Tuesday, August 08, 2006

We're Gonna Zooma Zooma Zooma Zoom!

I was weaned on Sesame Street, but the TV show I most identified with as a young kid in the Seventies was ZOOM. Produced by Boston’s WGBH from 1972 through 1978 (a revival was produced from 1999 to 2005), ZOOM was the only show you could tune into and see nothing but kids being kids for 30 minutes.

The show featured a forever-rotating cast of 10-to-14-year-old “ZOOMers” who dressed in matching striped rugby shirts and often performed barefoot. After all, it was the Seventies. Can you imagine trying to get a station’s legal counsel to allow children to run barefoot around a TV studio in 2006?

The ZOOMers rapped, sang, did plays, told jokes, played games and showed you how to make things. Location segments showed kids doing stuff like building multi-story treehouses and whipping up a batch of sarsparilla root beer. If you wanted to learn more, or if you had an idea for a future episode, you could write the show. A clever jingle (“Write ZOOM, Z-double-O-M.Box 350/Boston, Mass./0-2-1-3-4/Send it to ZOOM!”) drilled the address deep into your skull. Even if I forget how to eat, I’ll always remember the address for ZOOM.

I really idolized the ZOOMers. I even made my mom “invite” the ZOOMers to my fifth birthday party. Long before Pinky Tuscadero and Blair Warner, my very first TV crushes were on girl ZOOMers. I had it especially bad for Tracy from season one and Lori from season two. My parents somehow managed to get Tracy’s autograph for me at a local PBS function in Dallas, but I could never quite imagine how this girl on TV came to scribble a note to me on the back of an envelope. Even though I’d been inside a TV studio, the people on TV were still somewhat mystical to me at that age.

Unlike the Britney-era Mickey Mouse Club, ZOOM wasn’t a career stepping stone. Aside from not using their last names on the air, ZOOMers had to agree not to do any television for three years after appearing on the show. That's how serious producer Christopher Sarson was about not casting would-be child stars. One former ZOOMer that did eventually go into entertainment was Tommy White (left), who formed Boston-based punk band Unnatural Axe with Rich Parsons. They made a regional underground splash with a song called “They Saved Hitler’s Brain.”

All of this leads us up to 7pm next Tuesday, August 15 at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, where Tommy White will present ZOOM: Lost and Found, a collection of rare clips detailing the history of this oft-forgotten yet charming PBS classic.

Missing this would be like pushing my inner-child down a flight of stairs.

1 comment:

snax said...

It threw me for a loop to see one of the newer episodes, where they were making something out of a vinyl "record". Something to the effect of "You may not have seen one of these, check with your parents!" Argh!!