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Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (2009)
An excellent introduction and reminder of Gertrude Berg, a woman and genius sadly forgotten about today
I won't rehash most of what has been written about this terrific film already, but there are some things I would have liked to have learned about from the filmmaker.
For example, the audience gets to see Gertrude Berg's grandson and granddaughter both being interviewed, but what happened to Berg's actual son and daughter? Had they passed away? Did they decline to be interviewed?
Another point not mentioned was that the FBI cleared Philip Loeb's communistic attack as false. His reputation was cleared not long after Loeb committed suicide. Why was that not included in the film?
I also found it surprising that there was NO mention of a Broadway musical starring Kaye Ballard called MOLLY which also featured Eli Mintz once again playing Uncle David. The musical ran on the Broadway stage at the Alvin Theater beginning September 27th for 40 previews to its opening on November 1st in 1973 for a total of 68 performances, later closing on December 29th. I know it may not be a lot of performances, but it is certainly worth mentioning.
I actually wanted to recommend to viewers to take the time to watch the film twice: once by itself and once with the audio commentary by Aviva Kempner, the filmmaker. It is filled with much information that added to my appreciation and enjoyment of learning about The Goldbergs and about Gertrude Berg.
Room 222: Operation Sandpile (1970)
Is anyone of us merely average? Aren't we all average in some ways and above average in other ways?
This was not an outstanding episode, but I felt it was interesting enough to write about it. The episode deals with Sara Olson, a C student, who feels that since she is average, she will someday end up getting a job before settling down to being a wife and mother. She doesn't see the value of history class and many other classes as well. When the principal starts a nursery staffed by volunteer students, he gets Sara more motivated so that she could be able to get a certificate in being an aide in a nursery until she does get married. Obviously today, a school might try even harder to offer more opportunities for a student to see, but this was 1969 according to the copyright date on the episode and the times were different.
When I was teaching, I often used this poem, which I feel really connects to Sara. Maybe someone who reads this post might share this poem with a student, their child, or someone at any age who feels they are invisible and not at all noticed or important.
I don't cause teachers trouble.
My grades have been okay.
I listen in my classes.
And I'm in school every day.
My teachers say I'm average.
My parents think so too.
I wish I didn't know that.
'Cause there's lots I'd like to do.
I'd like to build a rocket.
I've a book that tells you how.
And start a stamp collection.
Well, no use in trying now.
'Cause since I found I'm average,
I'm just smart enough to see
It means there's nothing special
That I should expect of me.
Nobody ever sees me.
Because I'm in between.
Those two standard deviations.
On each side of the mean.
I'm part of the majority.
That "hump" part of the bell.
Who spends his life unnoticed.
In an "average" kind of hell.
Room 222: The Exchange Teacher (1969)
Have you ever been lucky to have had a teacher who opened your eyes up in different ways?
If you are lucky as a student, you get to have a teacher who likes to do things differently and wants students to think outside the box.
In this episode, an exchange teacher from England doesn't believe in having permanent seats, taking daily attendance, or assigning specific writing assignments. The teacher involves her creative writing students with the lyrics of the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. I recall one of my own Junior High School 194 English teachers Richard Greene doing the same thing with the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel, and I recall the impression he and his class made on me since I too became an English teacher.
This episode ends not as happily as it should have. The teacher resigns and returns home, but the episode could have shown how she could have adjusted her style with the rules of Walt Whitman High School so both sides could be winners.
How does a teacher handle a student who develops feelings for him or for her?
Every teacher's worst nightmare is having a student develop feelings for them, and having those feelings develop into a situation that could jeopardize their career.
This episode shows rather innocently how a situation like that could be resolved all too easily, but in today's world in no way would it have gone down like that. Today, an accused teacher would be most likely removed from the school to a place like a district office when the situation and possible charges could be reviewed and then the teacher (if lucky and found to be innocent) would be allowed to return to his or her school, even it was under a cloud of suspicion. Too often an innocent teacher is sent to a new school instead.
