- Network: PBS
- Series Premiere Date: Jan 14, 1980
- Starring: Tish Rabe, Glenn Scarpelli, Nan-Lynn Nelson
The product of three years' development, 3-2-1 Contact™ (B. 1980 D. 1988) stands as the third-longest-running series ever produced by the Children's Television Workshop (as it was then called). Its premise was to bring the world of science, and all its excitement, to middle-school students,The product of three years' development, 3-2-1 Contact™ (B. 1980 D. 1988) stands as the third-longest-running series ever produced by the Children's Television Workshop (as it was then called). Its premise was to bring the world of science, and all its excitement, to middle-school students, particularly girls and minorities. Through seven seasons, various hosts traveled around the world to find science in everything. Over the years, features such as clever animation, biographies, and the detective series The Bloodhound Gang were included. Complementing the series for middle-school students and teachers alike was 3-2-1 Contact magazine, edited by Jonathan Rosenbloom.
In the first season of 3-2-1 Contact, three hosts – Lisa, Marc, and Trini – met at a regular set, called the "workshop," to discuss their scientific adventures. It looked every bit the science equivalent of The Electric Company, with loads of animation and regular celebrity segments. But the stars of the show were Lisa, Marc, and Trini, going off on scientific adventures (some of which were repeated numerous times throughout the season). The Bloodhound Gang, produced by Daniel Wilson Productions, featured wonderful mysteries (most written by Sid Fleischman) related to whatever theme 3-2-1 Contact was devoted to that week.
The Bloodhound Gang, not to be confused with that musical act of questionable behavior, was a smart team of apprentices for the Bloodhound Detective Agency in (by all looks of things) Kenilworth, New Jersey. The gang consisted of Vikki, the super-observant leader; Ricardo, the photographer/amateur magician; and a younger member. The first season was divided between Zach and Cuff, both of whom ran the detective agency CB.
After three years of rerunning 65 programs, CTW gave 3-2-1 Contact a new format for Seasons 2 and 3. Very little material was recycled within these programs, except for adventures of The Bloodhound Gang.
A new team of characters – Robin, Kathy, Miguel, and his ten-year-old brother Paco – brought a new element of reality to the series. Their set was an average basement. Another co-star, Jackie (played by Liz Gorcey) appeared only on location. Biographies of scientists, a sporadic studio element of Season 1, became a weekly feature in the second and third seasons. These new biographies always were filmed on locations where the scientists worked.
The Bloodhound Gang returned with a new member, Skip. In contrast to Zach and Cuff, who one observer said just hung around, Skip was the computer whiz who complemented Vikki and Ricardo immeasurably.
Season 4 relied more heavily on location work. All the hosts returned, as did two new ones, Mary and Diego. Studio shots were limited to "color" sequences featuring Paco and his new partner, Mary. All installments of The Bloodhound Gang (not seen during Tropics Week, Episodes 126-130) were held over from Season 3 since, sadly, Marcelino Sanchez (Ricardo) had been diagnosed with the cancer that would take his life in November 1986.
Season 5 marked a transition of the cast members. Robin, Miguel, Mary, and Diego appeared only during Motion Week (Episodes 156-160). Paco was the only mainstay from the previous three seasons (he was absent from Episodes 151-155). But the most significant aspect of Season 5 was its co-production between CTW and FR3, a French public television network. With English and French versions in full swing, 3-2-1 Contact became one of the first shows to air on TVOntario's new La Chaîne Française (now TFO) when that network signed on in January 1987. The Bloodhound Gang mysteries were again recycled segments from Season 3.
Season 6 introduced a new opening sequence. It also revisited old sequences (mostly from Seasons 1 and 2). In fact, Architecture Week (episodes 176-180) featured a great deal of sequences rescued from Building Week in Season 2, which had aired for the last time just months before. The Bloodhound Gang was totally absent for the only season in the show's history.
Season 7 leaned more heavily on Stephanie Yu, a factor that would prove to drown out the team concept. Also deterring the team was Season 7's reliance on more elaborate location theme weeks featuring one performer. Reruns of The Bloodhound Gang re-emerged briefly if for no other reason than to ensure that all participants from the old mysteries would get their space in the show's crawl.
Production funds for 3-2-1 Contact were provided by:
• The National Science Foundation (all seasons)
• U.S. Department of Education (all seasons)
• Corporation for Public Broadcasting (all seasons)
• United Technologies Corporation (Season 1)
• The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations (additional funding in Season 2)
By the time production of the regular series ended in 1988, CTW began producing a succession of 3-2-1 Contact Extras, which have a separate page at TV Tome. Some of these Extras are still being sold by a company called GPN, which also holds audiovisual rights to the sequel series 3-2-1 Classroom Contact.
CTW (renamed Sesame Workshop in 2000) withdrew a total of twenty 3-2-1 Contact programs between 1986 and 1990 inclusive, before the entire series was dropped by PBS October 2, 1992. To this day, 3-2-1 Contact™ and the logo are trademarks and service marks of Sesame Workshop, © 1980-1988.
Reruns briefly surfaced on Noggin, then co-owned by Nickelodeon and CTW, when that network signed on January 31, 1999. (Programs seen on Noggin have been identified with the letter N in the production codes column.) On occasion, Nickelodeon rebroadcast selected 3-2-1 Contact programs as part of their Cable in the Classroom project. But after a short run in great time periods, this and other CTW series were given less convenient time periods in the ensuing months. Ultimately, 3-2-1 Contact was taken permanently from all airwaves in the spring of 2003.
This does not, however, prevent some people from trying to raise awareness in the original 3-2-1 Contact series. To this end, The 3-2-1 Contact Awareness Society at Yahoo! was created November 6, 2004.
- Genre(s): Kids
- Season 1 premiere date: Jan 14, 1980
- Episode Length: 30
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