Square One Television

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Square One TV
The Square One Logo
Starring Reg E. Cathey
Beverly Mickins
Arthur Howard
Larry Cedar
Luisa Leschin
Cynthia Darlow
Cristobal Franco
Beverly Leech
Toni DiBuono
Joe Howard
Narrated by Cynthia Darlow
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 230
Production
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Children's Television Workshop
Release
Original channel PBS
Audio format Mono (1987–1991)
Stereo (1992–1994)
Original release January 26, 1987 (1987-01-26) – November 6, 1992 (1992-11-06), reruns aired until October 7, 1994 (1994-10-07)

Square One Television (sometimes referred to as Square One or Square One TV) is an American children's television program produced by the Children's Television Workshop to teach mathematics and abstract mathematical concepts to young viewers.

Created and broadcast by PBS in the United States from January 26, 1987 to November 6, 1992, the show was intended to address the math crisis among American schoolchildren. After the last episode aired, the show went into reruns until October 7, 1994. The show was revived for the 19951996 PBS season as a teacher instruction program, Square One TV Math Talk.[citation needed]

Square One was also shown on the U.S. cable television channel Noggin in syndication beginning in 1999, but was removed from its lineup along with other Sesame Workshop shows on May 26, 2003.

Format[edit]

Sketches[edit]

Square One comprised short sketches that introduced and applied concepts in mathematics such as counting, combinatorics, vulgar fractions, estimation, probability, and geometry. The sketches featured regular characters and were mainly parodies of pop culture icons, popular television commercials or popular television shows. Sketches were presented in various formats, including music videos featuring a particular subject in mathematics and taught the subject through song (e.g., Roman numerals, obtuse and acute angles, percentages, negative numbers, etc.) or comedic sketches (e.g., General Mathpital, a parody of General Hospital; Nobody's Inn, a parody of Fawlty Towers; Late Afternoon with David Numberman, a parody of Late Night with David Letterman; etc.). "Patterns", a polka about patterns that can be detected in daily life, was performed by "Weird Al" Yankovic. (Since Yankovic did not write this song, it is unavailable on any of his records, though bootleg versions have circulated.)

Mathman was a regular segment and a parody of Pac-Man. The skit helped viewers learn to recognize common mistakes while solving math problems, such as forgetting to carry a digit, or making errors with negative numbers. A blue tornado character named "Mr. Glitch" was Mathman's enemy.

Pauline's Perilous Pyramid was another sketch that spoofed arcade games. The heroine Pauline would jump around a pyramid similar to the one used in the game Q*Bert. Each square had either a positive or negative number on it. Her objective was to get to the very top of the pyramid, keeping the total of the squares she landed on between 25 and -25.

Backstage with Blackstone featured math-related magic tricks and performances by Harry Blackstone, Jr.. Each segment involved two cast members at a time (Reg E. Cathey portrayed Blackstone's assistant). After performing a trick, Blackstone explained how the trick worked.

Other animated segments included Dirk Niblick of the Math Brigade, who often use his mathematical skills to help his friends and neighbors in everyday situations (in a similar vein to Roger Ramjet); The Further Adventures of Zook & Alison; and Fax Headful, a parody of Max Headroom.

Game shows[edit]

Several segments featured child contestants competing to win prizes.

  • But Who's Adding?/But Who's Multiplying?: the show's first original game, hosted by Larry Cedar. Two players captured spaces on a gameboard by adding or multiplying two digits at a time, trying to be the first to complete a row/column/diagonal.
  • But Who's Counting?: hosted by Monty Carlo (played by Arthur Howard). Two pairs of players (season 1)/two players (seasons 3-4) (played by the cast members) tried to make the smallest/largest five-digit number possible (seasons 1 and 3), smallest/largest pair of fractions in season 4, placing one digit at a time as it was spun on a carnival wheel.
  • Piece of the Pie (Introduced in season 2, lasted until season 4): a survey-based game similar to Family Feud, using pie charts and teaching percentages. The game was hosted by Cris Franco and Arthur Howard, and later by Beverly Mickins.
  • Close Call: a game about estimation, using "how many beans are in this big jar"-type of questions, and bearing a similarity to The Price Is Right. Arthur Howard was the original host, replaced at the beginning of Season 4 by Luisa Leschin (who was co-host for the previous season). Leschin's co-host was Reg E. Cathey.
  • Triple Play: players spun wheels to choose two digits, then had to add/multiply them in order to match numbers on the gameboard, trying to complete a triangle. The game was hosted by Cynthia Darlow, and only lasted one season (Season 2).
  • Square One Squares: a tic-tac-toe game similar to Hollywood Squares and To Tell the Truth. The game was later replaced by Square One Challenge. Both were hosted by Larry Cedar.