This episode shows how handsome Pete Dixon, who is not even the teacher of the student who develops an interest in him, has to handle the situation with the student, the principal, and the guidance counselor, who is also Pete's love interest.
Even though the episode is 48 years old, some things never change over the years.
Room 222: Alice in Blunderland (1969)
Neophyte Alice Johnson and the first episode of the series really showing Alice in her student teaching experience
Student teaching in the past and today as well is an important time for someone who is thinking of pursuing a career in education. Some don't have the time to do it as they enter the profession years after college. Some pursue teaching coming from programs like The Teaching Fellows with a few months of preparation and then being thrown into the lion's den too often without proper support. Student teaching does show someone if they are cut out for the career, and if they are motivated and prepared to handle the incredible pressure and work load a good teacher has to face.
I was fortunate to have had a wonderful student teacher experience way back in 1984 in Snyder, New York at Amherst Central Senior High. My cooperating teacher was like Pete Dixon: encouraging, helpful, informative, and positive. He corrected me when I needed it, and encouraged me when things didn't go well. For many years during my own high school teaching career teaching English, I used to write to him every year about my experiences.
Over my own teaching career from 1987-2016, I had the good fortune to mentor 16 student teachers of my own. Overall, they were all excellent, and two of them were even able to acquire jobs at the high school where they student taught. One even had gone to that particular high school himself only a few years earlier.
In this episode, Alice Johnson is faced with handling Pete Dixon's class one day alone and then the next day having to perform in front of her college student teacher supervisor. The episode does show what we teachers have to face when beginning as neophytes. Will Alice succeed in her observation? Does she form her own style of teaching and discipline? Since I recall the character appeared for all five years of the series, I imagine she did succeed.
The episode made me smile and think back to my own first time standing in front of a class with my heart beating so quickly that I still recall how nervous I was. With the proper support and guidance, student teaching can help turn a person with a desire to teach into a professional who can really educate and motivate, despite the nonsense like the Common Core and Charlotte Danielson rubric forced down many educators' throats today.
Now happily retired, I still enjoy talking shop and hearing about the changes my colleagues have to face, but as much as I enjoyed my teaching career, I am thrilled it is over!
Room 222: Our Teacher Is Obsolete (1969)
A reference to Valley of the Dolls made me laugh out loud
This episode shows how much teaching has changed over the years.
An older spinster teacher who has created a class called Preparation for Marriage every day teaches her class reading aloud from her well crafted lesson plans. She doesn't engage her students in conversation until a substitute teacher shows her how active her students can be in class when they are allowed to be actively involved with the discussion.
When the principal gets involved since the students have organized a petition to have the original teacher replaced, the principal asks the substitute who is the school's guidance counselor (who really would never have been asked to substitute a class) "What did you do to her class yesterday? Read them Valley of the Dolls?" This made me laugh since Jacqueline Suzanne's novel was a ground-breaker in many ways, and it is still read, even if it is no longer shocking and influential.
In the end, the teacher begins to see that she can still teach the course she created, but now realizes that she must allow her students to be able to become part of the class as active not passive participants.
Room 222: Fathers and Sons (1969)
This is an episode many teachers would fear happening today to their careers
As every teacher knows, having a parent file a complaint against you can be the beginning of the ending of your career. I am a recently retired New York City Department of Education high school English teacher, having taught from 1987 until 2016, so I have some experience on what I am writing about.
In this episode, a student who thinks for himself and doesn't agree with everything his father, a doctor, thinks starts to argue with his parents, mostly with his father, about everything. The father decides to pursue disciplinary action against social studies teacher Pete Dixon for teaching subversive information to his students.
I have had friends who have been brought down to the principal's office to have discussions with parents who were upset or disturbed by something a teacher had to say or taught. The teachers in those cases were only doing what they should have been doing: opening their students' minds with all sides of an issue. One parent complained about one of my colleagues when she brought up the Oedipal Complex issue when teaching seniors Aldous Huxley's amazing novel BRAVE NEW WORLD (1932). After that confrontation, she decided to play it safe, omit the information from future teaching units, and not be as forthcoming in her desire to educate and inform. Sad to say but this is how we teachers have to work now.
