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Category:    Home > Reviews > Children's Television > Educational > New Zoo Revue (TV, 4 DVDs)

New Zoo Revue (TV Ė Discs 1- 4)

 

Picture: C+†††† Sound: C+†††† Extras: D†††† Episodes: A-

 

 

When it came to quality childrenís television, CBSís Captain Kangaroo and the NET/PBS shows like Mr. Rogersí Neighborhood, Sesame Street and The Electric Company were hugely popular, but not the only successes in that golden period of the late 1960s into the 1970s.Syndicated TV was on the rise, much to the shock of the Big Three networks, and the syndication marketís response was a remarkable series called The New Zoo Revue.

 

Delta has issued the series on DVD, starting with four volumes containing three shows each and each in a different color.They are:

 

1/Yellow)††††††††††††† Sports/Home/Beauty

2/Blue)††††††††††††††† School/Drugs/Money

3/Fucha)†††††††††††† Forgiving/Loyalty/Temper Tantrums

4/Light Green)††† Patience/Advice/Responsibility

 

 

As you can tell, the topics are self-explanatory, but each show is far from as simple as its title.Filled with decent songs and smart teleplays (with high quality child psychologist input), the role-playing to teach kids the values that really matter is never amateurish or obvious.These are exceptionally produced, even when they occasionally show their age or budget.

 

The world of the show is inhabited by five characters, two who are people and three who are human-sized animals.The people are Doug (Doug Momary, who co-created the show with Barbara Atlas) and Emmy Jo (Emily Peden), while the characters are various aspects of the children viewers.Henrietta Hippo is a Southern Belle with a weight, temper, self-esteem and even mood problem.Freddie The Frog is the most child-like of them all, naÔve and sometimes more selfish than he should be.Charlie The Owl is smarter than the others, but in a groundbreaking move, shows that it takes heart and soul to be the foundation of a person and not mental mechanics.They are never allowed to be stereotypes.

 

In its time, the show was a hit and helped to build syndicated television.There was also merchandise in the period that sold very well, but like The Electric Company, it has been sadly and very detrimentally lost to newer generations.The animal characters were voiced by one group (Bob Holt, Joni Robbins, Hazel Shermet, and later Bill Callaway replacing Holt as Charlie), while others (Sharon Baird as Charlie; Yanco Inone as Freddie; Larri Thomas as Henrietta) wore the baseball-mascot-like outfits.Chuck Woolery (the game show host) was later added as Mr. Dingle and Freeda The Frog (Larri Thomas) became a new animal character. Each show has three songs that add to the points and lessons each show teaches.I was amazed at how anti-dysfunctional the show was, making me realize there are a couple of generations of adults who could use a few viewings.

 

The show began in 1971 and ran on for the rest of the decade into the early 1980s.The balance of music, dance, humor, values, spontaneity, healthy interaction, and the true meaning of fair play over vicious, aggressive behavior is needed as much as ever.Since its sad end, no syndicated show for children has come close to the monumental, groundbreaking achievement this series was.In some significant ways, the show is ageless and now that the DVDs have been out for a while, it will bring it back to the new generations that deserve it.With a possible feature film due out that cannot arrive soon enough, the time for the show to rise again is hopefully upon us.With the dozens of lousy, angry, sickening TV aimed at kids so they will buy mostly junk toys, it would only be for the better.No moment of any episode is ever boring or wasted.

 

The full frame image is from the professional NTSC analog videotapes the show was shot on.Taking its cue from Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogersí Neighborhood, Sesame Street and The Electric Company, as well as Laugh-In for that matter, it took advantage of the great new aspects of color on videotape and some editing that has stood the test of time.The tapes themselves are rarely flawed, while the editing style was a bit swifter than the other shows in its class and that definitely makes it age less.You can see white turning a bit yellow in shots (something Music Videos would offer by the end of the decade), but these are exceptionally colorful shows by even todayís standards.That is a nice plus and will keep the attention of younger viewers, while older viewers will be surprised by the attention to color.The sets are also a hoot.

 

The Dolby Digital 2.0 is Mono, though it is uncertain if the many records for kids tied into the show were recorded in stereo.Either way, they are all collectorís items and the sound on these DVDs might be the first time the music was available in any digital sound format.It is a good clean monophonic sound for its time (and for Dolbyís compression scheme), minus the sound of a record needle.For TV audio, that is good.There are no captions, so sing-along is going to be based solely on the sound.There are no extras, but hopefully Delta will consider trying to find some for future installments.

 

Even adults will get some big laughs from the shows, making this outstanding entertainment that is among the few programs that deserve to be considered family entertainment.Momary and Peden are very good in their roles and fill each show (intended for a half-hour TV slot before they became filled with too many commercials), and the animal designs are enduring.Add all that up, and you get a series of gems your children will want to watch as repeatedly as anything on the market.The New Zoo Revue is a classic that has been gone too long.Now, we can have it for good, and its timing could not be better.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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