production assistant at ABC. I modified list slightly, adding information for two episodes).
I was fortunate to have taped the Our World episodes. I have twenty-four complete shows and two incomplete shows. There were twenty-six episodes total. I left the commercials intact, except for one show, as I recall. I was teaching Contemporary History at the time and encouraged my students to watch the program. Many of them did. It made for good discussion the next day. My chore now is to see if I can find air-dates for them. On air comments indicate which episode was first (Summer of '69) and which episode was last (Liberation Summer 1944). I plan to view all of them and write a summary of each. That is probably a good project for when the snow starts flying. I wouldn't think that a show like this would fare any better now because of all the offerings of the cable world, but it is hard to say.
....thanks to Linda Ellerbee, Ray Gandolf and the writers. Like others
in this forum I too taped this show and have them to this day. Every
couple of years or so I re-watch the series. It never grows old or
dated. It is history, it is timeless, it is who we are.
It was the only television program that ever prompted me to write to a studio (ABC) regarding a show. ABC was kind enough to send me really nice educational materials that they made available for each episode and provided to schools and institutions. From these and other materials about the show that I was able to gather during its run in the 1986-87 season, I was able to assemble a nice "Our World" educational scrapbook.
OUR WORLD lives on.....
I remember coming across Our World in the TV listings a couple of days
before it first aired. When I saw what ABC was out to do, I realized
immediately- "It's going to be smart, educational, and historical in
nature...it doesn't stand a chance." The second thing I did was prepare
some blank videos to record every episode for as long as Linda Ellerbee
and Ray Gandolf could keep the show going.
Today, twenty years later, I have still have those four video tapes with all 25 episodes- most without the commercials. (Looking back, it would be interesting to see the commercials now too!) My hope is to transfer these tapes to DVD- hopefully they're still in decent condition.
This little known and short lived show was one of the high points of television history. It is also sad note on our society that it wasn't put on to actually educate people, but by executives who saw it as a cheap alternative in a ratings time slot they could never win.
"For the next hour, think of your television set as a time machine." That was lead-off line on most episodes. I really enjoyed this history program. It was always an interesting look back. For someone who had gone through school in the 1970s, much of the history from the 1950s and later was not taught in our schools yet. It was on this show that I learned of Little Rock (1957), the Rosenbergs(1954), Francis Gary Powers and the infamous "U2 incident"(1960), the March on Washington (1963), Brown verses the Board of Education (1954), the great GM strike (1936/37), Jonas Salk, the McCarthy era, the "War of the Worlds" broadcast (1938), Gold Star mothers, the Tet Offensive, Levittown, Detroit race riots, Kent State and countless other events that have now become well known. When Billy Joel's song "We didn't start the fire" came out in 1989, I knew just about every event mentioned in that song, mainly because I had watched this show. The show would take a period in time and review the events/news of that period, for example, "Fall 1973" they reviewed the Tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs, the Yom Kippur war, the Saturday Night Massacre etc. all of which occurred during that period. The time periods featured ranged from 1936 - 1975 and it was amazing what they could pack into an hour. As the closing credits rolled, the hosts (Ray Gandolf and Linda Ellerbee) would rattle off the more obscure events that happened during that period and often tied them to modern day figures ("Also in 1952, Ronald Reagan married Nancy Davis..." etc). I wish there was a show like this on today. Unfortunately, ABC put this show on opposite The Cosby Show which was the most popular TV show on the air at the time so Our World had a hard time finding an audience. I watched, and taped Our World every week. I still enjoy watching the episodes and often watch them with my children when discussing their history lessons. It is sad that the term "Educational TV" has now become an oxi-moron. Shows such as this educated a lot of viewers. Thank you Linda and Ray! You did the job my history teachers did not do. Linda Ellerbee is still a prominent figure in TV, however, Ray Gandolf seems to have disappeared. Both did a fine job on this show. It truly is a forgotten jewel of the 1980s. Our World itself could now be a topic for a modern show looking back on 1986/87 - I wonder how many would remember it?
ABC probably realized that programming against NBC's Thursday line up
juggernaut was almost impossible, so why not put on a show that didn't
require a huge amount of money to produce. What would fit the bill better
than a news show, that used film footage that could be pulled from
Each show would revolve around a particular year, 1958, for example, and one, as I recall, was about the movie "Gone With The Wind", and what was involved in it's complicated filming.
Linda Ellerbee and Ray Gandolf shared hosting duties. And Ms. Ellerbee's dry wit showed true as each story played out.
I remember that when the network tried to cancel the show, a national write-in campaign was started. the host even joked about the fact that many folks watched "Cosby" and taped "Our World" to watch later.
I used to pop a tape in my Beta(!) machine and head out for the evening.
A good effort, but doomed to low ratings due to it's placement. If it was a weekend show, we'd probably be watching, now!
Over the years I taped many shows and happened to stumble upon this particular show of "Our World" (1986) The reason I saved this particular film was because of the Year 1939 and the New York's World's Fair. The photography was fantastic of the entire Worlds Fair and even had FDR opening the Fair with a speech. America was trying to stay away from War and getting involved with World Affairs and was enjoying the hopes for a future with all kinds of new inventions and modern conveniences. However, as this film progressed we learned about Hitler and his horrible threat to the Jewish people, and how they tried to obtain passage on the "ST. LOUIS SS" to Cuba and possibly Florida from the Nazi's in Europe. FDR would not allow this ship and its passengers to enter the United States and some of these Jewish people had to go back to Europe only to be put into prison camps. I only wish this film could be shown once again in the Year 2000! This was a very well produced film and clearly shows that America cannot just sit back and let other countries take control like Hitler or any other DICTATOR!
I am so angry I did not tape this entire series. When the announcement came that the show was to be canceled, I taped the last show and they then repeated 13 episodes. Supposed to have been 12 but they added a week, so I do have 14 of the 26 episodes. Like other comments here, I pull the two and half VHS tapes out of storage, still in good condition even taped on EP, every couple of years and watch them again. I love the actual commercials of the time, played in between the current commercials. As the tapes are getting older, the 1986-87 commercials are also becoming a bit nostalgic. I enjoyed all of the people they were able to interview or obtain footage of recent interviews of those who were there. Many have passed on since then. Loved the editing of this show and the variety of issues covered for a particular time period; International and national news mixed in with a popular song, TV icon, human interest story, inventions, discoveries, sports, records broken, commercials or products. Also, the way they looked back at the period, at the end of the show, for analysis and how it has affected us today. Ray Gandolf and Linda Elerbee did a wonderful announcing job. Can't believe Ray Gandolf was a sports news commentator. He is perfect as a history commentator. Some favorites were from 1968, Viet Nam, LBJ and the fashions and music of the late sixties, 1972 and McGovern, 1963 and MLK's March, 1957 with automobiles and desegregation, 1949, with early television and Levittown to 1952 with politics on television and the creation of Holiday Inn. I am so sorry it was never released on DVD. I would love to watch the entire series. It should have been played on PBS with the likes of Jazz and Baseball.
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