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Can you solve this mystery? B. Spooner asks: "Can you give me any information about a Catholic children's TV show that was on in Philadelphia around 1956 - 1958. It was a simple show hosted by a Monsignor-something and was on, I think, after school everyday or several days a week. I believe it was broadcast live and may have come from New York, or was local to Philly, I don't know. I'm writing a story and want to add this detail to my text."
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"My friend just told me about your website after sooooooo many years of asking people if they remember a show called Winky-Dink... I'm not crazy! Winky did exist!!!! Thank you, it was great to see him again!! Here's one for you....
"What about a cartoon called 'JOT'.... or something like that... he was a dot... I remember he bounced around... doing I don't know what..... and I think he had a dot dog too.... anything on JOT?"
- a reader
From You Tube - Jot:
Jot was a series of five minute short subjects produced and written by Ruth Byers for The Radio and Television Commission of The Southern Baptist Convention. The first batch of thirteen segments debuted in 1968, they were non-secular but carried a strong religious message.
Jot was meant to teach morals and Judeo/Christian ideals and was distributed to television stations around the country to run alongside the Bugs Bunny, Little Rascals and Hanna-Barbera cartoons shown on their local kid shows.
In the first segment, Jot steals a cupcake from his mom and goes through a psychedelic freak-out of conscience. In most of the morality plays, it's Jot's conscience that speaks loudest, a concept that may be forever lost on modern audiences.
Lessons in obedience, honesty and virtue are reinforced by feelings of guilt when Jot does the wrong thing. This is all balanced with words of wisdom from Jot's parents - and implicit forgiveness from God.
Simple and inexpensive to relatively produce (each episode of Jot cost $15,000 to produce), the graphic style of the cartoons was bold and simple, a style of art only now enjoying a renaissance with the new shockwave cartoons popping up on the net.
At the end of each segment, an address was provided for kids to send off for Jot stuff - a Jot booklet and button.
The promotion was a successful one for the Southern Baptist Convention, generating lots of mail and long memories from the kids who watched the cartoons.
Although I haven't seen Jot since about 1973, I remember it as fairly original animation. Yes, it was produced by a Baptist group and it always had a moral lesson, but the scripts actually had a very light touch as I remember, not a harsh hand. The message, to my Jewish ears, was more "God loves you" and "listen to your conscience."
A few notes, purely from my memory and with my interpretation:
1. Five minute episodes. Total I'd guess at around 13, and probably in two "seasons" based on two different opening/ closing title sequences, two theme songs. I could hum them for you...
2. Recall that in the 30's/40's, MGM had those "sing along with the jumping dot" cartoons. Jot sang a lot and the episodes were musical and well-scored. My guess is that the starting concept for Jot was that he IS one of those bouncing musical dots. When he had to go somewhere, the "camera" would zoom back and we would see him as a featureless, white, round dot moving across the landscape, sometimes bouncing as if on lyrics.
3. It was a novel approach to achieving low-cost animation. Jot, as a dot, was very easy to animate, most of the expression being facial line, and very little body action needed. Only when required, very basic hands or feet would bloom from a point in space below Jot. Movement was usually not via walking, it was via dot motion. Very clever I thought.
4. Absolutely great watercolor backgrounds, very mod. Looked a lot the ones from "Dastardly & Muttley", possibly same talent. Very good, original musical cues, woodwind/piano/percussion, about a 7-piece ensemble. Probably only two voice artists, a woman (Jot/Mother) and a man (Father/Teacher). Sound effects were stock.
5. In one episode, his mother and father were shown in still-frame, and they too were dots. The off-camera perspective on adults was probably influenced by Peanuts, but it made the cartoon accessible to kids... the world seen at Jot's level.
6. Memorable episodes:
a. Pilot. "Thou shalt not steal". Jot deflates/crumbles in guilt after telling a lie about stealing a cupcake. (Yep, that was harsh that one. They lightened it up later. It was fun anyway.)
b. Story of creation, sung improv by Jot at piano. Good illustrating animations, a bit cute.
c. The sparkly pinwheel music toy. He stole it. It broke. He regretted it. He gave it back.
d. Jot afraid of dark in bed at night. Really outstanding psychedelic backgrounds & abstract animation effects. They took pretty strong drugs for a buncha Texas Baptists!
