Happy 25th birthday, Square One TV!

Published on Thursday, January 26, 2012 in , , , ,

Square One TV logo25 years ago today, Square One TV debuted on PBS! As a budding math geek, this show was a must-watch for me.

If you're not familiar with Square One TV, it was a show teaching math using comedy skits, music videos, guest stars, and whatever else to teach mathematical concepts. Everything from basic arithmetic to geometry to somewhat-advanaced algebra was covered in a way that was fun and interesting.

My favorite music video they ever did is a great example of this. It was called “Change Your Point of View.” Although largely about solving math problems by looking at the problem from different perspectives, it's also great advice for any type of problem:

To give you an idea of the comedy skits they used, here's a skit called The Adventures of Spade Parade, in which they have to figure out which consultant is which:

Magician Harry Blackstone, Jr. even had his own recurring segment, in which he would perform and teach mathematically-based magic:

Like many PBS shows, Square One TV was 30 minutes long (no commercials meant 30 minutes of content), and broadcast 5 episodes a week. The show itself had a rather unusual format, however. The first 20 minutes would consist of skits, songs, and other segments like the ones above.

The last 10 minutes of the show would always be an episode of Mathnet, a sort of Dragnet parody following the adventures of detectives Kate Monday (later replaced by Pat Tuesday) and George Frankly. A new adventure would start on Monday, and would be continued on each day, winding up on the following Friday.

To get a better idea, you can actually find full episodes online. Here's the very first episode of Square One TV. The very first skit, a song about the concept of infinity, recurs throughout the episode, as if it continued forever. The show's producers even convinced PBS to continue the gag even after that first show was over.

The Mathnet episode, “The Case of the Missing Monkey,” guest stars a young Yeardley Smith, better known today as the voice of Lisa Simpson. This adventure continues in the second episode, and the third episode. I can't find the fourth and fifth episodes online yet, but you can see the rest of the same case in the 39th episode and the 40th episode, when it was re-run.

The show had a good long run, and broadcast its last new show on May 6, 1994, seven years later. Happy 25th birthday, Square One TV!

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