How KCET Helped Destroy Alderaan

This is another in a series of posts where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Read more here.

I am here to set the record straight on piece of "Star Wars" trivia: If you want to destroy Alderaan, Princess Leia's home planet, the person you would want to call was our longtime KCET engineer, the late Cal Slater.

Cal was one of two technical directors that we had in the 70s, 80s and 90s, so he worked on many KCET productions over the years, including "Hollywood Television Theater," "Visions," "Cosmos," "The Merry Widow," and even "Penn and Teller Go Public." (Of course, countless pledge drives and news shows were shot throughout the decades, too.) Not a single one of those shows ended up being the thing he was most famous for, however. As much as he worked all those productions, his biggest claim to fame came from the fact that he was in the right place at the right time.

This Week on 'Visiting With Huell Howser' -- Woodworkers and Epilepsy

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Find out what classic episodes of "Visiting" are airing on KCET this week! Read more about KCET's Huell-centric programming here and share your memories of Huell with other fans here.

Monday @ 7:30PM -- "Low Riders"

Huell spends the day at the Los Angeles Super Show, one of the largest low rider car shows in the world. We see some amazing cars and speak with the artists who created them as well as with their owne

Tuesday @ 7:30PM -- "Amir's Garden"

Once barren, but now planted with trees and shrubs, Amir's Garden in Griffith Park is an oasis. Huell visits and learns about the garden and the devotion of its creator.

Cosmos: A Look at the Old, on the Eve of the New

Carl Sagan on The Spaceship of the Imagination - Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, 1980

This is another in a series of posts where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Up today, a look back at Carl Sagan and "Cosmos." Read more here.

"Cosmos," the new Fox TV series, is in the news these days. Neil DeGrasse Tyson will be hosting it, and it will be airing on Fox starting Sunday, March 9. It is a remake of the Carl Sagan show that was made by KCET back in 1980.

Made back in the late '70s and aired on PBS in September 1980, it was the most watched public television show when it aired nationally, until the Ken Burns documentary series "The Civil War" eclipsed it when it aired in 1990.

The original "Cosmos" was shot in a hybrid style: The remote segments were captured on film at locations around the world. That film was then transferred at KCET to one-inch tape, via a Rank Cintel. The interiors were mastered on one-inch tape.

The most dramatic of these studio segments was the incredible "Spaceship of the Imagination" (pictured above), in which scientist and host Carl Sagan showed us places and things that we would never have seen any other way. The set for the segment was built on Stage B, our largest sound-stage in our former East Hollywood studio. It reached from floor to ceiling and with dramatic lighting and the spaceship's "window," cutting edge at the time of its airing.

Yes, people made fun of Carl with his "billions and billions" quote, (which he never said), but they stayed and they watched and they learned.

Huell, Luis, and 'California's Gold'

An Original Publicity Photo for California's Gold

This is the second in a series of posts where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Up today, a look back at the late Huell Howser's long time cameraman, Luis Fuerte. Read more here.

Looking back at our past brings not only memories of the late Huell Howser, but of his cameraman, Luis Fuerte.

Huell and Luis began working together back in 1987, shooting little short fillers called Videologs. A few years later, Huell Howser decided to create a show of his own and he asked Luis, a KCET cameraman at the time, if he wanted to take a year off from work at the station and follow Huell around the state. They would be making shows and telling stories. Luis, being a lover of history, agreed to do it and so Huell began the process by bringing publicity photos to PBS stations around the state. The photo above, was one of them.

Memories Of Pledge Drives Past

The late Dottie Kemps, center in red, at a KCET pledge drive in March 1980. | Photo: Cathy Bower

This is the first post in a series where Cathy Bower, KCET's Broadcast Operations Coordinator, looks back at some interesting moments and events during the station's 50 years on the air. Today, she reminisces about her introduction to the station through pledge drives, the backbone of fundraising in public television's early years. Read more here.

When I came to Los Angeles, I moved in with someone who was working for KCET at the time. I had just missed the March pledge drive and she suggested I volunteer when the next one came around. You answer phones and get free food, she said. So when the August drive was on the horizon, I signed up.

The Director of Volunteers was a wonderful woman named Dottie Kemps. She had worked for the station for many years and by the time I came into her life, she had the pledge drives running like a smooth sailing ship. Everything was handled and accounted for. If you needed more volunteers for a day on the phones, she could call an extensive list of volunteers and get them up on stage at a moment's notice.

This Week on 'Visiting With Huell Howser' -- Koi Farm and Mosaics

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Find out what classic episodes of "Visiting" are airing on KCET this week! Read more about KCET's Huell-centric programming here and share your memories of Huell with other fans here.

Monday @ 7:30PM -- "Fake Food"

Have you ever spotted some plastic food and been shocked by how realistic it looks? Have you ever wondered how it's made? In this episode, Huell visits Iwasaki Images of America and gets a firsthand look at this fascinating process.

Tuesday @ 7:30PM -- "Koi Farm"

Huell visits a koi farm and is amazed to see everything that goes into raising these beautiful fish.

