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File:Squareone.jpg

Educational program, from the creators of Sesame Street, which originally ran on PBS from 1987 to 1992. Square One was a half-hour sketch show which featured music videos, game shows, animations and parodies of other popular television programs designed to teach mathematics to children. Ironically, Square One was often criticized for being too entertaining. Some people just couldn't believe that it was really possible for something that children actually enjoyed watching to be educational. It is also notable for the large amounts of Parental Bonus (often coming in the form of shout outs to the University of Michigan, where many of the creators matriculated). A number of shorts were the earliest projects for Jumbo Pictures

Its stated goal was "To promote positive attitudes toward and enthusiasm for mathematics by showing that: A. Math is a powerful and widely applicable tool useful to solve problems, to illustrate concepts, and to increase efficiency. B. Math is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. C. Math can be understood by, be useful to, and even be innovated by nonspecialists." For all the claims of being overly entertaining, it did an excellent job in this, presenting an engaging introduction to a fair number of deep mathematical concepts, including Fibonacci Numbers, Pascal's Triangle, Bases Other Than 10, The Golden Section, Imaginary Numbers and Diophantine Equations.

Recurring animated segments featured Mathman (an affectionate parody of Pac-Man in a Wolverines helmet, who existed to demonstrate common mathematical errors, and who would be eaten by his nemesis, Mr. Glitch, in a truly freaky Family-Unfriendly Death for getting answers wrong) and Dirk Niblick of the Math Brigade (a Roger Ramjet-like character on the far shallow end of the Badass Normal scale, who uses his skills in math to help his friends and defeat scam artists). Every episode ended with part of a five-part "Mathnet" story (featuring a supposed "Mathnet" wing of the Los Angeles, and later New York, Police Department, whose members would use their skills in mathematics to solve crimes). "Mathnet" was particularly filled with Parental Bonuses (largely due to it being a parody of Dragnet) to the extent that collections of each serial were run in prime time on various PBS stations.

Tropes used in Square One TV include:
  • 20% More Awesome: There's a skit with a man singing about how he was giving "Eight Percent of my Love" to his girlfriend, with a breakdown for where the other 92% was going.
  • Abnormal Weapon: The Mathnetters on Mathnet carry calculators as their primary weapons, instead of handguns.
  • Affectionate Parody
  • As Himself: In Mathnet, Sam and Steve, played by real life LAPD officers Sam Salazar and Steve Fellman.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: In a "Mathnet" segment titled "The Case of the Bermuda Triangle," Pat and George debunk the Bermuda Triangle myth on television, leading to a case where a sunken boat could prove a man's innocence of treason.
  • The Butler Did It: The outcome of one the Mathnet cases, with the twist that the butler was actually the owner of the mansion in disguise.
  • Butt Monkey: Mr. Beasley is often taken in by various math based scams, but luckily he has next door neighbor Dirk Niblick to expose the fraud and save the day. His other next door neighbor is George Frankly, who repeatedly borrowed and lost his things.
  • Cliff Hanger: Generally used at the end of every Mathnet segment except the final one in a set.
  • Day of the Week Name: Kate Monday, Pat Tuesday.
  • Disney Death: George Frankly, in "The Case of the Great Car Robbery". They thought he was crushed in the junkyard along with the car they had rented over at LAX as their way of setting up a trap, so that they would be able to follow the lead of the head of the car theft ring, Henry Edsel III. George manage to roll out of the car, the moment he was about to be crushed.
  • Droste Image: Used in a sketch to demonstrate the concept of infinity.
  • Evil Gloating: Inverted in a Mathman sequence where Mathman disputes the idea that math is only used in school. Unfortunately, he monologues so long that he neglects the seven-second timer, and gets eaten.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the music video for "Graph of Love", the intro concerns a group of teenage girls noticing that a friend's relationship must've gotten serious, as there is a "diagram" in her purse.
    • Part 5 of the Mathnet episode "The Trial of George Frankly", when the real George arrives at the courtroom, with just his undershirt and heart boxers, to expose the fake one.

