1 9 7 5 – 1 9 7 6 (USA)
39 x 30 minute episodes
1 9 7 8 (USA)
39 x 30 minute episodes
The first series to be broadcast concurrently on public and commercial TV stations (more than 200 in all), Vegetable Soup, was designed to fight racial prejudice in children and offered young viewers the chance to learn more about other cultures and appreciate diversity through multiple regular segments in each show.
“Outerscope 1” was an adventure serial with puppet children of mixed ethnicity travelling through space in a home-made spaceship and encountering a variety of situations that were parables of prejudice; “Real People” had ethnic actors in a soap opera revolving around children in real life situations; and cartoons included “Adventures in Saniland,” which involved the activities of Long John Spoilsport (voiced by James Earl Jones), whom children were not to emulate, and Luther, a character who encouraged friendliness.
Nonprofessional child actors appeared in skits involving minorities, and there were “man on the street” questions, films, and other attractions. But to most reviewers, the show’s highlight was the “Woody the Spoon” cartoon in which the voice of Bette Midler dispensed recipes from different ethnic cuisines.
There were also segments on children’s questions about race, children’s art and poetry, ethnic heroes and heroines, career development vignettes, crafts, games and ethnic folk tales.
Among the guests on the show were Mexican-American actor Ricardo Montalban, Paul Russell of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, black ventriloquist Willie Tyler, folk singer Bill Withers, native-American ballet star Maria Tallchief, Asian-American dancer and singer Pat Suzuki and Puerto Rican jockey Angel Cordero.
Vegetable Soup resulted from a $1.58 million federal HEW grant to the New York State Education Department (whose Bureau of Mass Communications produced and supplied the show). About 100 NBC affiliates aired the show on Sundays (the New York station put it on a week later on Saturdays at 7:30 am), while public TV stations began running it on 22 September 1975.
Educators’ reactions to the show were as mixed as its format, and many thought the quality was uneven. Somebody with power somewhere down the line must have liked it because, in 1978, a further federal grant of $2.3 million saw 39 new episodes produced, aired mainly in syndication, as Vegetable Soup II.
Woody the Spoon
Long John Spoilsport
James Earl Jones