- David K.
"Until I found mention of the animated religious cartoon Jot on your website, I was becoming increasingly afraid that my recollection of the surreal show was just a bizarre hallucination.
"Watching Jot, with it's stark, modern-art influenced abstract-minimalist design (characters were simply blank round circles set against a plain, single color background) combined with often disturbing, yet subtle religious themes (which seemed to gently hint at the virtues of totalitarianism), was a near-hypnotic experience which inexplicably always seemed to be able to draw my attention away from more enlightening fare such as THE PINK PANTHER SHOW.
"Oddly, the Dali-esque claymation and fatalistic tone of Davey and Goliath had that same power..."
"A couple of shows I remember watching on Sunday mornings in Los Angeles...
"One was Marshall Efron's Simplified, Painless and Illustrated Sunday School where Mr. Efron would retell a Bible story in a very funny and enjoyable fashion. I can remember fables about Noah's Ark and one about Adam and Eve.
From You Tube - Marshall Efron:
"There was also a show called That's Cat starring Alice Playten and a guy that never talked named "Me". The guy that played Grady on Sanford and Son was also on it as Alice's grandfather.
"An interesting bit of trivia - Marshall Efron and Alice Playten acted together in a movie called "California Dreaming."
"Another show was called Maestro Domingo. It was a live action show about an old man and his two friends who were puppets (a little boy and a goat). They would go around L.A. finding out about different kinds of jobs and how things worked.
"I also remember Wonderama of course and a show that came on after it called Make a Wish starring Tom Chapin. He would get an idea going and the entire half hour would center around different concepts springing from the original idea. It really made you think and was enjoyable to watch."
- Casey Mosier
Circle Square was another Christian kid show from the late 1970s.
Do you have any information about a TV show that aired in spokane, WA in the mid 60's called Captain Sey (unsure of spelling)? It was a children's program, Christian station KREM, I believe?
I would appreciate anything you happen to run across. Apparently my brother, sister and I were on the show several times. I'm just curious what it was about as I'm sure there are no copies left.
It must have been a Christian theme because I sang 'Jesus Loves Me' on an episode in probably 1968. Captain Cye (my brother says that's the correct spelling) AKA David Page (Paige?) also had a radio program which signed off with "have a nice..."
Thank you - Carole Nicholas
"Jim Stewart, the host/ performer and co-creator of WBKB-TV 7's Here's Geraldine, The Gloveables and the nationally syndicated kid's religious TV show It's Light Time passed away on March 28, 2001.
"He was 74 years old and suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Jim Stewart also produced and hosted Safariland and he MC'd Passage To Adventure and Game Room. His last regular broadcasting stint was on 'A Course In Miracles' on radio station WVVX-FM where he lectured on hypnotherapy and on human potentials.
"His last TV appearances with the puppets from 'Here's Geraldine' and 'It's Light Time' was on a series of TV commercials for Oscar Meyer Wieners' hand puppets/ puppet theater giveaway promos.
"He performed in the commercials with his ex-wife and former TV puppeteering partner Mrs. Bud Stewart.
"It's Light Time was seen Sunday mornings during the early 1960's. Mr. Stewart and his ex-wife were two very talented and caring people who taught young viewers core values and entertained them without boring them or preaching down to them."
- Kevin S. Butler
"My friends here in the South claimed I was making up all the songs and crazy little quips of advice that dear old Captain Noah imparted.
"'Remember what Capt. Noah says... never roam alone.' That is just one of many phrases he had. I remember drawing tons of pictures thinking they would end up on the show, 'posted high in the TV sky.'
"Boy... what silly memories.
"Also, what about the Saturday morning song and dance talent show - Al Albert's Showcase and all those 'teeny boppers,' as he called them?"
