HBO's `Inventors' Specials' Mix Science, Entertainment
McAlister, Nancy, The Florida Times Union
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
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
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
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. …