PBS Stars Join In On Colbert Farewell

For last night’s finale of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert invited a couple familiar Sesame Street friends, Ken Burns and Charlie Rose to join him and an all-star group of actors, news reporters, musicians, writers, politicians and more for the rousing – and dare I say, epic! – musical farewell that you can watch below.

Together they sang, “We’ll Meet Again,” which of course is correct since Colbert (minus the TV pundit character he’s played on the Report) will be taking over hosting duties on The Late Show on CBS after David Letterman retires in 2015.

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Behind the Scenes: 45 Years of Fun with Science

Wisconsin is full of great traditions. Every time “Jump Around” plays at Randall Stadium, the student section goes crazy. Each August, the ever-popular cream puff brings droves of hungry customers to the Wisconsin State Fair. And every year at Christmas, Professor Bassam Shakhashiri gives his lecture, “Once Upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri,” captivating his audience with a series of chemistry experiments that range from funny to freaky.

Shakhashiri, who is celebrating the 45th anniversary of his lecture, started the tradition after being inspired by renowned 19th century British chemist Michael Faraday’s Christmas lectures. In order to spark interest in science, Faraday gave a demonstration of the chemical history of the candle each year at the Royal Institute in London.

“I started doing this in my first-year chemistry course way back in 1970,” Shakhashiri says. “At the very last lecture, I did experiments because I wanted to entice (the students) to come to the second-semester. Word got out that this was a fun thing, and the following year the crowd was overflowing.”

By 1973 WHA-TV – now Wisconsin Public Television – offered to broadcast the production state-wide. Before long Shakhashiri was giving his Christmas lecture four times over the course of a weekend, and WPT was sharing the show with other PBS stations across the nation.

“It’s grown bigger and bigger,” Shakhashiri says. “I remember one year I was traveling in Wyoming to give a lecture. I was in the hotel looking for the weather forecast, and there was the Christmas lecture on TV.”

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Make PBS KIDS Holiday Programming Your “Special Thing”

One of my earliest memories is sitting on my grandma’s lap watching holiday shows together. It was something we did for many years — long after the time when sitting on my grandma’s lap was cool — but it was our special thing. And as one of 20 grandkids, I cherished those special things whenever I could.

This week, we get the premieres of many PBS KIDS holiday shows. Peg and Cat, Daniel Tiger, and Thomas are off on holiday adventures that you can share with the children in your life. Each show is airing several times, so take a look at the WPT schedule and set aside a half hour or two to put your child on your lap and share a special moment with your favorite PBS KIDS friends.

Here are just a few of the episodes airing over the next week.

In “The Hanukkah Problem,” Albert Einstein teaches Peg and Cat how to make a 2D piece of paper into a 3D dreidel.  When Santa Claus is in trouble in “The Christmas Problem,” Peg and Cat have to figure out how to make and wrap presents for all the children of the world and deliver them using 100 sleighs.

On Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Daniel learns that if he takes one step at a time, he can overcome his fear and learn to do new things. He learns to sled and ice skate in “Daniel’s Winter Adventure” and performs The Nutcracker Ballet in “Neighborhood Nutcracker.”

A huge snowfall in Sodor means that Thomas, Connor, and the other engines will have to work together to clear the tracks and get the passengers home in time for Christmas in “Coming Home for Christmas.”

Have a wonderful holiday and don’t forget to take time for the special things.

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Remember When? Sesame Street and A Muppet Family Christmas

There are a lot of classic TV Christmas specials. But as a Muppets fan who grew up in the 1980s, there was no television event that better defined most of my childhood than 1987′s A Muppet Family Christmas. In the course of just one hour, all of my favorite Muppets converged on Fozzie Bear’s mother’s farm house for a traditional holiday get-together. They watched home movies of them as Muppet Babies. Kermit and his nephew explored a cave in the basement and met the Fraggles. Just about everyone slipped and fell on an icy patch at the front door – a classic slapstick running joke that never got old.

Then, the ultimate convergence of Muppetry occurred – carolers were heard outside and who could it be? The entire cast of Sesame Street! As Big Bird, Oscar, The Count, the Two-Headed Monster and just about every other resident of Sesame Street mingled and partied with Animal, Gonzo and the Swedish Chef, my then 8-year-old mind was blown!

Here is the video from that great moment in Muppets and Sesame Street history, including Ernie and Bert’s introduction to Doc from Fraggle Rock. “Hey, what is this?,” Doc asks the orange and yellow buddies as they tell him Doc starts with “D” and “Yes” starts with “Y.” “Where we come from, this is small talk.” Happy holidays!

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Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams

When Vel Phillips was a young girl her mother always told her,
“If you’re going to dream, don’t dream small dreams, dream BIG dreams.”

Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams
Premieres statewide February 16, 2015

In February, the story of one remarkable woman and the struggles and achievements she undertook to build a better community will be shared for the first time. Discover the story of Vel Phillips — pioneer, activist, humanitarian, diplomat — in a brand new documentary from Wisconsin Public Television, in collaboration with Milwaukee Public Television.

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