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Our World (TV series)

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Our World
Our World title card
Created by Roone Arledge
Starring Linda Ellerbee
Ray Gandolf
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 26
Producer(s) Avram Westin
Running time 60 min. (including commercials)
Original network ABC
Original release September 25, 1986 – May 28, 1987

Our World is an American television news series that ran for 26 episodes, from September 25, 1986 to May 28, 1987. The show was anchored by Linda Ellerbee and Ray Gandolf. Each episode of the series examined, through the use of archival film and television footage, one short period in American history. Our World aired on ABC.[1]

Our World grew out of an earlier ABC News special called 45/85, whose producer, Avram Westin, would go on to produce Our World. Each episode was produced on a budget of $350,000, less than half of the budget of a typical hour of prime time programming at the time.

Our World premiered to indifferent critical response but as the series progressed critics became effusive with their praise. Despite being critically well received and profitable for the network, Our World performed poorly in the Nielsen ratings, as its first half-hour was programmed against the extremely popular The Cosby Show.[2] ABC canceled the show after one season. Ellerbee tried to move the series to PBS but was unsuccessful.


Our World was created by ABC News president Roone Arledge.[3] The show had its genesis in a 1985 ABC News special called 45/85, a three-hour documentary that reviewed post-World War II history with an emphasis on the Cold War.[4] That special was produced by Avram "Av" Westin, who also produced Our World.[5] Anchors Ellerbee and Gandolf co-wrote Our World, which combined archival footage with new interviews with people who participated in or witnessed the events. Initial plans were that each episode would cover one year, but that idea was quickly scrapped; Ellerbee said, "It's hard enough to do a month, or even days."[6]

Ellerbee and Gandolf anchor an episode surrounded by artifacts of the profiled era.

ABC hired Ellerbee away from NBC to co-anchor the show. The network considered Sander Vanocur, Dick Schaap and James Wooten as possible partners[7] before selecting Gandolf, at the time the sports anchor for ABC's World News Saturday and World News Sunday.[8]

Set designers modeled the set for Our World after a corner news stand. For each episode, artifacts of the period being profiled, including magazines and political posters, decorated the set and a movie marquee listed the title of a film that was in theatres of the time. In the foreground was placed an Our World newspaper the headlines of which were the program's title and the name of that program's producer.[6]

Each episode cost $350,000 to produce as compared to the then-typical $800,000 cost of an hour of prime time network programming.[5] The low budget combined with a dozen commercial spots sold at $35,000 each meant that Our World generated an estimated $4 million in profit for ABC during its original run and summer repeats.[9]

Our World producers selected each episode's subject time period with the help of consultants from the Smithsonian Institution and Columbia University. The show was limited in its choices by the available footage for the given time period. Ellerbee recalled a viewer-submitted proposal for an episode on the American Civil War, which could not be made because of the non-existence of archive footage from the 1860s and the lack of any living eyewitnesses.[6]

Episode list[edit]

Reruns occasionally occurred in between new episodes.