- Emily M
From You Tube - Captain Noah:
"This was a fun site to find. You won't believe why I did a search to find you! I was just cleaning up in the kitchen and putting something down the garbage disposal. It brought back distant memories of Captain Noah's "Mumwa the monster."
"After the Captain finished a project with construction paper, he would feed the scraps to Mumwa. Mumwa (Mumwah?) was a puppet "monster" that lived under one of the captain's tables. Mumwa would pop up to gratefully accept the left over paper scraps. Sort of a home-town Oscar the Grouch.
"During my senior year at Penn State from 1986-87, and in my first apartment -- my roommate and I named our garbage disposal "Mumwa". Our friends thought this was odd. One friend eventually told us that somebody else they knew also had named their garbage disposal "Mumwa." So we weren't so weird after all.
"I also remember the Captain coming down a spiral slide on the set. I think he stopped this as he got older. I remember Sally Star coming down that slide too, either a guest or a guest host.
"I'm trying to remember if Mrs. Noah was a regular on the show, or if she was introduced while the captain was on some sort of long term health leave. I think she started the song "Send your pictures, to dear old Captain Noah, send away, send today..." something like that. The captain eventually recovered and returned and continued to sing that song. The camera would pan across all the pictures that kids had sent in - I don't know if I was jaded or feeling uncreative, but don't think I ever sent anything in.
"Another song that sort of sticks in my mind "Red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue. You can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too." I can't remember if this started or ended the show. And I'm sure I got the colors in the wrong order. OK, it's a distant memory...
"At Radnor High, we had a field trip to WFIL to watch them broadcast the morning show (was it "Good morning Philadelphia"?) and the noon news. We saw Captain Noah in the hall, and I think most of us were actually kind of excited to see him, even at our age then.
"I also remember somebody in our group screwing around with the magnet numbers on Jim O'Bryan's weather map. I think he fixed them before they went on the air. That made his death in a parachute accident just a little more personal for me.
"Now older and more jaded, I feel sort of silly telling these stories. But Captain Noah was a daily fixture in my childhood. And I'm glad to see him remembered on your site."
- a viewer
(Captain Noah and His Magical Ark, produced by the Philadelphia Council of Churches, starred W. Carter Merbreier and his wife "Mrs. Noah," airing from 1967 until 1994. The theme song was, I Can Sing a Rainbow. Captain Noah was syndicated on 22 stations around the USA.)
"I remember Marshall Ephron's Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Sunday School. That show was great, I can still remember the one about Christ's birth.
"The show only ran one season (1973-74), which is a real shame. I don't know why it was canceled, could have been because the guy was a little TOO funny for some people. It might have been because the guy was a Rabbi, and maybe people didn't like a Rabbi talking about the New Testament.
"We had a local show religious TV show in North Carolina for kids that should be included on your bizarre section. It featured an old guy as the host... he must have been pushing 80... that would tell Bible stories and draw pictures on a sketch board. Having a TV kid's show host draw pictures on a sketchboard is nothing new... ONLY THIS GUY COULD ONLY DRAW STICK FIGURES!
"Also, he only seemed to pick out the worst Bible stories for kids he could find, it seems. He would almost always pick out stories with wars, murders, sacrifices, etc., and would draw the stick figures bleeding with a red crayon. Really weird. Here's my re-creation to give you an idea what a typical drawing would look like.
"It aired in the early 70's on Sundays, I think on WRAL. The most memorable one is when he did the story of heathens sacrificing their children to Baal. Insert your own therapy joke here.
- David Tillman
(After the 1973-74 season, Marshall Ephron's Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Sunday School was revived in 1975 as a summer show, with repeats returning to CBS from 1986-87. Marshall Ephron (who played all the roles on his Sunday show) was and is a busy cartoon voice actor, appearing in The Transformers, Kidd Video, The Smurfs and many other 80's favorites. He can be heard in the new Pixar movie Robots.)