Mathnet[edit]

Main article: Mathnet

Each episode featured a closing segment titled Mathnet, starring Joe Howard as George Frankly and Beverly Leech as Kate Monday. A parody of Dragnet, the story line of each skit featured the detectives attempting to solve a crime by using math. Each Mathnet story line spanned five episodes, or one complete broadcast week (Monday through Friday).

In season four, Toni DiBuono replaced Leech as Pat Tuesday.

Mathman
MathmanTitlecard.jpg
Mathman Titlecard.
Genre Education, Comedy, Humor, Animation, Cartoon
Created by Jim Thurman
Presented by Jim Thurman (as the unseen Introduction Announcer)[1]
Starring Mathman
Mathdog
Mr. Glitch
The Announcer
Country of origin  United States
Original language(s) English
Production
Producer(s) Francesco Garri Garripoli[2]
Running time 1 to 2 minutes
Release
Original channel PBS
Original release January 26, 1987[3] – November 6, 1991[4]

Mathman[edit]

Main article: Mathman

Mathman is a video game segment on the PBS show Square One TV.

Segment Format[edit]

A parody of Pac-Man, Mathman was a fictional arcade game starring a character of the same name. Mathman's objective was to run around a Pac-Man-like maze board (the traditional dots were replaced with + and - signs) and eventually encounter a number or polygon. He would then have until the count of three to determine if that number/polygon was consistent with a given category (see examples below), and if so, eat it. If he made a mistake, his enemy Mr. Glitch would eat him, ending the game in a disaster.

During the later seasons, the format of the game was changed so that Mathman would have to decide if a certain statement (read aloud by the game's announcer) was true or false, and then eat the letter T or F. He would then have until the count of seven to make his decision. These were usually general-knowledge statements about math (e.g., "True or False? Mathematics and arithmetic are the same thing") rather than questions that required actual problem-solving skills.

If Mathman was able to eat all the correct numbers/polygons or answer his questions correctly, he was awarded a free game. However, Mathman accomplished this feat only a handful of times (i.e., "Multiples of 3," "Factors of 24," and "Symmetrical Polygons"). On at least one such occasion, a giant Mr. Glitch ate Mathman as soon as the free game began.

Occasionally, Mathman did not play the game himself, making Mr. Glitch the contestant. If he answered incorrectly, he would be eaten by Mathman (or on one occasion, Mathman's dog Mathdog.) Interestingly, on one occasion, Mr. Glitch got away with an incorrect answer, but on the second incorrect answer, he was eaten by a giant Mathman.

Characters[edit]

Mathman (left) and Mr. Glitch (right).

Mathman[edit]

Mathman was a green, Pac-Man-like character with a big mouth, a winged football helmet patterned after that of the University of Michigan Wolverines, and a single foot on which he walked around the game maze. When he moved around the maze, he would repeat the phrase "Mathman, Mathman, Mathman," similar to Pac-Man's familiar "wakka-wakka-wakka".

Mathdog[edit]

Mathdog was Mathman's pet dog and wore a football helmet like that of Mathman. When he went around the maze, he would say "Mathdog, Mathdog, Mathdog."

Mr. Glitch[edit]

Mathman's nemesis was Mr. Glitch, a cranky tornado who was always described with a different adjective ("the 'inconsiderate' Mr. Glitch," "the 'ill-tempered' Mr. Glitch," "the 'fiendish' Mr. Glitch," "the 'unpleasant' Mr. Glitch," "the 'sinister' Mr. Glitch," "the 'evil' Mr. Glitch," "the 'reckless' Mr. Glitch," "the 'overweight' Mr. Glitch," etc.) He would appear whenever Mathman had to make a decision. If Mathman ate an incorrect number or polygon, answered a question incorrectly, or used up too much time, Mr. Glitch would "power up" (with lightning bolts and thunder crashing), chase after Mathman, and then eat him.

