Just wondering, who among us knows how to sing the zip code of Boston’s public television station, WGBH-TV?
If you warbled “02134” without hesitation, you probably grew up watching a beloved children’s television show of the 70s.
It turns out Zoom wasn’t the only cool program WGBH hatched in 1972. On March 13, just a couple of months after Zoom’s debut, the station aired Between Time and Timbuktu, a 90-minute special inspired by the work of Kurt Vonnegut.
The script was written by David Odell, who later won an Emmy for The Muppet Show, but Vonnegut advised, pinching characters and scenes from such favorites as Cat’s Cradle, Sirens of Titan, and “Harrison Bergeron.”
Vonnegut also wrote the introduction to the published script, a paperback quickie enhanced by production stills and photos taken by Vonnegut’s wife, Jill Krementz. It was as good a forum as any for him to announce his retirement from film, which he cited as a medium “too clanking and real” for his comfort.
The show itself is likely to cause nostalgia for television’s freewheeling, Monty Python era.
Though 1972 wasn’t an entirely silly period, if you’ll recall. The Vietnam War was raging, with Walter Cronkite holding down the CBS Evening News desk.
Between Time and Timbuktu capitalizes on the veteran broadcaster’s ubiquity by casting comedian Ray Goulding of Bob and Ray fame, as an appropriately grave Walter Gesundheit. Bob joined him at the news desk as a fictitious former astronaut. Vonnegut was appreciative of their efforts, stating that American comedians had probably done more to shape his thinking than any other writer.
Also look for William Hickey, who played Prizzi’s Honor’s genial, aged mafia don, in the lead role of Stony Stevenson—now there’s a period character name! If you’ll remember, Stony is also the first civilian in space, at least according to the Sirens of Titan.