HBO's `Inventors' Specials' Mix Science, Entertainment

Article excerpt

Proving that it's possible to mix science and entertainment, The

Inventors' Specials are also evidence of HBO's continued good

intentions in the realm of family entertainment.

Like the acclaimed Composers' Specials that ran for several

years on the pay network, this new incarnation tells the story

of an inventor through an encounter with a young person who

influences his or her work. The idea is to open up the world of

science and art to youngsters through imaginative storytelling

and lofty production values.

Edison: The Wizard of Light (7 tonight) tells the story of the

famous American researcher whose three primary inventions -- the

phonograph, a practical incandescent light and electric system,

and a moving picture camera -- helped found giant industries

that would change life forever.

The self-educated, rough-hewn Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) is

considered one of the most colorful personalities of the late

19th and early 20th centuries.

When the narrative begins, it's 1931 in New York and Jack

Maloney (Jesse Collins) looks back fondly on his boyhood

friendship and apprenticeship with the pioneer industrialist.

Edison, the seventh and last child in his family, was

homeschooled by his mother, a former teacher, and received a

primer on physics when he was 9. He received his first patent at

age 22.

In The Wizard of Light, the two main characters meet when

young orphan Jack (Michael Suchanek) is found hiding in Edison's

workshop, where he has taken refuge from police and the

orphanage director. The inventor (Kenneth Welsh) takes him in at

his West Orange, N.J., laboratory, providing the youngster with

quality time he's never before experienced with an adult. One of

his projects is to work on Edison's Kinetoscope, a moving

picture camera.

As counterpoint to Jack's exuberance is his mentor's own

personal life. Edison's workaholic tendencies have come at the

expense of family. Later in life, the inventor realizes just how

important that is. In reality, Edison was married twice and had

three children by both of his wives.

Wizard of Light is a light diversion with information value.

While adult-oriented programming still occupies the bulk of

HBO's channel lineup, the pay service has announced plans to go

deeper in another direction next year. HBO Family, a 24-hour

channel dedicated exclusively to family entertainment since its

1996 debut, has announced plans for its largest commitment to

original fare starting in February 1999.

A Media One spokesman said the company will continue to look at

the new service for possible addition to its program lineup.

Among the original series are:

A Little Curious -- an animated series for preschool children

brings to life inanimate objects such as Bob the Ball and the

Shoe Family.

Crashbox -- an after-school weekday show featuring Jerry

Stiller as the voice of the host and a format that challenges

kids with fast-paced games about history, math, spelling,

grammar, culture and vocabulary. …