The Announcer[edit]

At the beginning of each sketch, an off-screen voice told either Mathman or Mr. Glitch what his mission would be. Then, a warning was issued to the playing character stating "He will eat you if you are wrong." He also congratulated Mathman and awarded him a free game if he finished the game perfectly.

Common categories used in the game[edit]

Episode list[edit]

Season 1 (1987)[edit]

Number
in series
Number
in season
Title Directed by Original air date Production code
1 1 "The Problem of the Missing Monkey" Charles S. Dubin January 26–30, 1987 11031–11035
A gorilla named Grunt escapes from the zoo, while a suspect dressed as a gorilla is being used to frame Grunt. With the help of a young girl (Yeardley Smith), the Mathnetters eventually find Grunt (whom they mistakenly believe to be the suspect) climbing the Hollywood Sign. Later they apprehend the suspect at the zoo.
2 2 "The Problem of the Missing Baseball" Charles S. Dubin February 2–6, 1987 10540–10760
Pilot episode. A very important baseball has to be found at a house, but the house has been stolen. The house is eventually located, and the baseball is found in the fireplace.
3 3 "The Problem of the Passing Parade" Charles S. Dubin February 9–13, 1987 11011–11015
A parade was to be featured until the main attraction, Steve Stringbean, gets kidnapped. Stringbean tries to communicate the kidnapper's phone number to the Mathnetters in a short piece of music left on an answering machine. He is later found in a musician's house.
4 4 "The Trial of George Frankly" Charles S. Dubin February 16–20, 1987 11021–11025
George is placed under arrest for a bank robbery he didn't commit. He claims that he was on vacation at that time, and needs proof to back his claims. During the trial, the real George exposes the imposter.
5 5 "The Problem of the Dirty Money" Charles S. Dubin February 23–27, 1987 11051–11055
Kate and George try to solve a mystery as to why tons of dirt are being stolen. As it turns out, a fortune stolen from a Brinks truck many years ago was buried in the dirt. The suspect dies in jail, but his partner in crime is eventually located.
6 6 "The Mystery of the Maltese Pigeon" Charles S. Dubin March 2–6, 1987 14081–14085
Maureen O'Riley puts a rare bird glass sculpture on display at a museum, until it later disappears without a trace. It later turns out the sculpture belongs to the prince of Malta.
7 7 "The Problem of the Trojan Hamburger" Charles S. Dubin March 9–13, 1987 11041–11045
A husband who works as a clown is apparently abducted, while a diamond is stolen by a thief who may have used a secret trick to get in and out. The clown finds his way home. The Mathnetters find that the clown actually staged the kidnapping to steal the diamond.

Season 2 (1988)[edit]

Number
in series
Number
in season
Title Directed by Original air date Production code
8 1 "The Case of the Willing Parrot" Charles S. Dubin September 19–23, 1988 20030–20034
A talking parrot named Little Louie uses a Fibonacci call for solving a mystery on finding the deceased owner's inheritance. At the same time somebody else is also looking for it as well. The parrot goes missing but is found at the suspect's home. This is the only episode that does not show the suspect's apprehension.
9 2 "The Case of the Great Car Robbery" James F. Golway September 26–30, 1988 20010–20014
Kate and George try to solve a mystery on why 20,000 cars have been stolen over a two-month period. The cars are eventually found after the Mathnet crew rents a car to use as bait for the car thieves. They lead the Mathnet crew to a chop shop and apprehend the owner as he is crushing the rental car.
10 3 "The Case of the Deceptive Data" Charles S. Dubin October 3–7, 1988 20340–20344
Mike Pliers asks Kate and George for some help on why his high rated show got unexpectedly canceled. After visiting viewers who are part of the survey, the ratings devices are discover to be altered to make it seem as if the show's replacement is being watched.
11 4 "The View from the Rear Terrace" Charles S. Dubin October 10–14, 1988 20320–20324
George needs to solve a problem on his own that deals with Kate, where she's at home with an injury. Kate's neighbor plots to make bombs, though George doesn't believe her at first.
12 5 "The Case of the Missing Air" Karl Epstein October 17–21, 1988 20020–20024
Kate and George need to figure out the common factors to a chain of robberies, in which the suspect was talking like a duck. The suspect turns out to be a radio talk show host who robs stores that had their ads pulled from his station.
13 6 "The Case of the Map With a Gap" James F. Golway October 24–28, 1988 20000–20004
Kate and George go out to the desert with a young cowboy, to find a buried treasure of gold, using the help of angles and mirrors.

