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|Index||11 reviews in total|
Frank Buxton is a man of many talents: in addition to his credits as an
actor and director, he compiled the book 'The Big Broadcast', which is
required reading for anyone interested in the golden age of American
radio. He also was involved in the writing and production of
'Discovery', besides serving as co-host.
The general perception is that 'educational' television has to be boring. 'Discovery' is the show that broke this rule. 'Discovery' was aimed at pre-teen children; this series was genuinely informative yet also consistently entertaining. Buxton's co-host was Virginia Gibson, a pretty actress with no great presence nor talent. They were abetted by a slowpoke bloodhound named Corpuscle (geddit?) who exhibited so little movement on-camera, he might as well have been a stuffed dog from the Props department.
One episode of 'Discovery' took a serious look at witchcraft, examining mediaeval superstitions and the Salem witch trials. Guest actress Margaret Hamilton showed up at the beginning of this episode wearing a witch disguise; later in the same episode, she appeared as herself and explained to Buxton how the special effects were achieved for her role as the Wicked Witch in a certain movie. (Amazingly, Hamilton admitted on-camera that she didn't know how one of the tricks was achieved.) Another episode of 'Discovery' dealt entertainingly with elections and the democratic process, scrupulously finding time to inform the young viewers that women in 19th-century America weren't allowed to vote.
One delightful episode of 'Discovery' spotlighted the early history of movies, and showed a film clip from an unidentified slapstick silent film (it's actually 'The Hobo', 1917) in which a baggy-pants comedian in a familiar tramp costume, with a bowler hat and a Hitler moustache, manhandles Oliver Hardy. Over this silent footage, Buxton's voice-over challenges Virginia Gibson to identify the comedian playing the tramp. 'Charlie Chaplin, of course,' she replies. Buxton then informs her (and the children at home) that this is actually Billy West, a silent-film comedian who made a speciality of impersonating Chaplin. I'm pleasantly astounded that a children's TV series would devote any attention to a silent-film comedian as obscure as Billy West. In this same episode, Buxton conducted a telephone interview with none other than Stan Laurel, in a hook-up to Laurel's residence at the Oceana Apartment Hotel in Santa Monica: Stan Laurel's voice is heard but he remains unseen. (Probably for the best, considering how ill Laurel was at this time.)
The only unfortunate aspect of 'Discovery' was the on screen relationship between Buxton and Gibson. Their dialogue was written so that he was invariably the font of all wisdom, spewing facts and figures while she expressed admiration for his brilliance. Blame it on gender roles in the early 1960s.
Speaking of dates: when this show premiered in 1962, somebody at ABC had the dumb idea of calling it "Discovery '62". At the end of the last 1962 episode, Buxton solemnly informed the viewers (and Gibson) that "Discovery '62" would not return in the following year. After Gibson expressed pre-scripted concern, Buxton then divulged that this was because the show would now be called "Discovery '63". This chronology gimmick was a dumb idea. But overall, 'Discovery' was a superlative series: intelligent, informative, and so entertaining that adults and kids can enjoy it. My rating: 10 out of 10!
This was probably the best children's educational series of all time.
It had a range that was broader than any other I have ever seen,
everything from the workings of an aircraft carrier to what life was
like when your parents were your age (seemingly the 1930's) to the Oz
books. It was a revelation to me that the Oz adventures extended beyond
the Wizard of Oz and I ended up reading all the Baum Oz books,
something that never would have happened if they hadn't brought the
subject to my attention.
In its heyday, watching this in the late afternoon was an absolute must for me. Considering the fuss made about lesser shows like Sesame Street, which apparently overlapped Discovery on the air, it's amazing to me that I have heard absolutely nothing about it for decades, no tips of the hat, no mentions in TV or children's TV retrospectives, nothing except the entry on IMDb which has something about essentially every TV show and movie known. It deserves better.
I still have fond memories of this series. This was the precursor to so
many science and cultural programs to come. The show presented fairly
complicated material in a formant that kept children interested yet
would intrigue many adults as well. My first look at outer space was
through this show. It took viewers to such exotic locations as the
depths of the oceans and the far reaches of deserts and rain forests.
But the magic of the common place was not ignored either. From the
complexities of the human body to the formation of a simple pebble one
may find on a playground were explored. Discovery was an early window
on the natural world before cable TV or the internet. I think about it
and almost get misty eyed at the thought of how it broadened my
horizons at such a young age.
There series was born of ABC's reaction to FCC chairman Newton B
Minnow's charge that television was a vast wasteland. In those days of
JFK, government officials were honest and networks actually did care
about what people thought. So ABC promoted reporter Jules Bergman to
"Chief Science Correspondent" and green-lit a project of his, a kid's
science and culture show called DISCOVERY '62. And 7-year-old Davy
Martin discovered a new favorite TV program. Each episode was like a
gift box full of unexpected treats in the form of new knowledge or
explanations of things I vaguely knew about. The episodes were simple
enough for a child to understand and yet they were well-developed
enough that 40+ years later, I still recall some of them. For example,
in a show explaining dangerous weather systems, Frank and Virginia
stood by a tabletop model of a town. Virgina demonstrated a tornado by
running a vacuum cleaner in a line across the model, sucking up a line
of toy houses. Frank then demonstrated a hurricane by placing a 2' wide
disk on the tabletop and shoving it through the model town.