At one point in the episode, Grady, the student who has run away from home, shows up at Mr. Dixon's home. Dixon invites him in, serves him milk and cookies, and convinces him to go home. They show up at the boy's home and his parents invite them both in and the issue begins to be resolved. NEVER in a million years would any teacher I know INVITE a student inside their home. Today, with all the allegations that could occur, you would have the student wait outside and then make a phone call in public. I don't think we would even ever drive them home ourselves - not unless you want any sexual allegations to start.
What I love about Room 222 is that it showed a black male teacher (a rarity) in a strong and admirable way. The series tried to tackle issues and present story-lines that showed how things were changing. I am watching the series now (after remembering it when I was a child) since the first two seasons out of five have been released on dvds.
Watching Boston Public several years ago and now watching Room 222, I am amused and amazed how some things have changed and some things have stayed the same.
The Jane Powell Show (1961)
A singing Jane Powell and her 1961 unsold TV pilot
I always find it fascinating to watch a TV pilot, whether it became a series or not. It is interesting to see Jane Powell, the soprano star of so many MGM musicals, here as a professor's wife. Russell Johnson, here almost as foreshadowing a few years earlier than his playing Professor Roy Hinkley on Gilligan's Island, plays a math college professor. The premise that they met and married after only knowing each other after one week is slim, providing the classic fish out of water story-line with Jane's character having to adjust to a non show business type life as a wife in academia. I wonder why the pilot failed to sell. It was up on You Tube, so a Jane Powell or Russell Johnson fan can view it.
A rare television appearance by singer Barbara Cook makes this a unique episode
I don't want to rehash the plot of the episode here, but I would like to add some information about the singer Barbara Cook and the actor John Carlyle. If I had not seen the opening credits of the episode, I would never in a million years have known it was Barbara Cook, one of Broadway's most popular female musical ingenues of the 1950s and 1960s. She appeared in many musicals but probably was most famous for Candide, The Music Man, She Loves Me, and The Grass Harp. She was so thin and sexy here; I was amused to remember how on one of her many concert compact disc recordings she recalled looking back at photos of herself and realizing how pretty and shapely she had looked when younger once she became older. She poked fun at herself saying how foolish she had been to put herself down for thinking she was not as attractive as she was. I have had the good fortune to see Miss Cook at least four times in concert, and each performance was terrific, even the last one at Queens College about a year or two ago. At the age of 89, she recently retired from singing earlier this year (2017).
John Carlyle was an actor who never quite made it big. His biggest claim to fame was his connection to Judy Garland. He filmed scenes for Judy Garland's 1954 movie A Star is Born, but they were all deleted and left on the cutting room floor. He wrote a book called "Under the Rainbow: An Intimate Memoir of Judy Garland, Rock Hudson and My Life in Old Hollywood." It is an interesting look at his friendship which lasted until Judy's death in 1969, and it also focuses on his life as a gay actor in Hollywood when he was trying to become a star.
A compelling and fascinating look at the possible existence of the human race
As I was watching "Consider Her Ways" of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, I thought to myself this seems more like an episode of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone series. The music sounded similar, and the futuristic hospital settings reminded me of The Twilight Zone episodes "Eye of the Beholder" and "Number 12 Looks Just Like You." I wondered if I were watching a Twilight Zone episode I had never seen until I checked that it was indeed a Hitchcock presentation.
I now want to read the short story by John Wyndham to see how close this video version is to the written word. One of the best things about both shows was that they used original short stories often as source material.
I won't rehash the plot details here, but I was entranced by the acting and the story line including its definite Twilight Zone ending. I was hoping for one, and I wasn't sorry when it arrived. I would have been disappointed if there had not been one.
Most of Hitchcock's episodes were based more on reality than science fiction, which is what made this episode so unique.