Season 3 (1990)[edit]

Number
in series
Number
in season
Title Directed by Original air date Production code
14 1 "The Case of the Ersatz Earthquake" Jesus Salvador Treviño January 15–19, 1990 30001–30005
A psychic predicts on when, where and the exact time an earthquake will strike, only to find out there was a trick to making the ground shake.
15 2 "The Case of the Swami Scam" Charles S. Dubin January 22–26, 1990 30011–30015
Kate and George begin their first assignment in New York City, where retired lawyers are being scammed by a Swami who claims to have the right predictions of horse races and lotteries.
16 3 "The Case of the Parking Meter Massacre" Charles S. Dubin January 29–February 2, 1990 30021–30025
The city's parking meters are being abused and cut off. There were two suspects involved. One suspect simply stole the change inside as well the meters and another suspect was looking through quarters.
17 4 "The Case of the Unkidnapping" Charles S. Dubin February 5–9, 1990 30131–30135
The main star of the broadway musical "Anything Went" gets kidnapped. But it was revealed that the kidnapping was a setup to steal money from the show and to frame her co-star, who happens to know Kate when they were in college.
18 5 "The Case of the Strategic Weather Initiative" Charles S. Dubin February 12–16, 1990 30031–30035
A weather plane gets stolen and Kate and George try to find answers to where the plane might have landed.
19 6 "The Case of the Masked Avenger" Charles S. Dubin February 19–23, 1990 30081–30085
The Masked Avenger is being used by the mob to make him throw his wrestling match.

Season 4 (1991)[edit]

Number
in series
Number
in season
Title Directed by Original air date Production code
20 1 "The Case of the Unnatural" Jesus Salvador Treviño September 30–October 4, 1991 40121–40125
A baseball prospect is kidnapped and replaced by a mechanical imposter. The real player is eventually found and the robot's creator is apprehended.
21 2 "Despair in Monterey Bay" Jesus Salvador Treviño October 7–11, 1991 40101–40105
The Despair Diamond that was stolen in LA from a museum is involved in another robbery.
22 3 "The Case of the Calpurnian Kugel Caper" Jesus Salvador Treviño October 14–18, 1991 40071–40075
Mathnet is called in to help the ruler of a tiny out of the way country.
23 4 "The Case of the Galling Stones" Bill Schreiner October 21–25, 1991 40111–40115
Pat Tuesday is suspected of stealing a expensive bracelet.
24 5 "The Case of the Poconos Paradise" Charles S. Dubin October 28–November 1, 1991 40091–40095
Vacationers to the Poconos and other places are being robbed. A woman who owns a mail company in Bayonne, New Jersey is the suspect.
25 6 "The Case of the Purloined Policies" Charles S. Dubin November 4–8, 1991 40081–40085
Someone is bankrupting an insurance company with an old-fashioned insurance fraud. A bike gets stolen and a new one had to be made. Finally, the chief manages to find the culprit by identifying his handwriting.

Season 5 (1992)[edit]

Number
in series
Number
in season
Title Directed by Original air date Production code
26 1 "The Case of the Mystery Weekend" Bill Schreiner September 21–25, 1992 50021–50025
Pat & George goes to an old house to attend a "Mystery Weekend" game. They soon found out that they walked right in to a real mystery, as six guests get kidnapped one by one.
27 2 "The Case of the Smart Dummy" Bill Schreiner September 28–October 2, 1992 50231–50235
A ventriloquist's suitcase containing one of two dummies was switched with another containing $1,000,000.
28 3 "The Case: Off the Record" Bill Schreiner October 5–9, 1992 50011–50015
A record company was producing hit records... ALL BAD! Pat & George go undercover as a music band to find out what's going on.
29 4 "The Case of the Bermuda Triangle" Jesus Salvador Treviño October 12–16, 1992 50251–50255
A young girl with the help of the netters goes on a treasure hunt to try to clear her old relative's name.
30 5 "The Case of the Piggy Banker" Bill Schreiner October 19–23, 1992 50241–50245
Pat's friend, the daughter of a clown claims her father is accused of embezzlement at the Bank of Legume and it's up to the netters to clear his name and find out who really did do it.

References[edit]

External links[edit]