×

Reading promoted via ‘Storyline’

This article was corrected on October 21, 1992. A headline in yesterday’s Daily Variety incorrectly stated the name of pubcaster KCET’s new local kids series “Storytime,” which airs at 7 p.m. Sundays.

The creators of “The Wonder Years” once quipped that they wanted to write an episode about Kevin Arnold going to Disneyland and getting separated from his narrator.

Well, it may not be the theme park, but narrator Daniel Stern was nowhere in sight when Fred Savage, the actor who portrays Kevin, turned up alone Oct. 11 on the premiere of the new weekly KCET fantasyland experimental local series, “Storytime.”

Savage, who read “Willie the Wimp” by Anthony Browne and “The Mitten” by Jan Brett, joins John Ritter, Pam Dawber, Paul Rodriguez, Cloris Leachman, Steve Guttenberg, Mayim Bialik and others who have appeared on the storytelling program.

Aside from attracting actors to a local series that pays them union scale, “Storytime”–consisting of 20 half-hours that were shot over the summer–is unique in a few other aspects.

The entire $ 1 million in funding came from a single source, contributors Helen and Peter Bing. Only on rare occasions has a show made it to air with a single sponsor, says Stephen Kulczycki, KCET’s senior VP and station manager.

One of the most recent efforts to fall into that category was the “Astronomy” series, which was funded by a single grant from the William M. Keck Foundation.

Also, the stories are aimed at a wide array of viewers, including African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.

The goal of the series, which went into development 18 months ago, is to “create an early passion for books that will help transform a video-dependent child into a lifelong reader,” Kulczycki said.

“We want to once again make reading a cool thing for kids to do. We are not trying to teach a child how to read, but to make that child want to read.”

Citing the “amazing work being done today in children’s literature,” the KCET exec said the station is primarily targeting kids in the 4-6 age range.

But some stories, like “The Little Red Hen,””Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and “Earl’s Too Cool for Me,” can work with youngsters as young as 2 and as old as 10, he noted.

KCET conducted some focus-group studies and found it wanted to depart from the conventional wisdom of relying on pictures to make the fare more palatable.

Aiming for accessibility

“We wanted to create a small sense of theater,” Kulczycki said, “so that it becomes more accessible to the audience. The kids get to watch the process. We even left in people stumbling over their own words because that is what happens when adults read to them.”

To accomplish that feat, exec producer Patricia Kunkel and her staff set out to attract some well-known personalities to read.

“All of them are involved in this because they believe reading to kids is in fact one of the most important things they can do to help kids,” Kulczycki said. “Some of the (actors) involved in this know how important it is from personal experience, with adults having read to them in their own development.”

The future of the show depends on two key factors: KCET’s ability to raise more funds to proceed beyond the initial 20 episodes and PBS’ picking up the series for the network.

A decision is still a few months away, but Kulczycki said PBS will have to look at whether “Storytime” fits into its overall sked, what it can afford with its limited budget and the needs of the individual pubcasting stations.

Although projects of this sort can be expensive, he noted that KCET “tried to make it for “considerably less” than the norm. Still, Kulczycki emphasized that “reading, supplemented by illustrations from the books, music and sound effects, creates an experience on television that is enticing.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • The Mentalist

    #NotWorthLess: 'I Was Great and Deserve to Be Paid the Same'

    Women writers, producers and assistants across Twitter turned the hashtag #NotWorthLess into a trend Wednesday, shining a light on issues of pay inequality in the entertainment business. Sparked by screenwriter Adele Lim’s recent decision to walk away from the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel in protest of being paid less than her male co-writer, dozens of [...]

  • does self-described "family brands" business Hasbro

    With Hasbro Acquisition, Is eOne Planning to Offload Family-Unfriendly Properties?

    Hasbro’s $4 billion acquisition of eOne in August instantly put the Canadian toy giant in the league of major entertainment and content companies thanks to eOne’s arsenal of IP assets in music, television and film. But does the self-described “family brands” business that’s home to The Game of Life and My Little Pony align with [...]

  • Mariah Carey Tracee Ellis Ross

    Mariah Carey, Tracee Ellis Ross Celebrate Biracial Heritage at “Mixed-ish” Premiere

    Mariah Carey and Tracee Ellis Ross embraced their “ish” at Tuesday night’s series premiere event for ABC’s “Mixed-ish” by reflecting on how their biracial identity makes working on the new show even more personal. “I’m just so thankful that this show exists,” Carey told the assembled crowd during a Q&A with series creator Kenya Barris. [...]

  • THE BACHELORETTE - "The Bachelorette: Season

    'The Bachelor': ABC Reality Boss Talks Ratings Success, Diversity Backlash

    Last night, Peter Weber was unveiled, perhaps unsurprisingly, as the next Bachelor during the season finale of “Bachelor in Paradise.” Weber’s selection coincided with a season-high rating for “Paradise,” and caps a solid ratings summer for the “Bachelor” franchise. As ratings have been in decline across the board this summer, “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in [...]

  • Raising Dion

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Releases 'Raising Dion' Trailer

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix releases “Raising Dion’s” trailer and announces a number of premiere dates for its original series. DATES Netflix announced the premiere dates for several of its new and returning original series: Season 2 of “Carmen Sandiego” will launch Oct. 1; Deon Cole’s standup special “Deon Cole: Cole Hearted” will launch [...]

  • Jim Parrack

    '9-1-1: Lone Star' Adds 'True Blood' Alum Jim Parrack

    Fox’s “9-1-1: Lone Star” continues to round out its main cast. Jim Parrack has joined the upcoming drama in a series regular role. He joins previously announced series leads Rob Lowe and Liv Tyler. In the series, Lowe stars as Capt. Owen Strand, a sophisticated New York fireman who, along with his adult son, re-locates [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content