Title[10] U.S. air date Selected topics
Summer of 1969 September 25, 1986 Woodstock; Manson Family murders; Apollo 11; The Smothers Brothers; Arlo Guthrie; Diahann Carroll.[11]
13 Days In October 1962 October 2, 1986 The Cuban Missile Crisis; The Seattle World's Fair.[12]
Autumn 1956 October 16, 1986 The Suez Crisis; Adlai Stevenson's presidential campaign; The Ten Commandments.[5]
Forty Days of Spring 1970 October 23, 1986 Invasion of Cambodia; Kent State shootings; Student Strike; Apollo 13; COINTELPRO; release of the films M*A*S*H and Patton; development of the first microprocessors.[5]
Halloween 1938 October 30, 1986 The War of the Worlds radio broadcast and panic;[13] Adolf Hitler; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.[14]
Breaking Barriers 1954 November 6, 1986 Jonas Salk and his polio vaccine; The Army-McCarthy Hearings; The first hydrogen bomb; Brown v. Board of Education.[15]
Together And Apart 1943 December 4, 1986 The home front; The Detroit Race Riot.[16]
Pursuit Of Power
Autumn 1973
December 11, 1986 The Yom Kippur War; The OPEC oil embargo; Women's rights movement; The Riggs-King tennis match.[17]
All Shook Up
Autumn 1957
December 18, 1986 School desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas; Sputnik; American Bandstand; Althea Gibson wins Wimbledon and the US Open; West Side Story.[18]
Secrets & Surprises:
Fall 1948
January 1, 1987 The Berlin Airlift; The 1948 presidential election; LP albums.[17]
Inner Struggles
Autumn 1975
January 8, 1987 Patty Hearst; assassination attempts on Gerald Ford by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sarah Jane Moore; Ali/Frazier III; Disco.[19]
Fear And Frustration
Winter 1952
January 15, 1987 The election of Dwight D. Eisenhower; the Red Scare; the McCarran-Walter Act.[20]
Summer 1939 January 22, 1987 The New York World's Fair; The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind; "God Bless America".[21]
Winds Of Change
Winter 1968
February 5, 1987 The Tet Offensive; The 1968 Winter Olympics; Lyndon B. Johnson decides not to seek re-election; The 1968 presidential primaries.[22]
A Crowded Room
Fall 1949
February 12, 1987 Levittown, New York; Early television; Soviet nuclear weapons.[23]
Gone With The Wind 1939 February 19, 1987 Gone With The Wind.[24]
Between The Lines
Summer 1972
February 26, 1987 The Watergate scandal; The continuing Vietnam War; The Munich massacre.[25]
Up Against The Wall
Summer 1961
March 5, 1987 The Berlin Wall; Mickey Mantle's and Roger Maris' pursuit of Babe Ruth's home run record; the Baby Boom; Newton Minow's Wasteland Speech; the Freedom Rides; folk music.
Summer 1944
April 9, 1987 War correspondents; The Liberation of Paris; Women in wartime.[26]
Cover Stories
Spring 1960
April 16, 1987 Francis Gary Powers; Student protests at Berkeley; Elvis Presley leaves the Army.[27]
Period of Adjustment
Autumn 1946
April 23, 1987 Soldiers return home from Europe following World War II; the G.I. Bill; sweeping Republican victories in both the House and Senate.[28]
Speaking Out
Summer 1963
April 30, 1987 John F. Kennedy's Ich bin ein Berliner speech in West Berlin; Kennedy vs. George Wallace over desegregating the University of Alabama.[29]
Duels In The Sun:
Campaign '52
April 7, 1987 The Soviet Union competes at its first Olympics.[30]
One Day: April 12, 1961 May 14, 1987 April 12, 1961;[31] Yuri Gagarin orbits the Earth.[32]
Long Winter, Short Spring 1937 May 21, 1987 The Great Depression; the Flint Sit-Down Strike against General Motors; Swing music.[33]
Dangerous Assumptions: Spring 1953 May 28, 1987 The execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg; Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay climb Mount Everest: the Academy Awards are broadcast on television for the first time.[34]

Critical and popular response[edit]

Critical response to Our World was overall very favorable. Reviews of the premiere episode, however, were somewhat tepid, with The New York Times saying "There are worse ways to spend an hour" and calling the show "a pleasant hour", while pointing to segments such as an interview with "a man, who, 17 years ago, slept in the house next door to a house struck by the Manson gang", as "not terribly interesting."[1] The Los Angeles Times was harsher, calling the debut "rather bland". While praising anchors Ellerbee and Gandolf, calling them "refreshing [and] off-center, running against the TV mainstream, making words, not whoopee", the Times ultimately felt that "Our World offers no sense of who we really were in 1969 because, typical of TV, it renders everything equal."[35]

