The BEST PBS Shows

The top 50 shows on PBS

The New Yankee Workshop

#1 - The New Yankee Workshop

In this PBS series, craftsman Norm Abram demonstrates how to build quality furniture in one's own workshop using traditional carpentry techniques. Abram also gives pointers on restoring and caring for antique furniture, along with short history lessons regarding famous craftsmen of America's past.

star 9.57
325 votes
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Jazz

#2 - Jazz

This series explores the history of the major American musical form. We track its development in African American culture, its rise to prominence with its golden age of popularity spanning from the 1920's to the mid 1940's both in its original form and in Swing through its popular decline and the rise of vital new sub-genres into the present day. Along the way, we learn of the lives and work of major contributors to the form such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Charlie "Bird" Parker and many others who helped form Jazz into the vibrant musical form it is. Moreover, we see how the music reflected the political and social issues of the African American community over the course of the form's history.

star 9.43
185 votes
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Cosmos

#3 - Cosmos

Carl Sagan brings us the Cosmos, everything that ever was and ever will be, in an approach that is easily accessible even for those of us that are not science wizards. This 13 part series covers everything from the history of astronomy, the challenges it faced at its creation, how the universe was created and how it all might end.First aired in 1980, updated segments have been added to the series to include recent discoveries and the current theories in astronomy.Winner of an Emmy and a Peabody Award.

star 9.33
2,470 votes
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Frontline

#4 - Frontline

Since it began in 1983, Frontline has been airing public-affairs documentaries that explore a wide scope of the complex human experience. Frontline's goal is to extend the impact of the documentary beyond its initial broadcast by serving as a catalyst for change.

star 9.26
780 votes
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The Vietnam War (2017)

#5 - The Vietnam War (2017)

An immersive 360-degree narrative telling the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. Featuring testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.

star 9.10
561 votes
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Reading Rainbow

#6 - Reading Rainbow

Host LeVar Burton shepherds children through the exciting world of books with celebrity guest narrations, youth book reviews, and relevant cultural tie-ins.

star 9.08
186 votes
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Wishbone

#7 - Wishbone

Wishbone is about a little dog (a Jack Russell Terrier) with a BIG imagination. A very popular and award winning show in the mid-1990's, it encouraged children to read by alternating the main storyline of the show with a classic novel/play/short story with a parallel premise. Wishbone included catchy music and a memorable theme song: What's the story, Wishbone? Do you think it's worth a look? It kind of seems familiar Like a story from a book What's the story, Wishbone? What's this you're dreaming of? Such big imagination on such a little pup. Shake a leg now, Wishbone Let's wag another tale Sniffin' out adventure With Wishbone on the trail Come on, Wishbone What's the story, Wishbone? What's the story, Wishbone?

star 9.00
116 votes
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NOVA

#8 - NOVA

Seen in more than 100 countries, NOVA is the most watched science television series in the world and the most watched documentary series on PBS. It is also one of television's most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over.

star 8.96
2,014 votes
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The Civil War

#9 - The Civil War

Between 1861 and 1865, Americans made war on each other and killed each other in great numbers - if only to become the kind of country that could no longer conceive of how that was possible. What began as a bitter dispute over Union and States' Rights, ended as a struggle over the meaning of freedom in America.

star 8.90
373 votes
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The Berenstain Bears

#10 - The Berenstain Bears

Based on the fantastic and best-selling book series, The Berenstain Bears, written by Jan and Stan Berenstain, brings you a cartoon television series that stems from cartoons which aired from 1985 to 1987 on CBS Saturday mornings. Seasons 3 through 4 were aired from 2003 to 2004 on PBS Kids Sprout.

star 8.89
104 votes
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Baseball

#11 - Baseball

Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns is an Emmy Award-winning 1994 documentary series by about the game of baseball, originally aired on PBS.

star 8.87
222 votes
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The Elegant Universe

#12 - The Elegant Universe

Eleven dimensions, parallel universes, and a world made out of strings. It's not science fiction, it's string theory.