Or in an episode explaining special effects, they stood on either side of a VERY thin pillar. Then they walked behind this skinny thing and disappeared! Then parts of one appeared from the left side side while parts of the other appeared on the right side. Then they both walked out. And the screen switched to show a long shot of the studio, with TWO identical skinny pillars set a few feet apart. Then Frank explained about how two shots of the pillars could be merged into a single paradox-creating shot. Neat. It sure started me on the path to understanding SFX, starting with THE PATTY DUKE SHOW.
Yes, I saw the original Discovery'62 & '63. I'd watch it every week day as soon as I rushed home from being dropped off by the school bus. By the next fall season, Discovery '63 switched from a daily to a weekly schedule, when it aired on Sunday mornings on ABC. Discovery '62 & '63 were my first introductions to a tour of the Smithsonian, experiments with liquid nitrogen and other neat experiences. Exciting stuff for an inquisitive kid. Later, after the Beatles hit the US, they also journeyed to Liverpool and even toured the Cavern. That would have been Discovery '64 or '65. I hope some of this footage has survived somewhere. I remember Frank Buxton & Virginia Gibson and even once had a coloring book of the series to remember them by. I totally lost track of the series after 1965. Frank Buxton is still around, recently appearing in a summer time play on Baldridge island (I believe it was) in the Seattle area.
I vaguely remember the series in its "Discovery '66" and "Discovery '67" incarnations, and never realized that it went all the way back to 1962. Neither did I realize at the time (I was only 4 or 5 at the time I remember seeing it) that it was intended as a children's series. I simply assumed that it was something shown on weekends when there wasn't a ball game, perhaps an ancestor of Huell Howser's programs, or of typical weekend daytime PBS fare of the 1980s and 1990s, or of today's various Discovery Channel series. About the only other thing I remember about it was that it was, as the other, more extensive comment mentions, suitable not just for children, but for the whole family.
This is definitely a show I remember and have occasionally scoured the
net to confirm that I really did see it. I was 11 in '66 and remember a
show about Thomas Edison, who was a hero of mine at the time because he
had invented - or made practical - so many things that I liked:
records, in particular, the light bulb (I got kits to make a light bulb
and Guttenberg printer, movies (I loved tinkering with the home movie
camera and projector - I even made my own Gumby short). On the show,
they played one of Edison's 1/4-inch thick records. I even remember the
For a young geek, to see a show like that captured and sparked my imagination. Electronics is my life and it has been a never ending source of curiosity and my livelihood. I still enjoy tinkering...
So, the BIG question is, "Are there no recordings of this show?" I'd love to see something and while writing this I found video (from 1970) on you tube.
We lived in Silverton, Colorado in the early 60's when the Discovery program came to town. My father was the sheriff in town and was used in the program. The program focused on the town's history, the Narrow Gauge train, and the people. I have an original copy of the script and have been trying to locate a copy of the program, but no luck! If anyone has any information on how to find a copy, I would love it. My father passed away in the 70's and I would love to have a copy of this for my children. We moved from Silverton when I was four, but I still have very fond memories of this magical place! Even after so many years, the town has not changed much. Because of the Discovery program, kids from Michigan (where we moved to) were able to see where we lived. A side note, I had a brother who died of cystic fibrosis when we lived in Silverton. He is buried in the local cemetery. What an interesting place filled with people with lots of stories.
I am so glad to make my review the tenth for this series. So long ago that I'm sure it started as Discovery '61. Anyway, once my family discovered it, my dad would rush home from work and we all watched over supper. The hook for him, and most of us, was Corpuscle. How could Frank and Virginia compete with a dog. Of course, that was the hook to get kids to watch. The science and technology was almost an afterthought. Sure we learned, but, we got to see Corpuscle. It must have been during the early '63 season, ABC aired a one hour primetime special called, I think, This is Discovery. Ostensibly so disinterested parents would see what their kids were watching. They went way back to the beginning shows, which we had missed, showing C. when he was just a pup. In fact, I think the first episode we every watched, while channel surfing, among Chicago's five, in those days, was when we hit on the Discovery Puppy Pen. A screened pen full of puppies, a grown Corpuscle, and, Frank Buxton. I once heard him introduced on a TV show as Dr. Frank Buxton, but, alas. According to his bio, he only has a Bachelor's and a Master's. Virginia Gibson had a pretty good film career, but, not much after Discovery. Nickelodeon just doesn't cut it.
I agree with the previous reviewer.
This series has been unjustly forgotten. I wonder if ABC even has any of the film reels or tapes left. It should be put into DVD format and marketed. I would buy the entire series just for something to look at every now and then and remember what it was like to be a young kid in '60s America.
It wasn't all bad stuff, my friends. There was a lot of good stuff out there, and this show proves it. This kids show had substance and class and was very well done.
I was born the year the series started, but I remember the tune from the show distinctly from as early as 3 years old when I was a very avid TV watcher for many years. I didn't remember a lot of other details, but then again this hasn't been on TV once ever since the original airing that I know of.
Please bring it back for old times sake.
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