With subsequent episodes, reviews improved. The Boston Globe, comparing its debut episode ("a gloppy nostalgia trip that presented history the way MTV presents rock, in digestible, unrelated, bland bite-sized bits")[22] to an episode airing less than five months later, found it "light years ahead in terms of wit, style and historical perspective. It is still easily digestible, but there's nothing bland about it."[22] The St. Petersburg Times said of the show, "It educated, but it was not school. It entertained, but it was not mindless. It was quality - television's noblest service."[36] The San Diego Union concurred, citing Our World as "the most refreshing, fascinating and innovative history series ever on TV".[37]

Popular response was much less effusive. The show averaged 9 million viewers per episode, as compared to The Cosby Show, which garnered an average 63 million viewers per week.[29] Our World was the lowest rated prime time show of the 104 that aired during the 1986-7 television season, bringing in only a 6.5/10 rating/share.[38] One segment of the public who responded very favorably to the program was teachers, who assigned Our World as homework. ABC created a study guide for the show, mailing out some 39,000 copies a month to educators and fans.[29]

Gandolf, Ellerbee and Richard Gerdau won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement in News and Documentary Programming (writing) for the episode "Halloween 1938".[39]

Cancellation and PBS[edit]

ABC canceled Our World after its first season, replacing it with the situation comedies Sledge Hammer! and The Charmings.[40] Ellerbee and Gandolf learned that the show had been canceled from a segment on Entertainment Tonight.[41] Ellerbee sharply criticized ABC for the cancellation, saying "If they had left it there for three to four years, it could have done what 60 Minutes did, which went against the Disney juggernaut on NBC. It could have developed slowly as an alternative program without being in the ratings race."[38] The advocacy group Viewers for Quality Television mounted a letter-writing campaign to save the show – similar to campaigns that had saved Designing Women and Cagney and Lacey[42] – and generated some 20,000 letters of support,[41] but the campaign was unsuccessful.

PBS expressed interest in obtaining the show. Although ABC asserted rights to the name "Our World," Ellerbee said "We never liked that title to begin with"[41] and stated that the name "Your World" was under consideration. Ellerbee planned to co-produce the show through her production company, Lucky Duck Productions, in partnership with WNET.[41] Ultimately, Ellerbee was unable to secure the estimated $5 million needed to produce the first season of 13 episodes[41] and Our World did not make the transition to PBS.

In 1988, CBS tried to revive the format of Our World with a television pilot called Try to Remember. Anchored by veteran newscaster Charles Kuralt, Try to Remember covered August 11–17, 1969, echoing Our World's pilot coverage of the summer of 1969. The show aired on Thursday, June 23.[43] Try to Remember did not get picked up as a regular series.