 "May it please the court! I am George Ernest Frankly, and I just came out of the closet!"

  • Early Installment Weirdness - The original pilot for Mathnet, the shows' most popular segment, was titled "The Problem of the Missing Baseball". It had a different opening title sequence, a different actress playing the head of their computer division, and, among other differences, was exactly like Dragnet, from the setting, to the rapid-changing close-ups during a conversation. It was filmed in one week in August 1985. [1] It was also the shortest Mathnet episode ever, at just under 33 minutes in length. The longest one was "Despair in Monterey Bay", at just under 87 minutes in length.
    • Likewise, the original Mathman pilot had Mathman eat numbers that were smaller than 1/2. In that episode, the narrator says "When a number crosses your path...", instead of the usual "When you encounter a number...". An extremely earlier version of that episode (Mathman approaching a 1/3) can also be seen briefly in the opening credits to seasons 1-3, with a very funny-looking early version of Mathman and Mr. Glitch.
  • Educational Song
  • Episode Code Number - Like most, if not all of CTW's productions, this show displayed its production code at the start of each episode. Each episode had a three-digit code; the first digit represented the season number, and the next two digits represented the episode number.
    • Season 1 - 101-175
    • Season 2 - 201-240
    • Season 3 - 301-340
    • Season 4 - 401-440
    • Season 5 - 501-535
  • Every Episode Ending: Each episode of Mathnet usually ended with George Frankly and Kate Monday (later Pat Tuesday) giving each other a high-five, followed by a picture of the recently-arrested criminal, and a narrator explaining what became of said criminal.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Originally, the end of an episode of Mathnet showed a freeze-frame of the recently arrested criminal. This was later replaced with the criminal following around a little for the camera as the narrator was explaining what became of said criminal.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: The Trial of George Frankly.
  • Hanging Judge
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: In the original Los Angeles-based episodes of Mathnet, the chief, Thad Green, was played by James Earl Jones. Despite a change in chiefs with the move to New York City, Jones made one appearance via phone in a season 4 episode.
    • The Mathnet segments in particular featured a number of notable cameos from people in the world of music, television and theater. Yeardley Smith, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Marcia Wallace and Dick Sargent, just to name a few, all appeared.
    • This also applied to people working off camera as well. First and second season writer David Yazbek later co-wrote the theme songs to Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?? and Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego??. Pat Tuesday and George Frankly even appeared in a first-season episode of the former, in which they gave out clues to the gumshoes to where the crook had gone.
  • Kaizo Trap: Mr. Glitch once ate Mathman during the introduction.

  Announcer: ...and beware the humorless Mr. Glitch... he will... [[[Beat]]] ...eat you.

  • Laser-Guided Karma: Mr. Glitch cheated a couple of times, eating Mathman too soon. When Mr. Glitch himself ran the maze, he screwed up quickly, once getting eaten by Mathman's dog.
  • Latex Perfection: The fake George Frankly in one episode of Mathnet was revealed to be wearing a latex mask.
  • Meaningful Name: If you can puzzle out what Mrs. I.O. Privacy's first and middle names were, you'd know that she dood it.
  • Moebius Neighborhood: Averted; George Frankly and Dirk Niblick both have only one neighbor--but it's the same neighbor.
  • Mood Whiplash: When Pat and George are investigating disappearances from a staged Agatha Christie-like mystery weekend, they check the victims' rooms. George keeps complaining that everyone else has a bigger closet than he. That's actually a clue.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In the Mathnet episode, "The Problem of the Missing Monkey", George makes a reference to the fictional movie star, Sly Balboa.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: In "The Trial of George Frankly" episode of Mathnet, there's a running gag about the pronunciation of the last name of the two criminals (two brothers) that might be trying to have George framed for a bank robbery.

 "I remember them. The brothers Karamazov (KAIR-ah-mah-zoff). Or was it kair-ah-MAHZ-off?"

  • Parody Commercial: "'Oops' is brought to you by erasers! Don't make a mistake without one!"
  • Ratings: Primarily the subject in an episode of Mathnet called "The Case of the Deceptive Data". Beloved children's programming host, Mike Pliers, lost his show due to poor ratings, which were more in favor of The Viscious Vinnie Vermin Show. But it was later revealed that the ratings were all a lie, that the people who allegedly watched Vinnie Vermin, were actually fans of Mike Pliers. To make matters worse, the ratings were tampered with by none other than Vinnie Vermin himself, who also was a representative for the Hoover Ratings System named Wellworth Watching.
  • Rear Window Witness: Mathnet used this plot: Kate is housebound with a broken leg and suspects that her neighbor is a mad bomber. Luckily, George believes her (and is significantly more mobile).
  • Road Sign Reversal: This is an important plot point in an episode of Mathnet. George Frankly had two invitations to a mystery weekend at The Qualms, a quaint inn in the woods, where he would essentially be roleplaying as Sherlock Holmes. While making their way there, he and partner Pat Tuesday fail to notice that the wind blew the sign in a different direction until later. The butler informs them that they're not at the inn they thought they were, meaning that the kidnappings they thought were part of the roleplay are in fact real.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: "Ghost of a Chance".
  • Sesame Workshop: Produced this show.
  • She Who Must Not Be Seen - George Frankly's wife Martha, whose favorite recipe is apparently meatloaf.
    • Together, they have no children, as indicated in one episode where The fake George, portrayed by Irving Karamzov, blew his cover by admitting he's guilty, and apologizing to the following people he may have hurt: "My friends, my sixth grade teacher Mrs. Burk, my scout master Mr. Hare, and of course, my beloved wife Martha, and our FINE CHILDREN".
  • Shout-Out: Many to other shows, as well as to the University of Michigan, the latter not surprising since executive producer David D. Connell and senior producer and head writer Jim Thurman were both UMich graduates.
    • Mathman wears a Michigan helmet.
    • This memorable line from the Mathnet episode "The Trial of George Frankly":
  • Show Within a Show: Many of the game shows depicted were essentially The Jimmy Hart Version of other popular game shows, given a mathematical twist, such as Family Feud ("Piece of the Pie"), The Hollywood Squares ("Square One Squares"), The Price Is Right ("Close Call"), Pac-Man ("Mathman") and others. Ironically, while some of the parodied game shows remained mock parodies, many of them were actual mini-game shows in their own right, using actual child contestants and even awarding small prizes with the show's branding.
  • Signature Laugh - George Frankly of Mathnet.
  • Spiritual Successor: Numb3rs, much like Mathnet, has detectives using mathematics to solve crimes.
  • Steal the Surroundings: In the first story arc of Mathnet a woman's house is stolen in order to find some gold bricks which had been hidden in the house. The house was stolen by XY-313, one of the few helicopters that could steal one. The chopper was piloted by a man named Clarance Sampson (alias Charles Sampson, alias Carl Sampson, alias William Howard Taft Sampson), because the house belonged to an accompliance of his, and he needed the gold that was in there.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When Kate Monday left, Pat Tuesday replaced her.
    • Likewise, when Mathnet moved to New York, Joe Grecco replaced Thad Green as the duo's leader, while Benny Pill replaced Debbie Williams as their technical analyst and back up support.
  • The Jimmy Hart Version: An episode of Mathnet dealt with popular music. Rocker Steve Stringbean was slated to perform at a parade, but then he was kidnapped by two failed Michigan State Marching Band musicians named Floyd Tyrone and John Phillips Lousa. Stringbean's song, which was also the kidnapper's telephone number was "Please do what these people say", which sounds very similar to Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A."
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic: "Polka Patterns".
  • Written in Infirmity: The likely reason Kate Monday is holed up in the "Mathnet" episode "The View from the Rear Terrace".

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Notes

  1. Each episode ended with a bumper that said "Mathnet Founded 1985: To Cogitate and to Solve." 1985 represented the year the pilot episode was filmed.
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