star 8.86
150 votes
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American Masters

#13 - American Masters

To honor America's most notable creative artists and the inspiration behind their work. Special broadcasts profiles a cross-section of the nation's finest artistic pioneers from the past and present.

star 8.82
228 votes
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American Experience

#14 - American Experience

Examine the people, events, technology, and natural resources that have shaped the country. Hosted by David McCullough until 2002 and narrated by a number of well-known personalities - The American Experience uses historians and authors, period images and film, music, dramatic re-enactments, and contemporary context to set the stage for its topics.

star 8.81
394 votes
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Bill Nye: The Science Guy

#15 - Bill Nye: The Science Guy

Comedian/scientist Bill Nye stars as the host of this show designed to get kids interested in the science of everyday, and some not-so-everyday, things. On a full range of subjects, including ecology, biology, chemistry and physics, Nye gives an easy-to-understand, yet informative lesson that both kids and their parents can enjoy.

star 8.80
423 votes
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The Mind of a Chef

#16 - The Mind of a Chef

The Mind of a Chef combines travel, cooking, history, science, and humor into an unforgettable journey. Producer and narrator Anthony Bourdain explores the creative processes of international celebrity chefs to learn what fuels their culinary artistry.

star 8.69
158 votes
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Austin City Limits

#17 - Austin City Limits

Great music. No limits. Now the longest-running music series in American television history, ACL showcases popular music legends and innovators from every genre.

star 8.66
252 votes
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America's Test Kitchen

#18 - America's Test Kitchen

In "America's Test Kitchen From Cook's Illustrated," a team of expert chefs continue to provide viewers with practical recipes and recommendations that they can use to save money, time and effort in the kitchen. With its uniquely scientific flavor, the show uses blind tasting judges, flash animations and laboratory procedures to answer a variety of kitchen questions. Putting everything from pasta and pasta pots, cheese and cheese graters, as well as host Chris Kimball to the test, this series offers surprises that often defy price points and move beyond fancy packaging and brand expectations.

star 8.63
277 votes
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Ghostwriter

#19 - Ghostwriter

Ghostwriter was the story of a group of New York City kids, brought together by the spiritual being known as "Ghostwriter". The kids work together, with Ghostwriter's help, to solve the mysteries they encounter. The series featured a cast of widely different ethnic groups, and focused on the concept of "making reading fun."

star 8.57
121 votes
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The National Parks: America's Best Idea

#20 - The National Parks: America's Best Idea

The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a six-episode series directed by Ken Burns and written and co-produced by Dayton Duncan. Filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska - The National Parks: America's Best Idea is nonetheless a story of people: people from every conceivable background – rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.

star 8.53
259 votes
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The War

#21 - The War

The War is the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four American towns. The war touched the lives of every family on every street in every town in America and demonstrated that in extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives. A seven-part series by Ken Burns which includes interviews and archive footage.

star 8.51
342 votes
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Rick Steves' Europe

#22 - Rick Steves' Europe

Rick Steves has been the "travel guinea pig" for American Public Television since Travels in Europe with Rick Steves debuted in April of 1991. In his program, Rick shows some out-of-the-way places the average traveler misses, offers countless travel tips, and always enjoys being immersed in the adventure.

star 8.50
229 votes
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NOVA scienceNOW

#23 - NOVA scienceNOW

NOVA scienceNOW is a news magazine version of the venerable PBS science program NOVA. Premiering on January 25, 2005, the series was originally hosted by Robert Krulwich, who described it as an experiment in coverage of "breaking science, science that's right out of the lab, science that sometimes bumps up against politics, art, culture". At the beginning of season two, Neil deGrasse Tyson replaced Krulwich as the show's host. Following season five, David Pogue began hosting.

star 8.46
403 votes
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Country Music

#24 - Country Music

Explore the history of a uniquely American art form: country music. From its deep and tangled roots in ballads, blues and hymns performed in small settings, to its worldwide popularity, learn how country music evolved over the course of the 20th century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music.

