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Golden Age of Chicago Children's Television    by Ted Okuda & Jack Mulqueen order for
Golden Age of Chicago Children's Television
by Ted Okuda
Order:  USA  Can
Lake Claremont Press, 2004 (2004)

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

In their preface to The Golden Age of Chicago Children's Television, Ted Okuda and Jack Mulqueen state that they have tried to write a book that would be entertaining for those readers who had never seen any of the various children's television shows in Chicago during what they deem its golden age the late 1940s to mid 1970s. I believe I fit very well into that demographic in that I was born in 1980 (a few years after the golden age ended) and have lived in St. Louis my whole life (a good five hours away from Chicago). However, despite having heard of (and never seen) only three shows mentioned in the book, I enjoyed it and learned a lot, which shows that Okuda and Mulqueen accomplished their goal.

The book covers in depth eight of the longest running and most influential children's programs of the time: Kukla, Fran, and Ollie (which went national), Super Circus, Garfield Goose and Friends, Ray Rayner and His Friends, Elmer the Elephant, Kiddie-A-Go-Go, The B.J. and Dirty Dragon Show, and Bozo's Circus (the longest running children's show in Chicago television history). The majority of these shows followed similar formats: a host would interact in short skits with his or her puppet costars and then show brief cartoons. Kiddie-A-Go-Go (which formed out of The Mulqueens) was different in that it featured kids dancing sort of an American Bandstand for preteens. Another variation on the usual format was Bozo's Circus, which featured audience-participation games. Unfortunately, most of these shows were cancelled as networks began showing more national shows, and cartoons began running without hosts.

The late 1940s to the mid 1970s was a unique era in children's programming, and through this book I learned a lot about what it took to put on a children's TV show and keep it on. However, things were not always smooth sailing in the Chicago children's television world, and one thing that Okuda and Mulqueen do not do (and I am not sure it is for the better) is gloss over the animosity that certain individuals in the industry had for others. Some paragraphs gave off bad vibes, which is not something I would expect to find in such a history. All in all, The Golden Age of Chicago Children's Television is an interesting and informative read. Ted Okuda and Jack Mulqueen should be commended for their ability to make a topic that would normally only interest a very small demographic appealing to a wide variety of readers.

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