TV

Most of you who remember them saw the puppets featured on the in-class music television shows produced on our local public TV station KNME, channel 5.  Funny thing is whenever I’ve seen any sort of retrospective on channel 5 about channel 5, they sometimes mention the in-class music and science shows (briefly if at all), but they’ve never (that I’ve seen) even acknowledged that there were puppets on the music shows.

On the set, and a screencap from a 3/4″ tape.

According to Mike Groves, a friend of mine who used to direct the music shows at channel 5 and who worked with my parents at KNME, he thinks it’s simply a matter of there being no source material any more.  Apparently all of the old 2″ tapes that channel 5 had were destroyed to regain storage room at the facility.  That may be, although he and I both have a number of 3/4″ tapes with material on them, and another friend and former KNME director Gary Doll has said he has many 3/4″ tapes too (and Gary, if you’re reading this, let me know when you find those tapes!).

I recently got back in touch with Nancy Johnson, one of the Music show hosts, and she had a number of shows saved and I now have a small stack of DVDs from her.  Thanks so much Nancy!

So, there’s source material out there if you want it KNME.  If you want to see some video of the puppets, click here.

While the TV shows provided my parents with much needed exposure and a steady (if small) income, they also traveled the state doing live performances in the public schools and other venues such as the State Fair.  They were involved with the Santa Fe Opera doing shows and workshops.  They shot a special with the BBC and worked with George Fishbeck of KNME in-class science TV show fame.

“BBC Presents” shoot in Santa Fe

This clip is from one of the music shows the puppets were on with
Nancy Johnson called Kaleidoscope.  Circa 1975.  It’s a short piece
about the Santa Fe Opera.
If it’s not showing above, you can try this You Tube Link:

Ron and Mary Kay Puppets Music Clip on YouTube

They worked with the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association on KGGM TV channel 13 (now KRQE TV).  They even did some work for Disney, but I can’t remember what that entailed anymore.  The Disney work had nothing to do with the Muppets, however.  The acquisition of the Muppets by Disney was years in the future at that point and mom and dad never aspired to work for the Henson company in any way.

Channel 5 was (and may still be) a combined entity between the Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) and the University of New Mexico (UNM).  Probably through some connections with APS, my parents eventually wound up as permanent members on the 2 music shows on KNME.  One was hosted by Kathleen McVicker, and the other was hosted by Nancy Johnson.  Both hosts had teaching backgrounds and turned out to also be good on camera.

The puppets with George Fishbeck on the set of a local production called “Joy of Seeing”

George Fishbeck was the host of the science show also on KNME at that time, but he eventually was lured away by KOB TV (the local NBC affiliate) to work as their weathercaster.  George was a character and was great on camera.  The fact that he was so charismatic on-screen and knew his stuff on meteorology finally landed him at KABC-TV in Los Angeles where he became very well known and loved.  But we had him first!

On the set of “Joy of Seeing”

Probably the biggest and most technically complex TV production they were involved with was called The Great Museum Mystery, a half-hour channel 5 special about the Albuquerque Museum featuring the puppets (no humans in the show at all) and directed by Mike Groves.  It was shown locally and was well received.  They also worked on a show with Nancy Johnson called Friends From A to Z that was essentially a commercial version of what they all did on the public TV music shows.  They only did one show that was a “pilot” project that they hoped to sell.  I think it was shown a couple of times locally but unfortunately it did not get picked up by any stations.  It would have made a great afternoon kid’s show.

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