star 8.44
36 votes
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This Old House

#25 - This Old House

This Old House celebrates the fusion on old world craftsmanship and modern technology. Each season features two renovation projects. Project One traditionally consists of eighteen or more so episodes and is filmed in Massachusetts. Project Two is taped in a different region of the country to highlight the variety of American architectural styles and renovation issues.

star 8.44
313 votes
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PBS Specials

#26 - PBS Specials

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is an American non-profit public broadcasting television service with 354 member TV stations in the United States which hold collective ownership. However, its operations are largely funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Its headquarters are in Arlington, Virginia. PBS is the most prominent provider of programming to U.S. public television stations, distributing series such as PBS NewsHour, Masterpiece, and Frontline. Since the mid-2000s, Roper polls commissioned by PBS have consistently placed the service as America's most trusted national institution. However, PBS is not responsible for all programming carried on public TV stations; in fact, stations usually receive a large portion of their content (including most pledge drive specials) from third-party sources, such as American Public Television, NETA, and independent producers.

star 8.40
278 votes
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Cook's Country from America's Test Kitchen

#27 - Cook's Country from America's Test Kitchen

Cook's Country From America's Test Kitchen uncovers the best of American home cooking. Our recipes are developed through in-depth kitchen testing. The result: foolproof recipes you can trust to work the first time—and every time. Cooks's Country From America's Test Kitchen features the cast and crew of America's Test Kitchen, the top-rated cooking show on public television—now in its ninth season. Our new show is filmed in a renovated 1806 farmhouse with a full working test kitchen. Watch us update traditional American recipes—everything from California Barbecued Tri-Tip and Cincinnati Chili to Mashed Potato Casserole and Chocolate Blackout Cake. You'll learn what makes a recipe succeed (or fail) as well as which kitchen tools, cookware, and supermarket ingredients have won our independent tests. Join us every week as we bring the pages of Cook's Country magazine into your home.

star 8.32
232 votes
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Prohibition

#28 - Prohibition

Prohibition is a three-part, five-and-a-half-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick that tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the entire era it encompassed.

star 8.27
271 votes
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Nature

#29 - Nature

Nature is a wildlife documentary program that has been airing on PBS since 1982. Its longevity is explained partly by its quality; Nature has won numerous Emmy awards. Documentaries have explored a multitude of different animals, plants, and other aspects of the natural world.

star 8.26
487 votes
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Dragon Tales

#30 - Dragon Tales

Two Hispanic children, Max and Emmy, move into a new home. Like any young children, they're not quite happy at first about moving. Then, Emmy finds a secret drawer and inside is box containing a magical, shimmering dragon scale. Hmmm... there's some words on the box. What do they say? "I wish, I wish, with all my heart, to fly with dragons, in a land apart." The magical decorations fly around them, transporting them (and us) to Dragon Land. Brought to you by Sesame Workshop (formerly Children's Television Workshop), the company that brings you Sesame Street it's Dragon Tales! Join Cassie, Ord, Zak & Wheezie, Quetzal, and their human friends, Max and Emmy in two daily adventures, each separated by a musical interstitial, "Dragon Tunes." Dragon Tales has enjoyed two seasons and many years of success on PBSKids. The show's popularity has spawned book, video, DVD and CD releases and even a live stage show. Now, the show's popularity has prompted its return. The third season is no

star 8.16
147 votes
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Super WHY!

#31 - Super WHY!