"I'm dying to know more about a program (out of Canada, I think) that I used to watch as a child. It was a half-hour drama program with big name stars, most often before they were big, acting out family dramas. It was a new show every Sunday morning, no return characters or continuing story, called Insight (1960-1991) and it definitely had a Christian bent. The theme music was very spooky and it ran it's closing credits over a picture of a statue of the Virgin Mary.
"I vaguely remember one episode in which a very young Martin Sheen was a dope smoking teenager and his family was trying to save him. Stars like Martin Milner, Celeste Holm, Carol Burnett, Carroll O'Connor, Ed Asner, Bob Newhart (who played God in a funny episode with Jack Klugman), and Ted Cassidy also appeared. I have yet to find anyone who remembers it."
"Insight was a dynamic syndicated half-hour drama produced, created and hosted by Paulist Production's Father Ellwood E. (Bud) Kieser, a Catholic priest.
"Kieser attracted top name talent (Rod Serling even wrote an episode) to his well-produced, jarring little morality plays -- which often creatively took on controversial subjects such as drug abuse, ghetto poverty and the death penalty.
"The series ran from the 1960's well into the 80's, and indeed featured a haunting animated title sequence set against an eerie electronic theme. The end credits ran against the shadowy backdrop of a large statue of St. Paul.
"Insight still can be occasionally seen pre-dawn on Sunday morning TV. It's grim tone, magnified by it's low-budget, yet artful video-production values, was often extremely chilling and effective.
"Producer Kieser later founded the prestigious Humanitas Awards, given to film and TV screenplays which explore human values."
"While Insight wasn't a kid show, I used to watch it when I was a kid.
"After reading your piece, I went on Paulist Productions' web site (www.paulistproductions.org) and the site says that the Insight series is available on video. I called the number and the receptionist said she would send me a catalog with all the episodes available and each video costs $29.95 + $5.00 S&H.
"Insight was a unique television series in the sense that the Gospel of Jesus Christ had never been brought out in such a way.
"In many ways, the current movie called "Left Behind" (based on the best selling novel) is a 90 minute Insight episode. I'm looking forward to seeing some episodes again. I think it is also on the Odyssey Channel as well. Thanks again for your time and for your wonderful site. It's good to know that others around the world are recognizing how great it is."
Take care, Gary Williams
"I discovered Insight as a kid in the mid-70s, and was instantly captivated by it. It was reminiscent of The Twilight Zone in many ways; a drama anthology series of morality plays which used a variety of formats and settings to deliver its message.
"Many of the episodes explored contemporary domestic issues such as alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, and the "generation gap"; others examined subjects such as police brutality and the war in Vietnam; still others were set in a post-apocalyptic future or in a society on the brink of world war.
"At times, supernatural forces seemed to be afoot, and very often, an avant-garde or 'psychedelic' approach was taken, and, as MQ mentioned, the results could be chilling and unsettling.
"My first experience with Insight was unforgettable. It starred John Astin as a down-on-his luck alcoholic who had lost his wife. The opening scene began with him standing in a subway station. As a subway train pulled into the station, he jumped in front of it. As the train approached him, the headlight illuminating his face, the opening animated title sequence began - the one where the camera zooms into the image of a face with a large eye.
"As an 11 year old, I found that quite frightening. In any event, it turns out that the John Astin character miraculously survives being run over by the train without a scratch, and ends up meeting other down-and-out people in the subway. In the end, they all decide to cast their lot with God, and although things are resolved a little too neatly, the message is clear.
"Another very effective little episode featured Harold Gould as an evil man dying in a hospital bed. A man materializes in the room and tries to get Harold to leave the room with him. Harold refuses, fearing that the man is the Devil and that the doorway will lead to Hell. But as the episode concludes, it has become clear that the man is God, who has forgiven Harold, and is trying to lead him to Heaven.
"I could come up with numerous other examples (and would be happy to if there is any interest), but suffice to say that Insight was an interesting little offbeat program that should have been much more popular than it was.
"I have not been seen it broadcast here in New York for almost ten years, and would love to see it back on in place of the endless infomercials. May I recommend the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), which has a lot of good information on Insight, including message boards that I have participated in."
- Thanks, Bill
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