Powerhouse (TV series)
Title card of the "PowerHouse" television series.
|Created by||Mark Johnson|
|Developed by||Educational Film Center|
|Written by||Ruth Pollak|
|Directed by||John Gray
|Presented by||Elizabeth Johnson|
|Voices of||Mark Gordon|
|Narrated by||Mark Johnson|
|Opening theme||"The PowerHouse Is You!" (Opening Theme)|
|Ending theme||"The PowerHouse Is You!" (Closing Theme)|
|Composer(s)||Fred Karns (score)|
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||18 (2 never aired) (list of episodes)|
|Producer(s)||Ira H. Klugerman
|Running time||28 minutes|
|Original release||December 12, 1982 – January 3, 1983|
PowerHouse is a United States television series produced by the Educational Film Center at Northern Virginia ETV and aired on PBS for 16 episodes in 1982 (two episodes never aired). It billed itself as "a 16-part series for young people and their families," with the target audience being primarily kids, preteens, teenagers,& young adults, and it was widely praised by educational groups. The series was later rerun by Nickelodeon in the mid-1980s.
Set in Washington, DC, PowerHouse is focused on the adventures of a racially and ethnically diverse group of five teenagers and one adult from the inner city, based at a former boxing and sports gym headquarters turned community center for kids and teens. The center was founded by Brenda Gaines, a woman who inherited the place from her late father, a former boxing champion. The basic theme of the series is that every person is a source of creativity and power. “We all have a PowerHouse deep down inside,” it said in the theme song of the show.
Each PowerHouse episode dealt with significant personal issues that affected both kids and teenagers such as alcoholism, peer pressure, physical fitness, and more, but they were combined with fast-paced action-adventure stories in which the group often had to solve a mystery or prevent a crime. For instance, in one episode they had to uncover the head of a racketeering operation that threatened to put Brenda and PowerHouse out of business. In another episode, they tried to track down the source of a potentially lethal food-poisoning epidemic, a task that took on even greater urgency when one of the group became infected.
One of PowerHouse's innovations was the use of what the show called Uncommercials. Since the show ran on PBS, which is commercial-free, the producers created 30- to 90-second commercial-like breaks that would air during the broadcast. Instead of selling products, uncommercials would sell a theme, often in entertaining or humorous ways.
One uncommercial, for example, featured a 12-year-old boy who asked, “How do I get a girl to like me?” Several boys and girls of around the same age then offered suggestions. Another one asked, “What is a friend?” and several teenagers answered, one of which was future Saturday Night Live star Ana Gasteyer (her answer: “Someone you can be weird with.”) in her first-ever TV appearance.
Another popular uncommercial theme was Don't Just Sit There—Do Something! which encouraged viewers to do something active or constructive.
Another Powerhouse features was a salute to a particular youth organization, such as the Boy Scouts of America; these salutes preceded at least one of the uncommercials.
The Powerhouse gang
- Brenda Gaines (Sandra Bowie)—Brenda is the founder of Powerhouse, which was originally her father's gymnasium. She turns it into an after-school youth center, which the rest of the five teenagers eventually join. Brenda is the leader as well the mother of the Powerhouse gang and the de facto authority figure of the gang, although she treats the rest of the five teens as equals rather than subordinates.
- Jennifer LaBianca (Domenica Galati)—A friendly brunette teenager and owner of the Powerhouse van, Jennifer has a strong aptitude for mechanics.
- Kevin Jackson (Michael Mack)—18-year-old Kevin is the eldest of the five teenagers. He is the rock of the Powerhouse gang, a big brother to whom the younger ones can go for advice and support.
- Lolo Knopke (Jason Kravits)—13-year-old (after the episode "Celebration") Lolo is insecure about his appearance because he is very short and has to wear glasses (thus giving him the appearance of a stereotypical nerd), but he is also one of the smartest kids in the group.
- Pepper McKenzie (Jessica Prentice)—12-year-old Pepper is one of the most outgoing members of the group, despite being the youngest. She is impulsive and adventurous, and is sometimes prone to mischief that often causes Jennifer, Kevin, Lolo, and Tony to say her first name out loud. Somehow, she truly gets the message.
- Tony Dominguez (Michael Wikes)—Tony is a streetwise 17-year-old. He is a good person at heart but sometimes feels like he has to play the tough guy to mask his insecurities.
- "With a Little Help From My Friends (Part 1)"
- "With a Little Help From My Friends (Part 2)"
- "Life or Breath"
- "Master of the Art"
- "You Make Me Sick"
- "Something for Nothing"
- "Name of the Game"
- "One of the Gang"
- "Something Ventured" (The pilot episode to the PowerHouse series)
- "Help Wanted"
- "What Have You Got to Lose?"
- "Big Devil"
- "Fit to be Tied"
- "The Short Life of Lolo Knopke"
- "The Missing Horse" (Never aired, episode number unknown)
- "Hyperactivity" (Never aired, episode number unknown)
Controversy and cancellation
After the original eighteen episodes were delivered, three of the episodes were to be removed: "The Short Life of Lolo Knopke," "The Missing Horse," and "Hyperactivity." It was decided to edit a scene in "The Short Life of Lolo Knopke" episode since it carried a racial slur that finally passed PBS censors after it was removed.
The episode titled "The Missing Horse" was pulled, since all of the scenes with the horse's penis were visible in every shot. Since there was no way to cut out the scenes of the horse without reducing the episode length and there was no budget to re-shoot the scenes, the episode was pulled. The second episode pulled was “Hyperactivity,” due to the controversial subject of hyperactivity in children. This issue was being debated by medical experts and censors felt this episode would be considered misinformation. Because of these controversial episodes, Powerhouse was canceled for a second season but sixteen of the eighteen episodes were aired.