Super WHY! is a new program designed to help teach kids that reading can be fun by illustrated children’s tales. Kids will learn through four interactive heroes who use reading to solve mysteries overcome obstacles. The fairy tale books that the interactive heroes travel into are somewhat different from the original story.

star 8.15
231 votes
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Wild Kratts

#32 - Wild Kratts

The Kratt brothers go around the world looking for animals and use "creature power suits" - suits created by their friend, Aviva, out of the creatures' DNA. There are three villains in the show: Zach Varmitech, who controls the creatures' minds and uses them as slaves; Donita Donata, who freezes creatures and sells them alive as jewelry; and Gourmond, who makes expensive gourmet dishes out of endangered species. The Kratts use their creature powers to foil these three villains' plots.

star 8.14
324 votes
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The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

#33 - The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY chronicles the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of the most prominent and influential family in American politics. It is the first time in a major documentary television series that their individual stories have been interwoven into a single narrative. This seven-part, fourteen hour film follows the Roosevelts for more than a century, from Theodore’s birth in 1858 to Eleanor’s death in 1962. Over the course of those years, Theodore would become the 26th President of the United States and his beloved niece, Eleanor, would marry his fifth cousin, Franklin, who became the 32nd President of the United States. Together, these three individuals not only redefined the relationship Americans had with their government and with each other, but also redefined the role of the United States within the wider world. The series encompasses the history the Roosevelts helped to shape: the creation of National Parks, the digging of the Panama Canal, the passage of innovative New Deal programs, the defeat of Hitler, and the postwar struggles for civil rights at home and human rights abroad. It is also an intimate human story about love, betrayal, family loyalty, personal courage and the conquest of fear.

star 8.12
175 votes
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Soundbreaking

#34 - Soundbreaking

Soundbreaking explores the history of recorded music. Featuring more than 150 original interviews, the series charts a century's worth of innovation and experimentation, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at the birth of brand new sounds.

star 7.94
246 votes
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Curious George

#35 - Curious George

George lives to find new things to discover, touch, spill, and chew. Everything is new to George and worth investigating. Of course, in George's hands - all four of them - investigation often leads to unintended consequences! Throughout George's adventures, he encounters and models basic concepts in each of the three content areas.

star 7.91
562 votes
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Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

#36 - Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Fred Rogers hosts this children's television program that teaches children the important issues of life, such as being friendly, sharing, etc. Also features an imaginary world with puppets living in a medieval-type kingdom.

star 7.91
256 votes
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The Magic School Bus

#37 - The Magic School Bus

A classroom taught by Ms. Valerie Frizzle is always fun and exciting. The colorful teacher owns a Magic School Bus which can transform into different things like a spaceship, a battery, or even an alligator! These things can help Ms. Frizzle with visual teaching methods as she reveals information about anything in science. The students include Carlos, Phoebe, Keesha, Dorothy Ann, Tim, Ralphie, Arnold, and Wanda. Originally, The Magic School Bus aired on PBS. But when production ceased after four years, The Magic School Bus's run on PBS ended with it.

star 7.81
371 votes
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Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

#38 - Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood

A new animated continuation to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, where all the original characters are now grown up with their own preschool-aged children.

star 7.73
298 votes
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Ask This Old House

#39 - Ask This Old House

The crew at This Old House take on some pretty big projects, which means they can only work on one or two houses a year. But homeowners have a virtual truckload of questions on smaller projects, and the TOH crew is ready to answer. Ask This Old House solves the steady stream of home improvement problems faced by viewers - and the crew even makes house calls!

star 7.34
218 votes
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Dinosaur Train

#40 - Dinosaur Train

Friendly dinosaurs climb aboard a train to visit different times throughout the prehistoric age, learning about dinosaurs and having fun adventures.

star 7.30
373 votes
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Clifford the Big Red Dog

#41 - Clifford the Big Red Dog

Clifford the Big Red Dog is a fun show aimed towards younger audiences. Clifford, a 20 foot tall red dog, plays with his dog friends, Cleo and T-Bone, and has great adventures with them. Clifford's best friend, however, is Emily Elizabeth Howard, his owner. Emily has friends of her own and all the characters live peacefully on Birdwell Island. Each Clifford the Big Red Dog episode consists of two stories, linked by a "Speckle Story," a story read to Clifford by Emily Elizabeth about the adventures of a dog named Speckle. At the end of each episode is a "big idea" presented by Clifford, followed by a short promotional spot for one of the characters on Clifford. Please note that some online guides list two big ideas for each episode. The "big idea" listed in this guide will always be only the one that actually airs at the end of the episode itself. Also included is a short segment featuring a real kid with his/her dog. However, most, if not all, PBS stations no longer show this s

star 7.28
171 votes
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Mercy Street

#42 - Mercy Street

Based on real events, Mercy Street takes viewers beyond the battlefield and into the lives of a distinctive cast of characters — doctors, nurses, contraband laborers and Southern loyalists — realizing the chaotic world of Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia, and the Mansion House Hospital in the early years of the Civil War.

star 7.22
340 votes
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Arthur

#43 - Arthur

Arthur Read, the spectacular bespectacled aardvark, stars in this children's series about growing up. Typical childhood problems such as bratty siblings, schoolyard bullies and classroom cliques are addressed by this popular program which has been running for 20 years on PBS. Developed from Marc Brown's beloved books, Arthur reminds us all of how it feels to be 8 years old. Just like your average kid, Arthur overcomes the dreaded obstacles of third-grade life, such as his tough teacher Mr. Ratburn, bullies, and mountains of homework. At home, Arthur must also face the pint-sized terror known as his sister Dora Winifred, or D.W. for short. Everything between these two is a struggle; such as who gets control of the television remote, or who can play their Crazy Bus CD. Arthur often relies on his best friend Buster Baxter, a rabbit.

star 7.20
437 votes
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Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

#44 - Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the 12th and latest series from the renowned cultural critic and Harvard scholar. In this 10-part series, Professor Gates continues the quest he begun in African American Lives 1 and 2 and Faces of America delving into the genealogy and genetics of an all new group of famous Americans. The series combines history and science in a fascinating exploration of race, family, and identity in today's America. Each hour features a different pair of celebrity guests, who are bound together by an intimate, sometimes hidden link, whether it be as old friends, through long-lost relatives, or even through a common ancestral past.

star 7.14
133 votes
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Secrets of the Dead

#45 - Secrets of the Dead

Sometimes the truth gets carried to the grave. The techniques of modern forensic science are used to investigate a historical mystery to find proof of what really happened.

star 7.00
217 votes
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Antiques Roadshow (US)

#46 - Antiques Roadshow (US)

Based on the popular BBC series running since 1979, the PBS Antiques Roadshow combines history with discovery. Each year, the show visits a handful of cities to appraise items brought in by viewers. Are these items worth a lot of money, more than the visitors expect?

star 6.60
133 votes
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Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle

#47 - Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle

This mini-series examines the dawn of the comic book genre and its powerful legacy, as well as the evolution of the characters who leapt from the pages over the last 75 years and their ongoing worldwide cultural impact.

star 6.14
220 votes
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New Scandinavian Cooking

#48 - New Scandinavian Cooking

The best of Nordic cuisine and culture come to life in New Scandinavian Cooking. The show broadens the scope of Scandinavian cuisine to encompass the delicacies and destinations of the entire Nordic region, including Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Greenland— and even brief forays to Iceland and the Cognac region of France. A rotating cast of Scandinavia’s best-known cooking personalities guide viewers through each adventure. These charming and enlightening hosts share the culinary highlights, history and unusual ingredients of Nordic cuisine. In each episode, one host embarks on a culinary adventure to intriguing locations in the Nordic countries and beyond before creating tantalizing recipes outdoors, against majestic backdrops.

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Cyberchase

#49 - Cyberchase

Three kids, Jackie, Matt, Inez, and their bird friend Digit, must save cyberspace from the evil Hacker with the use of strategy and math skills.

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Once Upon A Time

#50 - Once Upon A Time

A children's show centering around a witch named Kerfumbly, who has kidnapped a librarian named Marion, and holds her prisoner in her dungeon. In each episode, Kerfumbly demands a different kind of story from Marion, who gathers materials from the dungeon, puts them into a machine, and out pops a book. Marion then reads the book to the audience while illustrations of the story are shown on the screen. This show was filmed in Omaha, Nebraska for Nebraska Public Television, and was shown widely in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

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