  1. ^ a b Corry, John (1986-09-25). "TV Review: 'Our World' Recalls '69". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  2. ^ Medina, Sara C. (1986-07-28). "People". Time. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  3. ^ Arledge p. 320
  4. ^ Holston, Noel (1986-07-23). "Ellerbee is Just What 'Our World' Needs". Orlando Sentinel. p. E.1. 
  5. ^ a b c d Paynter, Susan (1986-10-17). "Our World Draws a Measly 5.5 Million, but So What? Say Hosts". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2008-07-09. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b c Hodges, Ann (1986-10-16). "'Our World' ratings low, spirits high". Houston Chronicle. p. 1. 
  7. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (1986-08-06). "TV's Ellerbee Keeps Her Cool About Being Hot". Los Angeles Times. p. 1. 
  8. ^ "Gandolf signs on as Our World host". Toronto Globe and Mail. 1986-08-14. p. D.6. 
  9. ^ Mermigas, Diane (1986-12-30). "Despite Basement Ratings, 'Our World' Is Profitable". Orlando Sun-Sentinel. p. 8 E. 
  10. ^ "Our World episode list". Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  11. ^ "Thursday". Seguin (TX) Gazette Enterprise. 1986-09-21. p. 48. 
  12. ^ Vorhees, John (1986-10-02). "ABC's 'Our World' Series is Bringing the Past to Life Again". Seattle Times. p. E.14. 
  13. ^ Walek, Gordon (1986-12-14). "More than history, 'Our World' sings with significance". The Daily Herald TV Magazine. p. 3. 
  14. ^ Corry, John (1987-07-23). "On "Our World," Fear On 3 Fronts in 1938". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ MacMillin, Guy (1987-04-05). "Take a good look at ABC's 'Our World' – please". Elyria (OH) Chronicle-Telegram. p. C-4. 
  16. ^ Vorhees, John (1986-12-04). "Tonight's 'Our World' makes the America of 1943 come alive". Seattle Times. p. G.6. 
  17. ^ a b "Main Video File Collection Finding Aid". Richard Nixon Presidential Library & Museum. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  18. ^ "Our World August and September 1957". Chicago Daily Herald. 1986-12-14. p. 16. 
  19. ^ "Our World September and October 1975". Chicago Daily Herald. 1987-01-04. p. 15. 
  20. ^ "Our World November 1952". Chicago Daily Herald. 1987-01-11. p. 15. 
  21. ^ "Our World Summer 1939". Chicago Daily Herald. 1987-01-18. p. 15. 
  22. ^ a b c Siegel, Ed (1987-02-05). "A Better 'Our World'". Boston Globe. p. 77. 
  23. ^ "Our World: A Crowded Room Autumn 1949". Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  24. ^ "T.V. World". Tyrone (PA) Daily Herald. UPI. 1987-02-20. p. 7. 
  25. ^ Cornell, Christopher (1987-02-26). "Today's best bets". Syracuse Herald-Journal. Knight-Ridder Newspapers. p. D8. 
  26. ^ "Our World: Liberation Summer - 1944". Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  27. ^ Bianculli, David (1987-04-16). "Today's best bets". Syracuse Herald-Journal. Knight-Ridder Newspapers. p. D9. 
  28. ^ "Our World Fall 1946". Chicago Daily Herald. 1987-04-19. p. 15. 
  29. ^ a b c Schwed, Mark (1987-05-07). "'Our World' buried treasure for ABC". St. Petersburg (FL) Times. p. 7D. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  30. ^ "Our World Summer and Fall 1952". Chicago Daily Herald. 1987-05-13. p. 13. 
  31. ^ Vorhees, John (1986-05-14). "How Vital One Day Is – TV Makes the Point". Seattle Times. p. E.1. 
  32. ^ "Our World May 12, 1961". Chicago Daily Herald. 1987-01-18. p. 15. 
  33. ^ "Our World Winter 1937". Chicago Daily Herald. 1987-05-17. p. 15. 
  34. ^ "Our World Spring 1953". Chicago Daily Herald. 1987-05-24. p. 15. 
  35. ^ Rosenberg, Howard (1986-09-25). "'World' Offers Little Sense of Way We Were". Los Angeles Times. p. 1. 
  36. ^ Schwed, Mark (1987-09-29). "PBS putting fresh life into 'Our World'". St. Petersburg (FL) Times. p. 7D. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  37. ^ Lawrence, Robert P. (1987-10-19). "Ex-Chief at ABC says he favored bid to save 'Our World'". San Diego Union. p. D.9. 
  38. ^ a b Valle, Victor (1987-07-05). "Viewers raise their voices to save 'Our World'". St. Petersburg (FL) Times. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  39. ^ "PBS wins 11 Emmy Awards for news, documentary programs". The Frederick (MD) News. Associated Press. 1987-09-10. p. D.6. 
  40. ^ Schwed, Mark (1987-06-10). "Ellerbee's Down, But Not Out". San Francisco Chronicle. p. 58. 
  41. ^ a b c d e Shales, Tom (1987-09-16). "Ellerbee Leaves ABC for a New 'World'". The Washington Post. 
  42. ^ Edelstein, Andrew J. (1987-07-05). "Our World was an electronic excursion into living history". Frederick (MD) News. p. 5. 
  43. ^ O'Connor, John J. (1988-06-23). "Review/Television; Kuralt Looks Back to August 1969". The New York Times. 


External links[edit]