Watch a preview:

This Week on 'Visiting With Huell Howser' -- Halal Food and a Camel Diary

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Find out what classic episodes of "Visiting" are airing on KCET this week! Read more about KCET's Huell-centric programming here and share your memories of Huell with other fans here.

Monday @ 7:30PM -- "Halal Food"

Huell learns about the Muslim food tradition of halal. First stop is Payless Produce -- a Halal market known for its Halal meats. Then its off to China Islamic, a restaurant, to sample some very tasty food that proves that this ancient Muslim tradition is alive and well here in Southern California and gives us insight into a very rich and important part of everyday life for our large Muslim community.

Tuesday @ 7:30PM -- "Press Photographers"

Huell meets the photographers behind some of the most memorable and historical images of the 20th century as he attends the opening of the 75th Anniversary Historical Photo Exhibit onboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

Watch a preview:

Why You Should Watch 'House of Cards' on KCET

Ask almost anyone about 'House of Cards" and the first thing you're bound to hear is how devilish Kevin Spacey is in the role of manipulative congressman Francis "Frank" Underwood. (I have binge watched the Netflix season one and I agree). Spacey's performance is without question masterful. The rest of the actors, including Robin Wright as the cold-as-ice wife who is a willing participant in her husband's schemes, are perfectly cast. The contemporary Netflix series has worked so well that just as the second season is about to premier, the online content behemoth has already announced there will be a third season of the show. Great for the cast, great for the viewers. And I look forward to it all.

In spite of the hoopla surrounding the series, it's the original 1990 BBC production starring Ian Richardson that handily trumps the 2013 American version. I invite you to tune to KCET and Link TV on Sunday, February 9 for a four-episode marathon of the first season of BBC's original "House of Cards," starting at 7 p.m.

Viewers were shocked and thrilled by what they saw because what happened on screen (the downfall of the Conservative Party's Prime Minister) mirrored what happened when Margaret Thatcher resigned in-between the first two episodes of the political thriller. There's good reason the show captured the backroom drama of British politics: "House of Cards" was based on a novel written by Michael Dobbs, who had served as the former Chief of Staff of the Conservative Party.

The late Ian Richardson is sublime as the Chief Whip of the Conservative Party. While Kevin Spacey plays Frank Underwood as a vicious schemer in the Netflix model, Richardson portrays Francis Urquhart as a man who relishes the mayhem he stealthily unleashes. (Richardson was a famous Shakespearean stage actor and his into-camera asides -- sometimes spoken, sometimes announced with the arch of his eyebrow -- are startling. There's plenty of dialogue that stands out: "You might well think that. I couldn't possibly comment" is one. When pressed by fellow politicians about the possibility Urquhart could be a candidate for the position of Prime Minister, Richardson demures. Lying through his teeth but coming off as absolutely sincere, Urquhart says "Me? Well, I'm just a backroom boy".

Enjoy the first four episodes of "House of Cards" this Sunday on KCET and on Link TV starting at 7:00 PM. Get in on the binge-watching. And then, let us know what you think.

An Important Message for Time Warner Customers Trying to Find KCET

On Feb. 8, Time Warner will be updating its digital signal and you may find you have trouble finding your favorite KCET programs. You can easily fix the problem, though the steps you take may vary slightly based on your TV manufacturer. Try the
following:

  • Get your remote.
  • Navigate to the RESCAN function. Typically you have to go to either MENU or SETTINGS and find what is usually called AUTO PROGRAM normally found under the heading of CHANNELS.
  • Hit the SCAN or RESCAN option.
  • You may have to wait a few moments while it rescans and then you should be able to find KCET again in your cable line up.
For more information, watch the explainer we're currently airing on air:













If you continue to have problems, you can call Time Warner tech support directly -- (888) 892-2253 -- or search on Google "Auto Program" for your specific TV maker.

Here are some resources for various models of TV sets:

This Week on 'Visiting With Huell Howser' -- Donuts and Dioramas

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Read more about KCET's Huell-centric programming here and share your memories of Huell with other fans here.

Monday @ 7:30PM -- "Donuts"

For almost 40 years, Stan's Corner Doughnut Shop of Westwood, California, has baked the world's most gourmet donuts, from a Cinnamon Chocolate Cheese Danish, to an Apple Fritter, to a Reese's Peanut Butter Pocket with fresh banana. Stan's offers donuts you will find nowhere else in the world. Huell spends the morning doing "research" at this Los Angeles landmark.

Here's a preview:

Tuesday @ 7:30PM -- "Diorama"

Huell visits the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County to discover the history of its famous animal dioramas. There, he visits with Robert Reid, who has been the resident artist for 20 years at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and the man responsible for creating all of the beautiful dioramas. From deserts to beaches, Reid captures the natural beauty with his paint brushes. Robert works closely with Tim Bovard, the taxidermist responsible for making the animals look so lifelike. Together, they make a unique team.

Watch a preview: