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I think reading is part of the birthright of the human being.—LeVar Burton, actor and children's literacy advocate.
Each episode featured a children's story, usually narrated by a celebrity, that focused on a specific theme (i.e., the importance of teamwork or learning about dinosaurs). The show would explore the theme further through various segments, live-action and animated. The last segment of the show would feature children providing recommendations of other books to look for at the library, preceded by LeVar saying "But you don't have to take my word for it." Every show ended with "I'll/We'll see you next time."
This show was part of PBS' "triple crown" of children's programming in The Eighties and The Nineties, along with Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. It would be difficult indeed to find an American of a certain age who didn't watch this program at least occasionally, if not regularly. It's in the same Dude, Not Funny category as Rogers — rarely parodied (but if it is, it's always the positive kind), and insulting it will cause swift and nasty responses.
Rainbow won a Peabody Award and 26 Emmys, and ended its run as the third longest-running children's program in PBS history (behind the aforementioned Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood).
- Catch Phrase: Two of them.
- "But you don't have to take my word for it..."
- "I'll/We'll see you next time."
- Clip Art Animation: Utilized one book per episode.
- Chroma Key: LeVar explains the technique in a 1991 episode about optical illusions
- Edutainment Show: One of the all-time greats, a TV show encouraging kids to read is not as hypocritical as it may sound.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: Well, it would've been pretty lame to have a show just called Reading, wouldn't it?
- Excited Kids' Show Host: LeVar is Type 3 (informative, rarely condescending, not wacky/zany, speaks to children like adults).
- Executive Meddling / Screwed by the Network: An inevitability for any PBS show, considering the lack of funding and constant disagreement about how to secure appropriate revenue streams.
- The cast learned the show had been cancelled just before the night they would accept their 26th Emmy award. Levar Burton was the one who made the announcement during the acceptance speech. He could barely mask the rage and the disappointment in his voice.
- Losing Your Head: A pair of floating heads startle LeVar in one episode.
- Long Runners: Spent 26 years on the air before budget cuts killed it in 2009.
- Portal Books: Obviously.
- "Reading Is Cool" Aesop
- Roger Rabbit Effect: Used in the classic intro, although not to the extent as others.
- Sesame Street Cred: Many. Celebrity narrators ranged from Bill Cosby to Hulk Hogan.
- Take Our Word for It: As the catchphrase indicates, averted.
- Title Sequence Replacement: To the dismay of fans who know and love the original, trippy intro.
We'll see you next time.