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PIONEERS OF TELEVISION: Local Kids’ TV

Airs Friday, July 26, 2013 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Mary Ann King (Miss Mary Ann) on the Los Angeles version of "Romper Room."

 Jim Henson with Ernie
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Above: Jim Henson with Ernie

Larry Harmon as Bozo the Clown
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Above: Larry Harmon as Bozo the Clown

Courtesy of PBS "Pioneers of Television

Socorro Serrano ("Miss Soco") on the Los Angeles version of "Romper Room."

They were the stars of the small screen in the early years of television, and much of the nation came to a halt whenever their shows aired. They strolled, sprinted, fought, laughed, cried and loved through worlds that took viewers to places past, present and future.

As the originators of these innovative television formats, they provided an essential escape for millions of viewers who eagerly waited to watch them each week.

PIONEERS OF TELEVISION returned to PBS for a second season in January 2011, offering the inside stories of these formidable visionaries who recall the fledgling medium they shaped with their creativity, foresight and wisdom.

This series once again transports viewers behind the scenes for a revealing look at the inception of four of the most popular genres in television: science fiction (July 5), westerns (July 12), crime dramas (July 19) and local kids’ TV (July 26).

"Local Kids' TV" - Local kids’ programs shaped the childhoods of millions of American children in the early years of television. Performers such as Willard Scott honed their skills performing on live TV with small budgets and little support.

With the flimsiest of second-hand store costumes and their own imaginations, they learned how to make their audience laugh, smile and think.

One early talent, Stan Freberg, got off the bus in the middle of Hollywood, became a cartoon voice talent and created “Time for Beany” — a show that captured seven out of 10 viewers, including Albert Einstein, during its run in Los Angeles.

Freberg’s story is told along with the stories of legendary Muppets creator Jim Henson (who started on local television as a teenager), actor Chuck McCann (originator of New York’s “Puppet Hotel”), Larry Harmon (who popularized Bozo the Clown) and Nancy Claster (who developed the Baltimore kids’ series “Romper Room” — the first franchised show in television history).

This episode originally aired in 2011.

Pioneers of Television: Local Kids' TV

Pioneers of Television: Local Kids' TV

Behind the Scenes on "Romper Room"

When working with groups of four and five-year-olds on the set of "Romper Room," things didn't always go according to plan. LA host Socoro Serrano shares stories of some of the funny things that happened behind the scenes.

Mary Anne King on Losing Her Magic Mirror

"Romper Room" teacher Mary Anne King describes a mugging in California that left her without her iconic "magic mirror."

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